Dedpop is an English record label, specialising in electronica and dance music. Dedpop started out as a netlabel back in 2008, but after becoming disillusioned with the purely digital approach, began releasing music on tape too. M3 asked label founder Pete Clark why he decided to choose tapes, whether or not the digitisation of art is devaluing it for today’s generation, and why copyright is a question of ethics rather than finances…
M3 – First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself, and what it is that you do?
Pete Clark – Officially I suppose I’m a web designer. I began working for myself this year to give me time to devote to my less corporate interests. My plan is to grow Dedpop alongside the client work that I’m doing. I also make electronica under the name Sean Eskimo. I have been known to do a little podcasting too.
What inspired you to form Dedpop? What is your own musical background?
I set up Dedpop in 2008 as a way to combine all the things I love doing: seeking out great music, graphic design, web development and business strategy. I got into making electronic music back in the days of the Amiga and OctaMED. I used to make soundtracks for fictional video games which I invented whilst I was supposed to be revising for my exams.
Dedpop began as a netlabel, but this year finds you branching out into tape releases too. Why did you decide to embrace the physical medium, and why did you choose tape?
I used to love buying music. Growing up I spent most of my time and money in record shops. I realised recently that over the past couple of years I hadn’t been listening to much new music at all. I think it was because I had no investment in it. Music is now instant and often free, which sounds great, but there’s nothing special about it. I found I was downloading stuff and instantly forgetting about it. Physical releases can change that, but only if they are special in some way. Releasing music on tape is like saying “It’s about the music and the object, not just a digital file.”
Why tape? When I started out making music as a kid I sold tapes of my tunes around school. I loved the whole process: making the music, doing the artwork, the sales side… so I guess I’ve been building up to this for about 15 years.
What would be your preferred medium to listen to music (e.g. Vinyl, CD, tape, MP3 etc.), and why?
I’ve never been one of those people that insists that music sounds better on vinyl. Maybe it does, I don’t know. If you’re thinking about that then the music obviously isn’t grabbing you enough! So I don’t really mind what medium I listen to. What we’re doing with the tapes is more about changing the experience of finding and collecting music rather than the listening part.
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?
I think so, yes. Digital has made albums far more modular than they were in the past. If I’m listening to music on CD or MP3 I’ll very often find myself skipping through tracks, even if I’m enjoying the music. This is one real advantage that tape has in my opinion. It binds the tracks together in the way the artist intended.
Much has been made of the supposed death of the record store in recent years. Do you believe the digital age has killed the record store, and if so, do you think that this is a necessary part of progression, or a tragic loss?
Record stores will always be around in some form. It may be that a few years from now Soundcloud will be our ‘record store’. Anything that brings people together in the action of discovering music is a ‘record store’ in my opinion. Having said that, I think we may well see a gradual return to the high street of indie record stores and small businesses in general. Rent will be forced down as large chains which can’t compete with Amazon disappear. This will create opportunities for specialist shops. I hope to see a day when our high streets are filled with small businesses again.
Do you think the recent resurge in popularity of limited edition pressings, coloured vinyl, rare tapes etc. is in some way a reaction to the ready access and easy availability of digital files?
I believe that records as objects have been dropping in perceived value with each new distribution format. I think there’s a reverse correlation between convenience and ‘worth’ as the more convenient something is, the more you’ll take it for granted. 50 years ago you’d have walked into town and come home carrying something heavy. The time and effort required would’ve added worth in your mind. In this respect we hit rock bottom with the MP3. How do you attach worth to something that has no physical form at all?
There are definitely a lot of people that seem to take access to free music for granted these days. Do you feel that the abundance of recorded music that is easily available on the internet has in some way devalued the art form?
Perhaps. It’s hard to imagine our kids digging through our old MP3s in the same way that we sifted through old LPs and cassettes. Another thing which I wonder about is whether the art of actually making music is being devalued by the ease of use of modern software. Again, it’s the convenience vs worth issue. You can make a very respectable sounding track in minutes on a phone now. I can’t decide if that’s fantastic or appalling.
Do you think traditional copyright laws are still enforceable in the digital age, or do you think we will have to rethink the concept of copyright itself?
I am strongly in favour of copyright. The argument that I hear all the time is that if you’re not making money from your music then sampling is fine. But it’s not about whether or not you are making money, it’s a question of ethics. If you want to use a part of something someone else created it’s only right that you get their permission. If you can’t be bothered to do that then find something in the public domain (or that has an appropriate Creative Commons licence) to sample.
What would you say are the main challenges facing an up-and-coming musician in today’s cultural climate?
As with any ‘product’ you’ll only achieve success if you have a strong brand and spend some time on marketing. It’s simply not enough to make good music as plenty of people do that. I reckon you need to spend at least as much time on promotion as you do on making the music in the first place. Probably considerably more. By ‘strong brand’ I mean you need something which people will be drawn to and want to talk about. The classic example of this for me is Aphex Twin. He lives in a bank, he owns a submarine, he once DJed with 12″ discs of sandpaper instead of records. None of that has anything to do with his music, but you can bet those stories have helped his career.
Finally, what does the future hold for Dedpop?
More tapes! The first is ‘Eer’ by Bitbasic, it’s got some of the catchiest basslines you’ll hear for a while and it’s getting great feedback. Next up we’ve got a dirty monster of an album from new artist Rysic Cygo. It’s all screaming synths, filthy bass and punishing beats. Then there’s a new album from Rykard that sounds like it was *made* for tape. It’s a Summery, eighties, sci-fi, romance kind of thing. I think people will love it!