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Sage interview with Skope Magazine. Long. SFR explanations
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Sage Francis
Self Fighteous


Joined: 30 Jun 2002
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Sage interview with Skope Magazine. Long. SFR explanations  Reply with quote  

Here's an unedited interview conducted by Stacy Coronis from Skope Magazine:



General background info so I have my facts straight.....When did
you start the label? When did you add your first artist? Who was it?
How many employees does the label have now?


"I suppose it started when I put out my first self-released tape in
1996. I didn't start using the name SFR until 1999 when I released the
Sick of Waiting tape. I was my first artist, by default. haha. Then I
put out more of my own stuff and then an instrumental album called
Reverse Discourse, then within the past few years we began doing more
official projects. SFR has about 5 employees, but 3 main people
working in the office. Our art and web designer lives in Croatia. We
have some interns doing work as well. We're looking to expand, but we
always try to streamline as much as possible to keep the work focused
and organized."


You started Strange Famous records as a way to release your own
music independently. Was it always your goal to release your music on
your own, or did this come about because of bad or less than pleasant
experiences with established labels?


"My goal was simply to have my music out there. I had no connections
to anyone who knew anything about how to get my songs out to the
public. I poked around for years, waited for some magical entity to
'discover' me, and eventually became sick of feeling helpless. This
was in the pre-internet, pre-myspace, pre-CD/CDR world. Something
clicked when I discovered the way that punk rock and hardcore kids put
out their own material. I was going to local hardcore shows and seeing
that all these kids were selling home-made tapes and home-made zines. I
wondered why the hell I wasn't doing the same thing for myself."


How did you start expanding the label? Did you exclusively add
people you already knew and had worked with or are any of the artists
found by you or contacted by you to join the label?


"I never intended on expanding the label. My goal wasn't to run a
label, however...as it turned out...I began learning more and more
about the industry. I had people in my inner-circle who needed my
services. It all came together naturally. So I began putting out
material from friends, selling music through the website, building a
rapport with fans and artists. Eventually more artists came to me
about putting out their product. We're picky about the artists whose
product we're willing to work with, and there are standards we need to
uphold, so we keep our company small and tight rather than taking as
much product as possible. This can be troublesome at times, because
even if I am friends with someone...and they've been known to make
great music...if they present us something that doesn't fit in well
with our sound and style I have to pass on it. It can be taken
personally, but it really shouldn't. We can't get behind an album
unless we're sure that are comfortable with it representing us."


Do you have any plans to expand your roster of artists further
anytime soon, or is it strictly an artist-by-artist basis that you
consider bringing on new people/groups?


"It is done on an artist-by-artist basis, but I've been talking to
about 5 artists in hopes of coming up with a plan that everyone will
be comfortable with."


How did signing a deal with Epitaph affect Strange Famous records? Have you found the experience of working with a larger label fits well
with your own label?

"It affected SFR in a number of ways. Epitaph was able to raise my
recognition level in the press and get my albums in chain stores. Everything
began to snowball from that point. A couple employees of Epitaph were
very generous with their industry knowledge and connections, which all
got funneled into the business of SFR. It's not like they made me an
exception, but I am the kind of person who utilizes information
whether it entails a bunch of work or not."


Once you complete your third album for Epitaph, will you go back
to releasing exclusively through Strange Famous Records?


"Most likely. If I continue to work with Epitaph it would have to be
under different conditions, and it's possible they will see the value
in that. It's a tough call and one I won't be able to make until 2010
or so. And from what the Mayan calendar tells us, the end of the world
will only be 2 years away. With that in mind, I guess it doesn't
really matter. I just take some time for myself in those final two
years of Earth life."


What about having your own label is the most rewarding?


"Wow. Great question and one that I don't have a stock answer for. I
think the most rewarding aspect is the help I'm able to offer to
artists while exposing more music I believe in to the people who normally
wouldn't hear it."


In an age of rampant conglomerations, what is it about SFR that
makes it a small label success? Have any big labels offered to buy you
out? Have any labels brought up combining forces? If so, how have you
handled it?


"For one, we stay hyper aware of everything that's going on around us,
in all facets of art and business. Hip-hop and beyond. We consolidate
efforts and streamline whenever possible so as not to let items fall
through the cracks. Death to bureaucracy. No one has offered to buy us
out, because most companies wouldn't see much value in the projects we
choose to put out. We're too against the grain to seem lucrative,
yet...here we are."


SFR is successful small label. Do you see the small label
scene/industry, whatever you want to call it, as sustainable? Have you
noticed a lot more cropping up in the last few years? Do they seem to
be doing it "right" in the sense that they'll stick around? Do you
feel like a small label can have long-term success, however you define
that word in this context, against larger corporations with unlimited
funds?


"Anything can be sustainable when it's handled with enough care, wits
and finesse. However, the amount of work and industry knowledge it
takes for an indie label to sustain itself is more than most entities
are capable of handling. This is why labels are cropping down rather
than up. I think a majority of people involved in this side of the
game are confused, desperate and lazy. There's a lack of vision,
solidarity and elbow grease. Not to say that SFR is the only exception
to the rule, and perhaps I won't care to run a business that occupies
80 hours of my week forever, but as long as we stay on cusp of change
and development there won't be any reason for us to not remain
successful."



Speaking of giant corporations, how did knowmore.org come about? How connected to SFR is it? Do you see it as an extension of the grassroots/social responsibility you practice with the label? Is it
more its own entity than that, something you and B Dolan felt a need
to do apart from the label?


"B Dolan approached me with the concept behind Knowmore.org after Bush
won re-election. Beyond helping finance it, I offered the resources of
SFR, which is grassroots in every conceivable way. This includes the
people who involve themselves with SFR, the fans of our music and
message, and the people who we interact with online. As Knowmore.org
is an activist website, one that aims to keep the public educated on
how their money gets used when they support various corporations, it
is essential that a certain amount of that public actually contributes
to the site. As it started off, it was mainly SFR people being
involved, but the scope of Knowmore.org is much larger than SFR's
outreach so we're looking for that type of expansion."



It seems like you tour almost non-stop and I know you used to plan
your tours on your own. Do you still? Has your touring slowed down at
all now that you have a label to deal with or are you still constantly
on the move? Do the other artists on your label perform live/tour as
much as you? Do you usually go out with other artists on your label or
do you ever mix it up with other artists?


"I book some of my own shows, but the tours get booked through Kork
Agency. That is one side of business I COULD handle on my own, but it
makes more sense to have a competent company work that end of things.
However, as I do book some of my own shows still, I also book shows
for our artists (if they aren't on the Kork roster.) Touring continues
to pick up, even though I always tell myself that I'm going to take a
year off. That never happens. Haha. This year was supposed to be
dedicated strictly to SFR business and Knowmore business, however it
just so happens that touring plays a big role in the growth and
promotion of both. I typically won't tour without bringing SFR artists
with me. The only time I did that is last year when I did the Against
Me tour and the Paid Dues tour. I don't foresee myself doing any tours
in the future without at least one other SFR artist with me."



Is touring your main marketing tool? Besides touring and the
website, do you use other tools to promote or is it mostly word of
mouth?


"Touring is essential in bringing the music to people all over the
world. Live and in the flesh. Bringing the music to life. When it's
done right, you create fans for life. When it's done wrong, the people
lose interest in your music. I've seen it go both ways for some people
through the years. Touring can't be the only marketing tool though,
because all that ends up marketing is live shows. In fact, I've
noticed that performing for tens of thousands of people at a time
doesn't translate into much online activity, and online marketing
comes with its own benefits. Good music is my main marketing tool.
Keeping it entertaining and meaningful. The most conventional
marketing route is hiring publicists and promotion companies, but none
of that is worth a thing without word-of-mouth."


You appear on other Strange Famous artists' records, but rarely
have guests appear on your own, except on the Sick Of... albums. How
do you handle collaborations within the label? Is it up to the artists
whether or not they collaborate with other artists, either on the
label or not, or do you get a say in that?


"When I make my albums I'm a total control freak. Total. I obsess. I
usually have a firm idea of how every single song should sound and
what the words should convey. I've been open to having rappers
feature on my albums, but it never ended up working out. As for
artists on SFR, I make suggestions about collaborations and see if
they're interested. I definitely like featuring on every SFR album,
but it's totally up to them whether that happens or not."


Last edited by Sage Francis on Tue Apr 08, 2008 10:40 am; edited 1 time in total
Post Mon Apr 07, 2008 2:01 pm
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futuristxen



Joined: 01 Jul 2002
Posts: 19356
Location: Tighten Your Bible Belt
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You dropped 2012 in an interview!!!
I love you!

SFR: Reppin' the coming Eschaton!
Post Mon Apr 07, 2008 2:13 pm
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futuristxen



Joined: 01 Jul 2002
Posts: 19356
Location: Tighten Your Bible Belt
Re: Sage interview with Skope Magazine. Long. SFR explanatio  Reply with quote  

Sage Francis wrote:
In fact, I've
noticed that performing for tens of thousands of people at a time
doesn't translate into much online activity, and online marketing
comes with its own benefits.


This is interesting to me. Have you found like a certain number of people for a show that is ideal for generating the maximum amount of online activity? Like what is the point that tips over into an impersonal stadium show like the above?

Like are you saying, it's more profitable for you in the long term to do shows of like a thousand or less people, than to do a bunch of events where there's tens of thousands?

I would think both sort of have their own demographics, and one demographic might be more made up of "influencers" than the other.

Anywho. I thought that was really interesting, and if you have anything to add to that part, I'd find it even more interesting.
Post Mon Apr 07, 2008 2:19 pm
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Sage Francis
Self Fighteous


Joined: 30 Jun 2002
Posts: 21557
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What I'm saying is that all the stuff that happens outside of the internet doesn't really translate into online activity. Sometimes I'll do a show for 1000 people and not get any website or myspace or forum activity from it. Which means that a lot of the people enjoying the music, purchasing the music, and going to shows aren't part of the scattered peanut gallery in the vitual world. I feel that is important to understand, as it is common for people online to assume that they are representative of the world outside of the computa box.
Post Mon Apr 07, 2008 2:25 pm
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futuristxen



Joined: 01 Jul 2002
Posts: 19356
Location: Tighten Your Bible Belt
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Sage Francis wrote:
What I'm saying is that all the stuff that happens outside of the internet doesn't really translate into online activity. Sometimes I'll do a show for 1000 people and not get any website or myspace or forum activity from it. Which means that a lot of the people enjoying the music, purchasing the music, and going to shows aren't part of the scattered peanut gallery in the vitual world. I feel that is important to understand, as it is common for people online to assume that they are representative of the world outside of the computa box.


What methods typically generate the most online traffic for you? And what kind of sense do you have of online activity going outward--like even though your shows may not sometimes generate a lot of online activity(are there some shows that do more than others?) does your online activity translate with any predictability into show activity?

And has the relationship between the internet and your shows lessened over the years as you've become a more known commodity, with more available sources of information for people to find? Or is it still the same, it just makes up a smaller percentage of your total pull?

I'm kind of a little bit interested in the ways the internet plays or doesn't play off the real world(or vice versa) in terms of audience behavior.
Post Mon Apr 07, 2008 2:34 pm
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Freshman_Woes82



Joined: 17 Dec 2007
Posts: 256
Location: St. Louis, MO
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I want to see a nationwide tour with Sage, Prolyphic & Reanimator & B. Dolan!
Post Mon Apr 07, 2008 8:08 pm
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Buddy Peace



Joined: 21 Jul 2002
Posts: 1652
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Freshman_Woes82 wrote:
I want to see a WORLDWIDE tour with Sage, Prolyphic & Reanimator & B. Dolan!


...took the words right out of my mouth. I really hope that happens one day!
Post Tue Apr 08, 2008 1:14 am
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passenger



Joined: 18 Apr 2006
Posts: 637
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very informative interview about the process of it all. Thanks for posting Sage!
Post Tue Apr 08, 2008 7:54 am
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Storm Davis



Joined: 01 Apr 2004
Posts: 425
Location: Providence
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futuristxen wrote:
I'm kind of a little bit interested in the ways the internet plays or doesn't play off the real world(or vice versa) in terms of audience behavior.


futuristxen
Joined: 01 Jul 2002
Posts: 11879
Location: I miss the letter "R"

You actually may be the best one-person focus group available to answer that question.
Post Tue Apr 08, 2008 8:16 am
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Reggie



Joined: 01 Jul 2002
Posts: 5765
Location: Queens, NYC
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In my armchair opinion, SFR has had the most organic growth of any independent label in recent memory. Definitely of any independent rap label in the last ten years. By that, I mean that there doesn't seem to be any signees selected on profitability or name recognition, instead every artist seems to be a unit in an overall cohesive whole. As a consumer, I appreciate this. I have seen more than a few labels scramble to sign recognized artists with sub-par projects, or to resurrect older artists in hopes of acquiring a certain fanbase (mainly, boom-bap dinosaurs). SFR's growth appears slow but steady, and the label seems to be building a more solid foundation as a result. I don't know if that makes sense. What I am trying to say is that SFR is a pretty dope label with a bright future, from what I can tell.
Post Tue Apr 08, 2008 8:47 am
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MessiahCarey



Joined: 01 Jul 2002
Posts: 10924
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Hahahaha. Yeah, Storm...I was at her house the other day ready to strangle her because she was saying that she thinks the future of performance will be on the internet.

Then again, she didn't grow up going to Shed and Times Expired shows like we did.

There is an ENERGY with live performance that, until we have USB devices that attach to the synapses of our brain to provide the appropriate feelings, will never be matched. (To be fair to Sarah - she attends many shows and appreciates them a bunch.)

But, the internet is still for moderately rich people. Maybe that's a stretch...but you know what I mean...it's by far the first thing I think people drop when they need that 20 - 30 bucks a month back.

The irony is that the internet nerds, by and large, aren't going to PAY for the record while the virtually deficient are much more likely to attend shows, buy albums, etc. In the modern world, anyway...for those of us who grew up attending live shows where the energy was paramount (vs. the talent, at times ;-) - we are never going to understand this....we'll download everything we can, watch all the youtube videos we can, and then if we can make it to the show we'll do anything short of murdering our family to make it happen. And not so we can hear...

indie musician: "duh...yah...umm...like....check us out on myspace at doubleyou doubleyou" ::half the club starts talking:: "doubleyou dot" ::people start leaving::
Post Tue Apr 08, 2008 8:47 am
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the mean
Certified O.G.


Joined: 31 Jul 2003
Posts: 6497
Location: philly/sacto/kauai/ohio
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I agree with most everything Reggie and Shane just posted. Although, I think this is an overstatement, "the most organic growth of any independent label in recent memory."
Post Tue Apr 08, 2008 9:29 am
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Storm Davis



Joined: 01 Apr 2004
Posts: 425
Location: Providence
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MessiahCarey wrote:
Hahahaha. Yeah, Storm...I was at her house the other day ready to strangle her because she was saying that she thinks the future of performance will be on the internet.

Then again, she didn't grow up going to Shed and Times Expired shows like we did.

There is an ENERGY with live performance that, until we have USB devices that attach to the synapses of our brain to provide the appropriate feelings, will never be matched. (To be fair to Sarah - she attends many shows and appreciates them a bunch.)


That actually wasn't where I was going with that, but that's an interesting point that's hitting home for me personally lately.

In fact, I can't totally disagree with her theory (as I understand it from your brief synopsis).

I don't have time right now to fully explain my thoughts, but it basically boils down to this:

As young fans grow up with more virtual access to music (and the million distractions that come along with the technology that makes this possible), they're less apt to make attending shows a priority. Thus they don't experience the multitude of different things that make the live experience what it is (and you know as well as I do that sometimes the band is the smallest part of that equation). So, they mistake (or accurately assess, from their point of view) a video of a live performance for seeing a performer live, because they haven't had the chance to experience anything else.

And slowly, the future of live performance develops on the Internet, as the draw of what makes a live show an event is removed from the common experience.

Maybe not the ideal, definitely unfortunate, but certainly possible. Because how can they miss it if they don't know what they're missing?

But to your point regarding Futuristxen, I do recognize that she attends shows and appreciates them. I recognize this because I read it on the Internet. :)
Post Tue Apr 08, 2008 10:16 am
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MessiahCarey



Joined: 01 Jul 2002
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Haha. The irony.

I don't want to hijack the thread, but suffice it to say I find performances sacred in a nearly spiritual way. I think that the meat and potatoes of an artist is in whether or not they can peform...if they can't, fuck 'em.

It was cool to see this interview and get a glimpse into the mindset Sage has regarding the label.
Post Tue Apr 08, 2008 10:25 am
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duck_shoe



Joined: 15 Sep 2002
Posts: 1362
Location: Right here, fool.
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MessiahCarey wrote:

I don't want to hijack the thread, but suffice it to say I find performances sacred in a nearly spiritual way. I think that the meat and potatoes of an artist is in whether or not they can peform...if they can't, fuck 'em.


I definitely agree with this. I wonder if that point of view is a subcultural thing; I notice it more among people who grew up attending a lot of punk rock or hardcore shows.
Post Tue Apr 08, 2008 10:46 am
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