Moshpit Tragedy is the first digital only ‘pay-what-you-want’ label, that also features downloads from labels like Relapse, Feral Ward, Inimical, and Anti-Corp in addition to their own impressive roster of bands, including an exclusive Extreme Noise Terror retrospective release. Label founder Rayny Forster told M3 about music in the digital realm and the pros and cons of the ‘pay-as-you-please’ system…
M3 – First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself, and what it is that you do?
Rayny Forster – I suppose I’m an artist of sorts. The record label is really just an extension of playing music and a strong need to create things. I’m not a businessman, I just love to work on things I am passionate about. It would be great to be able to make a living doing what I love, but I’m happy to eat out of your dumpster as well.
What inspired you to start the label? What is your own musical background?
I have played in about 7 or 8 bands and also write my own material. I dabble with all the instruments, but probably enjoy singing the most. Like the many other artists who start labels, I thought it would be a good way to network and build a platform to showcase some of my own and others’ music.
Why did you decide to abandon physical releases and focus entirely on digital?
There were a lot of factors but I think it was just a bad time to start a conventional label. It became obvious that the only way to continue on in my situation was to change. At first I didn’t really like the idea of going digital, but it actually became much easier to secure good releases, and I no longer have to worry about money being lost if an album didn’t sell. Although there is not much chance of making money, there is no risk of losing any either. Since I did not have two nickels to rub together, it was really the only type of investment I could afford to make.
What was the reasoning behind making the label’s releases available for free or ‘pay-as-you-please’ download?
They are available for free as a way to increase word of mouth exposure and bring this type of music to a wider reach of people. I can understand why a proper business may not do this, but I am in a position where I could, and the type of bands I work with are usually willing to do so as well. We still keep the donation option there for those who choose to contribute financially. Sometimes a person who is searching for an album to download it illegally will come across it here and then end up paying something for it, because they think it is really cool to be given that choice.
What benefits and/or disadvantages have arisen from this distribution method?
As a new label, building a strong and unique identity was important to me, and I think that doing something different in this way really helped to get the name out there and get established more quickly. Any kind of promotion is crucial since the model doesn’t leave much room for an advertising budget. The financial side is of course one of the main disadvantages, but on one hand I do enjoy the challenges that it presents.
On average, how many people would you say still pay for a release when given the option to download for free?
Probably 1 or 2 out of 100 on average. I think the most we’ve had was about 100 donations for an album that was downloaded 4000 times over an 18 month period. I think even that was still only like 2 or 3 percent who paid. While it is certainly not a lot, there is often a spike during periods of increased exposure, so there is indication of potential there. Either way, I would prefer people have the music for free than not at all.
Would you say this method is a realistic possibility for the future of music distribution?
I don’t imagine that very many of the more financially-driven labels will be content to work for donations, but there have been more and more similar artist-run labels popping up out there lately. A variety of things will continue to be tried, but I don’t know if there will even be one standard path for everyone in the future. Maybe it will just always be chaos.
What would be your preferred medium to listen to music (eg. Vinyl, CD, tape, MP3 etc.), and why?
I prefer the analog sound quality of vinyl, but usually listen to MP3s because they are convenient and their quality is fine by me if they are encoded at a high bitrate. I do not personally like CDs, or cassettes.
Do you feel the idea of an album, as a piece of art that people will listen to from start to finish, has been undermined or forgotten about in the digital age?
Yes, that is certainly one symptom of the digitization of our culture, but there have always been those who just listen to the radio singles, mixed tapes, etc. There will also always be those who listen to the full album as well, so long as someone keeps releasing them.
Do you think the internet has rendered traditional concepts of copyright obsolete?
Intellectual property rights have certainly taken a blow, but the RIAA and MPAA are still fighting back by suing old ladies, shutting down certain websites, and trying to pass bills which could ultimately affect our personal freedom in larger ways.
Finally, what does the future have in store for Moshpit Tragedy?
No immediate plans other than keep putting out releases and working at becoming more efficient and organized. I have rough ideas for a documentary but I’m not sure when that might happen. I have a crazy dream of one day doing a label showcase or festival, but we will have to wait and see what the universe provides.