Superlist no. 800Undersigned
S.F. labels that will listen to your unsolicited rock demo.
By Keith Axline
WHETHER YOU'RE THE next big thing or just a band trying to get some exposure in the city, everyone has to start somewhere. Often that somewhere is Demo-Land, where you've got some songs, a recording, and a resolve to make things happen but little idea of where to go next. This list provides a road map to labels that will actually listen to your band. But first, some advice:
Most labels have such limited release schedules that the ratio between what they receive and the number of bands signed is nearly zero. Also, many of these labels are small, sometimes run by just one person, and most aren't able to give feedback. Before you send your demo off cold, check out the label's Web site and its releases to see if you fit into its vibe. Include a short press release to let the label know more about you, but let your music speak for itself. Anything you can do to make yourself stand out from the crowd clippings, interesting artwork, fresh presentation is a good idea.
Be persistent, but also friendly and polite; no one wants to be hounded by an aggressive band that won't take no for an answer. Sometimes the process of submitting demos is productive not just for getting signed, but also because it forces you to get organized and gives you a goal. Finally, if you've done the demo dance and are tired of waiting, you could start your own label, which is how many of these small ones got started. For business questions, I recommend Music Law: How to Run Your Band's Business (Nolo Press). Good luck!
Run by Jon Rooney of Morning Spy, Abandoned Love Records started in December but already hosts a few indie pop bands. "It's fairly small, since we just started. It's just me, so it's whatever I can handle," Rooney says. www.abandonedloverecords.com. For information on how to submit your demo, e-mail Rooney at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alternative Tentacles publicity manager Matt Harvey says, "We're known primarily as a punk label, but we release everything from black metal to country and pretty much everything in between anything different, good, challenging, and done with conviction." This is evidenced by a variety of releases, including ones by Comets on Fire and Noam Chomsky. Attn: Jello/A&R, P.O. Box 419092, S.F., CA 94141-9092. www.alternativetentacles.com.
Operator Luc Berger describes what Below Records looks for as "innovative music with heart and soul and sex and brains. And rock." Based half in Berlin, Below has a sleek, quirky appeal, especially if dual S.F.-German exposure appeals to you. C/o Parson, 1145 Capp St., S.F., CA 94110. www.belowrecords.com.
Home to bands such as Lagwagon and NOFX, Fat Wreck Chords has helped punk bands get noticed since 1990. Attn: Demos, P.O. Box 193690, S.F., CA 94119. www.fatwreckchords.com.
Begun in 1997, Frenetic Records mostly looks for prog/instrumental/metal bands, but it's open to other sounds. Cofounder Duncan White says, "I just really love putting out music by people who I feel connected to on some level there has to be a connection." P.O. Box 640434, S.F., CA 94164. www.freneticrecords.com.
Oranger and Parchman Farm's label, Jackpine Social Club leans toward good ol' rock 'n' roll, though founder Nick Tangborn says his only requirement for signing a band is that "I like them so much I feel obsessed with putting out their records." 2156 Market St., #4B, S.F., CA 94114. www.jackpinesocialclub.com.
Operating since '93, New Disorder Records has released albums by such bands as the Clones and the Strap Ons. Founder Ernst Schoen-Rene of Pirx the Pilot says he'll listen to your demo "unless it's offensive or comes with a slick press package. Those go straight to the trash." N.D. bands gravitate toward punk or loud rock, but there are a few indie and hip-hop acts on the label. 115 Bartlett St., S.F., CA 94110. www.newdisorder.com.
With partners in Illinois, Ohio, and New York, punk label On/On Switch Records has roots across the country. It has a focused goal, however, as its Web site claims On/On is "a record label that promotes hazardous, dynamic music. Screams from the gutters. Scares for the new world order. We want to release passionate and dangerous music." P.O. Box 641122, S.F., CA 94164. www.ononswitch.com.
Pervertidora Records' Chris Cortese hosts an odd range of bands including Glen Meadmore and Da Kneelength Posse. As the label name suggests, "The common denominator is that each act is extreme in its way and each is definitely unique," he says. Cortese also runs the emerging Web portal www.sanfranciscosounds.com. 957 Fell St., #5, S.F., CA 94117. www.pervertidorarecords.com.
Self-proclaimed "boutique indie/alt power pop record label," PopPop Records plays host to John Ashfield and the Bobbleheads. Attn: Demos, P.O. Box 31440, S.F., CA 94131. www.poppoprecords.com.
PopSmear Records is a punk-emo label with bands such as Love = Death and Only in Dreams. 2269 Chestnut St., #970, S.F., CA 94123. www.popsmearrecords.com.
Covering a range of sounds from alt-country to potent punk, Rodent Records signs bands whose common thread "lies not in genre, particularly, but in a shared relentless obsession with, and dedication to, authentic and sometimes noncommercial recorded music," founder Elton Ridge says. 590 Minnesota St., S.F., CA 94107. www.rodentrecords.com.
Having started SmartGuy Records in '97, Jerry Connolly says he looks for bands that play "rock 'n' roll without pretension." He wants to use the label to put out "records with consistent quality, regardless of genre and/or scene affiliation." Signed acts include Holly Golightly and FM Knives. 3288 21st St., PMB #32, S.F., CA 94110 www.smartguyrecords.com.
Founder Gagan Palrecha says The First Time Records hosts "indie rock, trip-hop, punk, hardcore. It's basically anything in the 'rock' umbrella." Though he says they "have yet to sign a band solely on a demo," they "always respond to the artists, whatever the circumstance." www.tftrecords.com. For information on how to submit your demo, e-mail Palrecha at email@example.com.
Three Ring Records cofounder Dan Crowell likes to think of the label, which was formed in 2003, as a family. From the start he tried to avoid being "pigeon-holed into one genre of music" but admits the label is "definitely singer-songwriter heavy with a couple of exceptions." Three Ring is home to the Ebb and Flow and D.W. Holiday. P.O. Box 883123, S.F., CA 94188-3123. www.threeringrecords.com.
Founder Andee Connors describes the music tUMULt Records represents as "strange. Beautiful. Personal. Dark. Idiosyncratic. Heavy. Fucked." His label is, he adds, "the perfect stepping stone for amazing but neglected bands to get a little attention, and then move up and on to greater things." P.O. Box 642371, S.F., CA 94164-2371. www.tumult.net.