Interviews

Easy Killer Records

Earlier this year industry veterans Mike Judy and Kevin Gales joined forces to launch a new music venture, Easy Killer Records, bringing on board artists Brian Marquis, City of Ghosts, Night Verses, and more. We had the chance to chat with Mike and Kevin about their new label, as well as a variety of other topics relating to the music industry.

You each have a wealth of experience from different sides of the music industry, what led to the collaboration to form this new label?
Mike Judy: We’ve been friends for a bit now, and we knew that our knowledge of the different sides of the industry would certainly help mold us into a pretty substantial force. At least that’s what we hope! It’s worked out pretty great thus far.

Kevin Gales: We had worked together before. I had a few ideas for some projects and I knew I wanted to work with Mike. Kept brainstorming from there.

There’s certainly no shortage of record labels – what was the motivation behind launching not just a music label, but a clothing line as well? Something about the music industry you want to try and change or improve?
MJ: We just think those two things can feed off of each other so well. It’s fantastic cross promotion. Plus it’s fun as hell!

KG: We just want to sign good artists who are good people making good music. We want to sign them to fair contracts where they can genuinely share in our profits. I think an apparel line, having a stream of income totally independent of the artists selling patterns, is a good thing. Really helps the music and the creativity become more of the central driving force.

In the four months since you launched, what has been the most challenging thing about Easy Killer? The most rewarding? Any surprises from day one to now?
MJ: Most challenging was getting so many artists signed and ready to go without even being publicly launched yet. I’d say that was also the most rewarding thing. It was a blast to see how stoked everyone has been on our roster.

KG: We came out with a fully-blown, developed label. It’s caught a fair bit of attention and we’re super grateful for that. That said, that’s a tough sled; to be self-sustaining with no income for months. We knew it would be that way, and we were prepared. But it’s still difficult. The major surprise has been the overwhelmingly positive response. The internet can be a nasty anonymous place, and we’ve received nothing but love and support.

What makes Easy Killer different? For unsigned bands/artists, why should they submit to Easy Killer?
MJ: Diversity on the roster is a big thing for us, so as long as the artist is talented, they have a shot regardless of their respective genre. We like to think that being part of a team and on a label full of such great acts is a great draw for us. We really don’t have anything gimmicky at the moment. No cash cow bands that we’ve swallowed our pride to sign just because we know we can swing a quick profit. I think our bands respect that.

KG: If we sign you, we likely REALLY are fans of yours. I think that’s a comforting thing for an artist. We also have room for their sound as well. The label was built to accommodate and celebrate multiple genres.

The genres of artists you represent is certainly varied, but is there a common thread among them? Or something special you look for in new artists?
MJ: Well, I think my answer to [the next] question is perfect for this as well! We just look for talent. Be good at what you do, kick ass at your instrument, and you’ve got a shot.

KG: I mentioned before good music being done by good artists who are good people. That’s a great bumping off point. Or at least we think so.

Brian Marquis is currently out on the Vans Warped Tour this summer – VWT can be great for bands to get more exposure, especially given the opportunity to play to audiences across the country, but it’s just as easy for some artists to go unnoticed with so many acts playing in such a large space. Do you think VWT is still a valuable experience for artists? Do you have to have any kind of strategy when it comes to playing a festival show?
MJ: It’s an exceptional way to get noticed. Even if the smaller artists are playing to relatively small crowds compared to the main stage acts, they’re still in front of a sizable audience day in day out. You’re going to get a lot of traffic coming in that you wouldn’t at a normal club show. Lots of random peeps walking around. I was in a smaller band on Warped myself in 2011 and we benefited from this. We made so many brand new fans, since there are so many brand new people that come to events like this to be exposed to new acts and new music.

As far as strategies go, recruit a couple people who are around your merch tent and send them out with signs that list your set time, merch location, etc. Engage people when they do come near your tent. Not in a pestering manner, but a friendly, “hey come hang out” manner. We used to have thumb wrestling competitions in front of our tent with merch as a prize for the champion. Lots of fun ways to promote.

KG: VWT is awesome. An amazing opportunity for any artist.

What are your thoughts on music competition series like American Idol and The Voice where the winner, in addition to having been on national television for weeks, is also rewarded with a record contract? Does that undermine anything about the business that you’re trying to run? Does it help in any way?
MJ: Really doesn’t affect us a ton either way, but I love those shows! Good friends with a couple people who have performed on The Voice. I think it’s great!

KG: I have zero problem with a talent search or with the exposure they get. Good for them! I think the only issue is that people can think that’s what a record deal is. You sing well, and have a good stylist, and you get a million bucks. Also, not every record deal is created equal. There will be difference between the deal that we offer and that Sony will offer. It doesn’t make either offer less legitimate; they’re just different.

What can we expect from Easy Killer through the rest of 2013, and what are you most excited about for 2014?
MJ: Releases, releases, releases! We’re also currently looking for artists to sign for our 2014 release schedule. Excited for the future. Thanks for taking the time with us!

KG: More amazing releases…AMAZING releases. Just love your roster, man! Hopefully some major news regarding apparel.

To learn more about Easy Killer’s artists and their upcoming apparel line, check them out on Facebook.

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Josh
Chief Of All The Things at Emo At Heart
Josh is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Emo At Heart.