a tiny record label from western massachusetts

What's the Bizness (yeaaaaah)?

Greetings from TRs HQ! To say we have been busy this summer is an understatement. As you know well by now we have been hard at work getting TR-03 ready for it's late September release, and we've got some exciting announcements up our sleeves about some new groups joining the TRs family. But we've also been busy behind the scenes taking a hard look at the first year of the label's life, determining what our goals are and figuring out how to get there.

When the label got started we weren't even totally sure who the "we" in TRs was. There were lots of people helping out but we lacked structure. This is a pretty common situation for people who just care about "getting it done" because the "it" is the most important thing. In that first year we released two records and began work on a third, held 6 residency shows at the Montague Bookmill, and spent a whole lot of time handscreening t-shirts and tote bags to raise funds for the label. In the midst of all that activity we also learned some lessons and sat down (with calculators, gulp!) to figure out how to chart a future for TRs that could last more than 12 months.

It was through this process that we came to make three major changes to the way we operate. Because transparency is something we value and always engage in with the artists we work with, we wanted to lay it all out there for those of you who follow the work we do.

The first change was to say that we needed some structure. We established an executive committee who meet regularly and share responsibility for making decisions about the direction and objectives of the label.We brought on someone to work exclusively on promotion for TRs and for our artists because we knew that we needed someone who was only focusing on that one thing in order to do it well. And we are working with everyone's favorite Northampton booker to create the long overdue Western Mass music compilation. The more people who join us in this venture, the better we get!

The second was to determine that while we will always operate with the values of a non-profit we can't really be one. Because of the legal structures of non-profits we wouldn't be able to do all the things that we want with the label. There are lots of different kinds of businesses out there and we are exploring our options. But ultimately we have decided to stop talking about our non-profit ethos and focus instead on our commitment to not screwing over artists and growing the label to be a resource for beautiful, independent music that should be pressed on vinyl. No one in the TRs family gets a paycheck for this work -- we do this in our barely existing spare time and we love it.

And lastly we have made the decision to work with artists based in places outside of Western MA. We love our music scene here but it is undeniable that there are artists living in other cities that are part of our TRs family. We are still really excited to do the compilation record which will be focused exclusively on our little music scene and its greatest artists. And we will continue to do events and scheme up new ways to contribute to the scene in this place we all call home.

So stay tuned. September is gonna be chock full of news and announcements.


TinyRadars Welcomes Newest Band: Mail the Horse

The TinyRadars team is thrilled to announce the arrival of Brooklyn's Mail the Horse as the 3rd member of our roster!

Nurturing our music scene locally has always been a top priority for TinyRadars, so it may seem antithetical that we’ve decided to release a record from a band based in Brooklyn. We have come to think about geography in a similar way as to how we think about our releases. Every record we put out comes in two formats: vinyl and digital. Vinyl is all about place. As a physical medium it can only exist in one place at a time. Vinyl is like our music scene at home; our venues and our local artists and our house shows and our fliers and our experiences sharing space together. Digital is all about disregarding the physical limitations of place. It can exist everywhere at the same time; the thread that ties together the shows at King St. Manor to the shows at the Toadstool to shows happening in basements across America. It’s like our language, and our connections and our sense of knowing that even in other places there are people who care about the things we do and want to support the things we support. Digital is family. Vinyl is the home you put it in.

Mail the Horse is part of our family. The process of releasing their upcoming record is something of a grand experiment for us. The trust and forgiveness that comes with years of friendship has been a crucial part of making this a reality. We are learning as we go and the Horsies have been willing to let us fumble through the process. When we first met Mail The Horse they were known as AMPM and based out of sea coastal New Hampshire. We became fast friends and were outspoken critics of their decision to relocate the band to New York, shortly thereafter. But the move, name change and line-up tweaking that occurred over that next couple of years has brought a new richness to their music. While their sound has clear folk and country roots in the vein of Bob Dylan and The Band, there is also a rougher, modern, edge heard in the strained vocals of Michael Hesslein and balanced by the sometimes sloppy drawl of Donny Amidon's songs. What has always been most striking to us about them is an indescribable timeless quality to their songwriting; that thing that exists in the work of all the greats that is just so hard to put a finger on. The songs that have been coming out of Gates Motel (the Brooklyn apt. where they write and record) are heartbreaking narratives of loss and acceptance, musical interpretations of dimly lit photos of New York City landscapes, the kind only an outsider could take.

Mail the Horse’s new LP, Great Kills, will be out this summer. If you’re in the area you can catch them at the Thing in The Spring this weekend.

(TRBRS-04) TinyRadars Bookmill Residency Series

This coming Saturday, March 24, marks the 4th installment of our residency series at the Bookmill in Montague, MA. We will be debuting some new merch at the show and are excited to feature three excellent acts from the greater Pioneer Valley/NH area: megafauna, 23 Quartet and Trials & Tribulations. More details on the bands below and Facebook event here.

See you there!

(TRBRS-04) TinyRadars Bookmill Residency Series

Trials & Tribulations are one of our favorite area treasures (that we always think should play more shows). Anywhere between a 6 and 16 piece ensemble led by Northampton’s own Jameson Lavo. Speciality: epic, sad.

23 Quartet is a free jazz explosion featuring drums, guitar, saxophone and piano. Every show, every time is different and phenomenal. This is the first time they've performed with their piano player and we couldn't be more excited to have them. Featuring Andy Kivela (Graph) on drums.

Megafauna are Manchester (NH's) greatest fuzzy sock electropop. Beats for dreamers, vox for believers. And we don't get to see them often enough so we are thrilled to have them on the line-up. Come out:

Talk Like Kids

TinyRadars has been holding monthly shows at one of our favorite western Mass venues -- The Montague Bookmill -- ever since December. So far we've had shows featuring TRs own Bunny's A Swine and Graph, as well as dear friends The True Jacqueline, Animal Mother (now Grownups), Mail the Horse, Doolittle and the Radiers, Donny Dinero, The Milkman's Union, Boy Without God, sorry, nay, and even a poetry reading from friend Adam Grabowski. Each show has been really incredible in its own way, but the envelope was pushed pretty hard for the January show -- which was the last performance by TR-01 band, Graph. There's a lot to be said about what happened that night but that will come in time. For now, here's a fantastic mp3 version of the love:


Mail the Horse, Bunny's A Swine & Graph

Uncovering Western Mass Trea$ures

One of TinyRadars favorite things about labels are how they are a window into this little interconnected world of people you don't know and may never meet. We've all spent a fair share of time reading the liner notes of our favorite records in detail to see who played on them, what bands they may have thanked, where there were overlapping members, and what kind of fun stuff they might send you if you joined the fan clubs (the award probably goes to the Unrest mail order comb). The liner notes were just as important as the music itself. They gave the record a sense of place. They position it somewhere in time and draw connections. And compilations especially tell stories.

Sure, the music is the reason we get up in the morning. But TRs was founded so that we could document, capture and preserve a small snapshot of what is happening. So imagine my excitement when local musician and writer Ken Mauri handed me a copy of this Red Hot Records compilation at a show last week.

My tape deck, despite this format increasing in hipness these days, is buried underneath my discarded VCR and DVD player (hi Xbox! You do everything!) so I haven't had a chance to listen to the tape yet. But there's a lot to learn from the liner notes alone.

Live in the Living Room was the kind of project that gets right to the heart of what TRs is all about. Recorded over the course of one weekend, Amy and Aimee of Red Hot Records set up a four-track in their living room and had 12 bands drop by to play a few songs. The resulting recordings became the compilation and its so cool to be able to check out this snapshot of what was happening in Northampton 15 years ago. Some of these bands are still around, other bands lasted for another 10+ years before calling it quits, and some I'm sure fell apart soon after the tape came out (because that's how these things work). But what Red Hot Records did was make sure that no matter what, this moment was captured.

I don't know how long Red Hot Records was around for, but I'm grateful that someone still cares enough to have left the website up. By connecting the dots between the liner notes, the website, and Google searches the story of what was happening around here in 1995 is becoming more clear. For a baby label like us that loves its local music scene, its really exciting to see that RHRs third release was a compilation...just like ours is planned to be.

Northampton 2012 will have a story to tell, too. And with indie and DIY labels still cranking out releases in new ways, we hope that local music scenes everywhere will capture what's going on, too. As for us, we'll be singing the vinyl/download combo gospel of course.


TR-02: Released

This is a certainly belated post, but we've been so so so busy!

TR-02 (Bunny's A Swine's new full-length LP) is officially out in the world and we would love it if you bought one. The band put a lot of thought into the packaging and here's the full details on what you get if you purchase the record itself.

“All Day, Alright” is 10 original musical compositions from the rock group Bunny's A Swine printed to 12” vinyl records at a speed of 33 revolutions per minute. Each record is 1 of 250 copies and comes with 10 black and white reproductions of original artwork from 10 different artists (each piece includes song lyrics to 1 of the 10 original songs); there's also 1 card with an unique string of numbers, which when entered into a computer will re-create “All Day, Alright” in a digital format. Album, art and numbers come wrapped in recycled LP jackets (graciously donated by Bunny's a Swine's favorite record stores), which have been inverted and adorned with a vintage-letterpress reproduction of original artwork by Justin Durand. The aforementioned songs are a country-tinged-awk-pop meditation on the causes and effects of depression, meant to be consumed and enjoyed immediately.

Only 250 pressed. Get them while you can!

TR-01: Released

It's here! The wait is over! The red curtain has been pulled back or the carpet has been rolled out or oh whatever else. You can order the very first TinyRadar's release from Graph via their Bandcamp page. The B-Side, Wolves, is my favorite. And bonus! The download also comes with a 28 minute unheard unreleased three-part instrumental song.

Buy more vinyl. Support local music.

Buy Graph's Eau Claire/Wolves 7".

How Do You Make $$ From Music?

We're not exactly experts in this area (oh to be a newly launched venture!), but we hope that someday there will be money for artists and the systems that support them. However an important step to getting there is understanding how the heck anyone manages to make any $$ these days in the first place. Future of Music Coalition has been talking for over a decade about the music industry, the policies that impact it and the ways for artists to move forward and do things like have health care even if they don't have one of those standard old 9-5ers. They've launched a survey in order to gather information about how musicians make money from music as part of their Artist Revenue Streams project.

Here's a snip:

Artist Revenue Streams (ARS) represents the first time a US-based organization has conducted a research project that examines musicians’ revenue streams across all genres and roles. The results could provide musicians, the media and the music community at large with a comprehensive analysis of how musicians are being compensated in the digital age.

The project engages with a wide range of musicians, including jazz artists, Nashville songwriters, session musicians, touring rock artists, hip hop emcees, classical composers, and artists experimenting with direct-to-fan strategies through three research strategies: in-person interviews; financial case studies; and a wide-ranging online survey.

You can take the survey here.

Listen to Jean Cook from FMC talk about the survey on WNYC.

Test presses, lacquers oh my!

TinyRadars HQ has been getting a lot of mail these days...lacquer tests, vinyl test presses...we've been listening, testing, checking it on other machines and things are sounding quite wonderful for both of our first releases. The vinyl making process is pretty fascinating and it is a lot of fun (albeit time consuming) to see the music go through these various phases. If you've ever wondered exactly how it all gets done, check out these YouTube vids...complete with a super 80s backbeat...


The Plan Keeps Coming Up Again

There have been many years of talking, so it's time to get doing. Go TinyRadars, go! We are hard at work on the first release: a 7" by the wonderful Graph. It has two excellent songs on it that you will be able to hear soon.

In the meantime, we're getting this whole operation up and running. Stay tuned for more information, details and other things of interest.