Label Spotlight: Skipping Discs

posted April 1, 2005

by Corinne

Skipping DiscsPlease introduce yourself.

I'm Rick Schober, owner of Skipping Discs. I'm also the A & R guy, the accounting department, the marketing and publicity departments, the graphic designer, the guy who fills the orders ... um ... what else is there?

When and why did you start your label?

I started the label in March of 2002. Why? Because it was a way for me to be actively involved in the indie music scene without ever having to leave my house except, maybe, to go to the post office every once in a while.

What kind(s) of music does your label put out?

The whole idea of Skipping Discs is to release nothing but tribute albums and compilations of cover songs featuring mostly new independent artists and bands. We figured we'd have a better shot at being successful if we released something that people were already familiar with than if we tried to release all original material from all virtually unknown performers.

What was your first release? How did you finance it?

We actually released our first two releases on the same day. They were "Love Her Madly," an all-women's tribute to the Doors, and "Saturday Night Hay Fever," a compilation of bluegrass bands covering late '70s disco hits. They were financed in part thanks to a couple of relatives who lent me some money so that I'd stop bugging them to read my business plan, I think. And about half of it was put on my personal credit cards.

What is your most recent release?

Our latest release, which came out in September of 2004, was called "Different for Girls: Women Artists and Female-Fronted Bands Cover Joe Jackson." It has the distinction of being the first-ever tribute album to Mr. Jackson. It was also the first time we ever heard from any of the original artists we paid tribute to. He liked some of the covers on the CD, wasn't too thrilled with a couple others but, overall, he said he was "hugely pleased and flattered that it exists."

How do you feel about sharing music on the Internet?

I've got mixed feelings about it. About a year ago, somebody uploaded a track from our all-women's tribute to David Bowie, "Spiders From Venus," to her personal website without our permission and over 400 people downloaded the song before I found out and asked her to remove it. I'm sure that resulted in a few lost sales. But then, if it wasn't for the Internet, this label wouldn't even exist. We found all of the artists on our CDs through the Internet, almost all of our sales are online transactions, and our distributor found us online. I guess you just have to suck it up and take the bad with the good.

Any words of wisdom for those interested in running their own label?

Sure. Don't expect to make a lot of money, at least not for a while. Consider it a very expensive hobby. Also, try to be unique. Find your niche, something that not a lot of other labels are doing. You'd probably have more success if you specialized in Christian zydeco or acoustic black metal music than indie music in general.

What has been your most successful release?

It all depends on how you define success. Our bluegrass tribute to disco has gotten the most airplay, by far, and has probably sold more copies than any of our other releases. But our all-women's Bowie tribute got the most press and, thankfully, most of it was positive. Then again, our Joe Jackson tribute is probably the most consistent when it comes to the quality of the performances and has also achieved the highest sales ranking of all four CDs on Amazon. These releases are like my kids. You just can't play favorites. They are all special in their own way.

What's the best way and the worst way to get a label's attention?

I really don't know. We're not that big of a label that bands are clamoring to get our attention. We have a hard enough time getting the attention of the bands.

Regardless of genre, what do you look for in the artists and bands you sign?

Talent, originality, a sense of adventure, and talent. Oh, yes, and talent, too.

There are a lot of legalities involved in running a label (signing bands, releasing records, everyday work, etc.). How does your label deal with these things?

Everything I've learned about the legal aspects of running a label song licensing, royalties, contracts, copyrights, and so on - I was able to find on the Web. I'd probably recommend that a new label owner have an entertainment lawyer look over whatever documents they plan on using.

Anything else you would like to add?

If I could, I'd like to plug our next release, scheduled for a late 2005 release. It's an all-women's tribute to The Turtles which we'll be calling "Shells" since shells are the covers of turtles and the word conveniently contains the letters S-H-E. Other than that, we continue to encourage bands and artists of all genres to send us music, especially cover songs, as well as ideas for potential future releases.