To show that there are no hard feelings between myself and Chris Unthank, with whom I’ve had a little vigorous banter on some recent posts about songwriting, I’m spotlighting an article of his for Absolutely Gospel called “Record Label Woes.” Chris offers four simple tips for how record labels can interact better with the promotional arm of this industry: Be proactive. Be current. Be available. Be courteous.
I lack Chris’s wide experience with labels across genres of Christian music, so I don’t have as many “woes” to relate from my own brief stint in music promotion. But I thought instead I would point out one record label that goes above and beyond in meeting all four of his guidelines: StowTown Records, the property of Wayne Haun and Ernie Haase. StowTown is…
1. Proactive: I don’t need to drop hints in Ernie’s inbox that I’m waiting around for StowTown’s latest. I get an e-card for every project, and what’s more, I get it well in advance of the release date. That is what we call proactive promotion.
2. Current: Chris comments that while it’s nice to have publishing info, musician info, and the other little perks that come with a physical copy, labels desperately need to move into the digital age when it comes to getting their artists’ music out there. I myself prefer digital copies because my room is messy enough as it is, and I don’t relish the idea of dragging hundreds of physical CDs everywhere I move in my life. And if I listen to a project where it turns out there were really only about three tracks that I loved to spin over and over, I’m especially glad that I didn’t make the extra spatial investment. But here’s the cool thing about StowTown: Not only do they provide CD-quality mp3 downloads of the music for reviewers, they also include complete copyright info in the digital package. So the music is provided conveniently, but at the same time they aren’t skimping on info for reviewers. They understand that we like to know who actually wrote the song we’re reviewing, so that we know who to praise or critique by name.
3. Available: A while back I e-mailed Ernie to see if I could set up an interview with the Taylors. He instantly wrote back and said “Yes, please, I would love to see this happen!” It has not been officially arranged yet, partly since he bounced it to Wayne (and Wayne being Wayne is insanely busy), and partly since they’ve already given recent interviews to a couple other press outlets, so I need to calibrate my questions accordingly to avoid repetition. But that instant, enthusiastic response is a model for how a label should treat those of us who are eager to share your music with the world.
4. Courteous: When I wrote with a question about the timing of Stowtown Radio’s live special the other week, Ernie’s assistant instantly responded thanking me for the question, and actually saying that my writing had led them to correct an error in the schedule. There was no delay or irritation. StowTown took my request and took care of the issue with humility and graciousness.
Crossroads Music is an example of another label who handles promotion well, so I don’t mean to imply that StowTown is all alone here. But I can think of at least one other major label, which shall remain nameless, that I would rank behind StowTown. I’m not saying they’re as terrible as they could be, I’m just saying StowTown is better—more efficient, more proactive, more available. StowTown is already positioning itself on the cutting edge of southern gospel, and they’re just getting started. In my opinion, this label is a big part of what will carry southern gospel into the future, in no small part because they follow the guidelines Chris is describing so well.
So, there you go, for those who might be wondering whether I just sit around looking like this all day…