On Starting Dust Collectors

When thinking about what to write for my first note I had a solid 5 minutes of not being able to think of anything at all. I then remembered that it has been a year since Dust Collectors released “Seasonal Sounds 4: Summer,” the compilation that changed everything for us. At this point I was the only DC manager. Jeff was not a part of the picture yet. I was solely responsible for assembling this whole compilation while also getting ready to study for finals. I was under an intense time crunch.

This tape was the defining moment in our transition from a collective into operating more like a label. We were lucky enough to be noticed by Spotify editorial curators and the compilation now sits at 8 million plays. This compilation taught me many lessons about the streaming world as a whole, and that is mainly what I want to share in this post. 

The first challenge in the streaming age is figuring out which distribution service to upload our music to. When I was putting together SS4, I really did not know much about distribution on anything more than the artist level. There are so many options for labels, and each have their own really unique pros and cons.

When I first looked up label distribution I found services that take 30%. That is absurd! Any label big or small cannot adequately provide services for its artists with a distributor claiming that much. After doing a hefty amount of research I decided to go with another Lofi label for distribution. This made sense because it also saved me time and I could begin studying for my finals. The label was United Common Records and I’m still thankful for they’re help at such little charge. We now have our own distributor that matches our needs (Stem), but without UC’s help at the time, there would be no modern DC.

Next is making sure as a label you can protect yourself and your artists. 

Contracts are essential. We did not have them for a while. I did not forecast that DC would make any money and was naive to not figure out contracts earlier. We had an issue where an artist re uploaded a song we released with another entity, and it received 400k plays. While this was not a major issue as a label it still hurt to see on of our releases re uploaded with out our consent. A contract would have laid out terms for redistribution and we could have been on the same page with the artist and third party entity. Without contracts there isn’t much either party has guaranteed. A contract helps ensure an artists knows what they will be receiving and the rights the labels have. Contracts are essential for maintaining and outlining the rights for all parties involved.

Lastly, I want to talk about splits and the importance of knowing your worth as a label. This is the most important idea to me as it is something I try to be acutely aware of. Seasonal Sounds 4 split was 80 (artist) / 20 (DC) and I couldn’t be more proud of that. Having the fair splits shows we understand the artist’s value contribution and that I know the labels worth relative to the services DC can provide. I was aware that we had little connections, so I did not want to charge more for our services then they were worth. The splits have not changed much despite our expansion as a label, and that is something I am extremely proud of. The structure of this release helped reinforce our mission to always put artists first. While Jeff was not present for this project, he shares many of the same philosophies I do, so building DC around this central idea came easily

Overall,  I wanted to write this first post to help people understand the process I underwent during a big transitional time for Dust Collectors. This was the jumping off point when our mindset was totally changed. Thanks to the support of UC, our artists, and Spotify this was all possible. Despite the challenges and thousands of tiny decisions made daily, everything seemed to work out well. Starting up a label is not easy, but when you have the best intentions in mind the best possible outcome seems to find a way.

- Bret

Two tracks I’m vibing currently