Label Spotlight: Theory 8

posted November 1, 2006

by Corinne

Theory 8Please introduce yourself.

My name is Aaron Hartley and I run theory 8 records and management out of Nashville, TN.

When and why did you start your label?

I started my label in August of 2000 after I graduated from college. Basically I wanted to start my own record label since I was in high school. All of my friends were making great music and people were generally avoiding Nashville at the time so I decided to help them out and start a label to put out their music.

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

I will put out anything that is honest and real and moves me. I'm looking to branch out and do some different projects. I don't like to specialize in one type of music.

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

My first release was by a band called The Goodbye Letter. They were a Nashville band and I really wanted to work with a local band first to make sure I could pull this off. I financed the release with my college graduation money.

What is your most recent release?

We just released the Forget Cassettes record, Salt, on August 8th. Two months before that we released Chariots of Fire by Apollo Up! That is the closest we've ever had 2 records to be released. The stress level here is running pretty high.

How do you feel about sharing music on the Internet?

I love the promotional possibility of sharing music online. If a blog writes great things about your band and then can follow it up with an mp3 link so people can form their opinion right then and there that can be a great promotional tool. We tend to focus more on promoting our albums online then print advertising. People need that immediate listening capability these days before buying a record. I know I do.

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

Learn about Cash Flow! Imagine paying for an album to be recorded in January, having to press the record in May, ship it out to press and pay a publicist 3 months before its release, actually release the album in August and then wait 4 more months before your distributor pays you IF you sell enough copies to warrant payment. Somewhere in there you are spending A LOT of money and you have to be able to wait over a year to see any of it comes back. And in the middle of all of this you need to be planning more releases never really knowing if you'll have the necessary funds to put out another record.

What has been your most successful release?

It's a tie between an Embraced EP I put out and Forget Cassettes debut album Instruments of Action. However one of the most successful artists I've worked with is Copeland. I released their very first EP.

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

For me the best way is to impress one of my bands or someone I trust and have them put a good word in for you. I get bombarded with new music everyday. It can be overwhelming. Impress someone I know and I'll hear about you. Also, having a touring history. Be able to show me that you've been on the road and that you can go on the road to support your album. Live shows are the best form of promotion. Don't expect to sit at home and have me sell records.

People may argue with me here but the worst way in my opinion is MySpace spamming. I get hundreds of adds and "please check out our music" messages a week that I don't even open. Most of the time I can tell by just looking at the profile picture that I won't even like your music.

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

Honesty in their music is the most important thing. Is it something I really like? Is it worth risking my own money on? Can the band tour? Is the band going to break up a month after the album is released? There are so many things that I have to consider. But what it really comes down to is the music. I have to be passionate enough to want to spend my time and money on the record.

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?

Well the "label" is basically me, a one man operation. I do everything. It can be very overwhelming and usually I'm behind on a few things. But I try to keep track of everyone and everything to keep things running smoothly.

What upcoming releases can we expect from Theory 8?

The Carter Administration is going to release its most amazing album to date in 2007. We're preparing for it now.