Leading Us Absurd’s Matt Satterfield talks to Edward Rogers about how record labels and the industry have changed over the past 30 years.
The music industry has changed hugely in the past 30 years, the rise and fall of different trends and technologies has forced record labels to adapt to the times. And artists have had to change too. So Matt Satterfield from Leading Us Absurd has been able to talk with British-born, New York-bred songwriter Edward Rogers about his extremely prolific career and how the industry has altered in his time.
Originally a drummer in several garage bands, a subway accident in October 1985 left Rogers without his right arm and right leg below the knee. Rather than change careers he began writing and singing music.
In addition to his four solo albums, Rogers has also released two with Bedsit Poets, a folk/Brit-inspired trio whose name was given to them by The Zombies’ Colin Blunstone. He has played extensively in New York, Los Angeles, London, Canada, and along the East Coast both solo and with Bedsit Poets.
First off, how has the music industry changed since you first started recording?
What an amazing difference. At one time, studios were the only place where you could get a decent sound and were really expensive. They all wanted to record artists who were signed to major labels and, as an indie musician, you were a second-class citizen. But, slowly as the indie scene came along and got stronger, you began to find studios with producers/engineers /musicians who were more on the wavelength of the music and not the money.
Do you think being on an indie label has given you more freedom than you would have as opposed to being on a major?
Absolutely. For the most part, the small label heads sign you because they like the music and give you the freedom to do your work. They are normally run by music heads and not accountants. The downside of course, is that money is tight. Large companies are monitoring you all the time, meeting with their A&R people, giving you input. No thanks – I will ask if I feel I need your input. Mixing, sequencing and album designs all become a problem, everyone has an opinion. Everyone knows better than you — and maybe they do — but it’s the “BIG BROTHER” game I don’t like.
Bruce from Not Lame Recordings is such a passionate fan and really nice guy; Ralph from Bongo Beat Records shared more of the business side and showed me the reality of how small companies work. Art [Herman, president of Zip Records] is a dreamer and that’s what I love about him. He gives you total freedom to do your work and will then support you, which is the perfect combination for me.
Also, “Porcelain” will be released by Bucketfull of Brains Records via Proper Music Distribution on 2 April 2012. I’ve known and been a fan of Nick West and BOB for years. Anyone who knows him and his magazine, knows he is a music fan first, so I feel fortunate to have him releasing “Porcelain” in the UK and Europe.
Would you consider going on a major label?
There are still some really passionate people at the major labels (Ian Ralfini at EMI for one) who still believe in the magic of music and try to balance the artist’s vision with the company’s business plan, and I would never say never but I would still prefer to record in the smaller affordable studios in Brooklyn with my friends.
Since you’re originally from the UK, how is the industry business different there from New York?
I think the UK is more trend-driven. If you have the right look at the right time, it can easily override the talent — or lack of. That being said, England takes a lot more chances at signing young bands that mature and give us some brilliant music. I do think that over the last ten years, NYC has developed a really healthy local music scene, and gives a lot of musicians the outlets to create music. The UK also seems to encourage “rock music” a lot more than the US (at least in terms of exposure, and coverage.) And many of the same bands that get lots of coverage there never make it here, and vice versa.
Why do you think that the UK has a more lively rock scene?
For my taste, England always has something new — a new sound or movement every couple of years that I find exciting. I think that encourages more groups to ‘join’ that movement. It’s been that way since the sixties. Attending shows in England over the years, I’ve discovered some great new groups, who were added as a fourth opener on a major show. They take more chances with music.
Does piracy hinder the industry, or do you think that they’re pointing the fingers in the wrong direction?
You know for an artist at my level, anyone who cares enough to steal, good luck to them, hope you like the music. But an artist who is struggling, making his livelihood and just getting by – that’s who really gets hurt by this problem. I do believe, that like any other art, a person should be paid for the work they do. So, if you are enabling piracy, shame on you, we all need to survive in this crazy world.
Where do you see the music industry in about 5 years?
Death to the CD and very few music stores in the traditional sense. The popular medium will continue to be downloading with some Vinyl sales. Part of me is sad as music is so accessible now, it doesn’t make it as important as it used to be.
British-born, New York-bred songwriter Edward Rogers has announced the release of his fourth solo album, Porcelain, on November 8, 2011 with the premiere of the title track and a new video. Early last week, Blurt Online premiered the title track on their site. The new video is for another track off Porcelain, “The Biba Crowd”, and set to footage from Jean Luc-Godard’s 1964 film Band of Outsiders. “The Biba Crowd” will also be featured on the free November CD from the UK’s Word Magazine.
Read my original interview with Rogers from September, 2011, here.