Brand Names

A showcase of some Tucson record labels

According to Wikipedia, a record label is "a brand created by companies that specialize in manufacturing, distributing and promoting audio and video recordings." Most major record labels, and larger independent labels, help produce, finance and market albums, releases, tours and merchandise, basically functioning as economic support.

With the wider availability of home recording equipment and CD burning capabilities, more and more bands on a local level are putting out their own records on their own record "labels," a name on the CD jacket that doesn't necessarily carry financial backing behind it--they're creating the brand without the company. Most of Tucson's local record labels are in fact brands, a sort of associative moniker that groups a certain sound or aesthetic together under one roof.

Tucson has several labels, but the focus of each is different, and the few that provide financial support don't generally work with local bands. It would take more space than this paper allows to include everybody, so the following is a small showcase of a few local labels.

Funzalo Records
Artists: Luca, Stacey Earle and Mark Stuart, Tony Furtado, Spooky Daly Pride, The Steepwater Band

Funzalo was born out of former New Yorker Mike Lembo's producer/managing business, and focuses on building up the careers of already established bands. More than a traditional record label, Funzalo handles all aspects of their client's career: touring, records, national and Canadian distribution, merchandise, licensing ... the whole shebang.

"We are in the artist business," said Lembo. "An artist sells tickets, T-shirts, records, CDs, gets in movies, gets in advertisements--we do all that, facilitate all that, and earn from all those things, which gives us the ability to write checks."

Funzalo was created because both Lembo and Karen Dumont, who have worked for years in the music industry as artist managers, were tired of the major labels' treatment of artists.

"We've both worked with major labels, and what we've noticed is that a major label will make decisions that are good for the label, but not necessarily grow an artist's career," said Dumont. "We were tired of always struggling with what's best for the artist, because as managers, we are only good if our artist continues from one record to the next and has a career, whereas a label will just think, 'I need to sell this many records on this album, or else I'm going to have to drop them.'"

Funzalo's goal is to increase an artist's already-burgeoning career, which means that they will only consider signing established bands that have enjoyed some amount of independent success. In order to even be considered as a client, said Lembo, "The first part is, they have to tour. ... They have to be touring 100-150 dates on their own before we'll even talk to them."

Funzalo is looking for new artists, but not necessarily from Tucson, said Lembo. "We need to find a band that we can help step up. There's already something going on. It's just too hard out there to put a bit in their mouth and find you've got a mule and not a horse."

Soild Gold
Artists and "family": Homeless Unicorn, Galactic Federation of Love, Golden Boots, NoBunny, Sugarbush, The Rise and Fall of Amy Rude, Campo Bravo, Tom Walbank and the Ambassadors, Reaganomics, Barely Bipedal

Ryan Eggleston and Dimitri Manos of Golden Boots and various other bands (see the list above) began the Soild Gold collective about five years ago.

"It's OK to call it a label, but I wouldn't; I don't think that's what it is," said Eggleston. "I know that's what we've always said, for lack of a better word, but I'm beginning to understand it better now. It's more like a collective, really."

Eggleston and Manos have a recording studio where they most recently recorded The Rise and Fall of Amy Rude's new record. Everyone seems to know everyone else on Soild Gold, and so, even more than a collective, it functions as a family of bands.

They have a "power in numbers kind of thing going," explained Eggleston. "All we do is help record people and help do promotion and set up shows for people and stuff like that. Maybe someday, we'll actually have money to actually put out a record."

The benefit of being "on" a "label" like Soild Gold that isn't really a "label" is "as an association, to be part of a group so that these groups help each other," said Eggleston. "If someone's checking out Campo Bravo--a booker, or a fan, someone interested in music, a press person, a label person--and they go to the Soild Gold page, then they'll see all these other things that are also happening, so it has the potential there for everybody to be able to grow off of the minor successes that we all have, and hopefully, it'll snowball in some way."

As far as extending their already extended family goes, "If someone feels strongly about it, and they feel like what they're doing really would fit into this, or they're interested in recording down here or something like that, we're open to meeting anybody," said Eggleston.

I Like Red
Artists: Nowhere Man, Final, Let's English, Yellow Cabs, The Croutons, Chief Smiles

I Like Red, similar to Soild Gold, is first and foremost a recording studio run by Nowhere Man's Vikas Pawa.

"People would record and want to have something to put on the CD, and we would discuss a little more, and I'd be like, well, I like the music, so why don't we put it on I Like Red the label?" said Pawa. "And it was also something that I set up just for my own releases, too."

I Like Red is also more about creating an association of bands, a brand name. "I think a lot of bands have this misconception that being on a label means something, but really, it's not being on the label that means something; it's how much money the label has to help you be successful making and releasing records, so it really comes down to money, and with I Like Red, there is no money. It's purely an associative thing," said Pawa.

In addition to releases by Pawa's own band, I Like Red Recordings puts its name on releases by Final (Glen Corey of Greyhound Soul's side project), Let's English and the Chief Smiles, a violin and guitar band out of New York.

Stunning Tonto
Artists: Chango Malo, Scratchingthesurface, Manifold

Somewhere around 2002, the members of Chango Malo decided to create Stunning Tonto in order to document the music being created by their friends in local bands. A compilation was put out, as well as releases by Manifold, Scratchingthesurface and Chango Malo themselves. Things pretty much came to a halt on the Stunning Tonto front as of late, because, said Chango Malo drummer Jericho Davidson, "We ran out of money and inspiration." But, added Davidson, "We are starting to do it again." A new Chango Malo record and a scratchingthesurface record are in the works, as is a new Web site.