SM-LL. No artist names, no credits on releases from next year

Hello everyone.

We have some very exciting label (SM-LL) news to share about our plans for next year and our thinking around these plans.

For those of you who haven’t heard of us, which is probably almost everyone, here is a link to our releases.

As already mentioned SM-LL. Andrea Taeggi - Batch 0011. tendencyitis - Batch 0013 we are finishing this year with 4 Batch releases, but that’s not all we are finishing. We are also ending all our formats, Default, Batch, SM-LL and Sys, well, more accurately we are combining and evolving the concepts behind these formats into a single format under NULL, a nod to Mika Vaino. We never know how long we have so let’s do the best we can.

The main change for us is a direction we have been discussing throughout this year but are only now confident enough to make the transition. As a label, we are no longer supporting artist names or credits.
We believe strongly that this will better enable a focus on releasing good records with the majority of the other stuff put aside. We have been growing less interested in the idea of supporting or working with the concepts of the artist’s vision in relation to a brand or ego. We have always put the music first and yet often we feel other considerations, even our own creative project names, are steering creative decisions and the danger is a lukewarm soup. We don’t like lukewarm soup.

When removing artist name and credits the role of a label and music artist is blurred and challenged, opening up collaboration across everything, music, promotion, concepts and evolution. The label becomes less a host for the presentation of ideas and more an environment to create them. This has been in our methodology since day one but now we understand a better way to deliver on these ideas through collaboration.

Of course, there is nothing to stop the artist, or anyone for that matter taking credit for a release, whether it is theirs or not. We think that is super interesting and can’t wait to see what happens.

The conditions under which we create is more our focus and working together with people to deliver a good record and nothing more sounds incredibly refreshing to us, especially given today’s climate.

Also, playing live becomes interesting, as anyone can take on that responsibility to perform a release, it doesn’t even have to be theirs.

As many of you already know we are big supporters of creating sounds and structures to be reused, borrowed and taken by others, and yet in practice, this is hard to do, so we hope with our new approach this too can be better explored.

We are super excited about this new direction and would love to hear anyone’s thoughts about this, as we believe we are not alone in this thinking.

The first release for next year will be NULL0000.

Martin

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Great stuff. I’m looking forward to see how this is going to materialise…

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Wow this is very interesting!

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I have to reply here. First off, no offense meant, I have no problem with your plans whatsoever and I’m sure people will like to release their music in this somehwat anonymous form.

But I find your plans to be not really in favor of the artists. As I see things, a small label reasing small artists music, has the obligation to support them as good as possible, so they can grow (also financially). Maybe a bigger label will discover them, maybe an App developer or Filmmaker wants to work with them, etc. I would always do my best to help making that happen.

No matter how much you (or anyone) dislike branding, everything you do in public (e.g. releasing music) will reflect on your brand, you simply cannot have one without the other. So in the end, just the label will be the brand, overshadowing the releases (and artists).

Maybe I’m getting old. But I just don’t get it.

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Yeah, I find this… kind of interesting in an abstract, experimental, theoretical way but also a bit off-putting.

To me this doesn’t remove branding altogether, it just overwrites all of it with the label, which is the least interesting and relevant thing about any release. It makes me think of the first Edison mass-produced recordings, which omitted performers’ names intentionally but of course had Edison branding…

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Some years ago I felt that the artsit names and track titles and so on took away from my artistic vison so I released a couple albums with no writing on the release. I thought they looked great but I quickly discovered that most people I encountered wanted to know who the artist was, what are the songs called, how many songs are on it, etc etc. Even when I’m record shopping I find if the artsit name isn’t easily viewable I tend to skip past it. It’s nice to know the ingredients to the things one consumes. my 2 cents. Good luck with the label :slight_smile:

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hey

Yeah this was an area we struggled with for a while as well, so no you’re not getting old or anything like that, although I hear you, I often think that myself haha. Your points are totally valid of course and super exciting to try to explore them :slight_smile:

Also, its very hard to offend me as everyone is entitled to an opinion, but appreciate your consideration :slight_smile:

So, the first point, “not really in favour of the artists.” I think in the sense that we promote them as a brand or an individual for example, you’re totally right, no we wont be supporting that. However, we will support artist creativity, working with them, paying them, connecting them, paying to release the music, promoting the music etc etc We also have a label Slack group which we invite everyone in to be a safe place to discuss and share all sorts of things, we also try to put on events the best we can and connect them that way. We also support artists with studio time, supporting the writing of the music, we have Slack chats, basically we do what we can. Having said that, we see that is the same as anyone would wanting to help someone. The role of a label in the traditional sense, we are stepping away from, and I suppose in some ways we move closer to a collective, although the context is slightly different and collective doesn’t quite get the definition right.

I think the idea of working towards the bigger labels, the idea that bigger is better as the only goal is not really where we are focusing. Of course there is nothing wrong with that, and pretty much every other label helps with that, but we are focusing on the record.

The point about disliking branding I think is a safe assumption, although we actually love branding and lots of time and effort has gone into dealing with branding, money and payment of artists, which can often be seen as this dirty secret which we definitely try to challenge. Yes, it can be that, but it doesn’t have to be. We are super open, transparent and talk about this sort of thing often. It does present the challenge of the label becoming a brand, and I think so far there is some concerns about that, but we are doing our best to ensure we make that difficult. We have no brand as such, and we work in Agile ways so are always changing and do more to make it broken than capitalise on it, but I hear you, it’s something we need to be careful of. We are also quite confident that most people don’t care much haha, but perhaps that will be our undoing.

I think it ultimately comes down to how we deal with these challenges. If the label become very successful, successful in the sense of the word as we sale lots of records and lots of magazine talk about it, then lots of artists get paid, artists that didn’t want to be credited or known. They then could choose to begin to take credit for a record, or not, and stay hidden. To us that seems like a nice choice to have.

I think ultimately the label, made up of may people involved, all artists included, would not overshadow the music unless we capitalised on it. I think if we have a role, it’s to stay out the way and let the music be first and enjoy and challenge the ways we get there.

We are still learning this ourselves, and we definitely didn’t make this move quickly, and are still nervous as hell, but that feels the right balance. :slight_smile:

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Hello Martin @pokk , SM-LL open for demo? next year, on new direction.

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hey

yeah I think your totally right, it really comes down to the responsible actions of the label and who is considered part of the label which shifts it from being exploitation potentially, to something that functions differently.

If it’s a ‘label and them’ approach then I think you have the problem you describe. I think if the label is more about all the people involved and not just a few in charge, then I think it’s a shared creative journey.

I think labels are only as good as the music that they release, and if its just label first, then I think your’e totally right. I think it’s important to ensure that it’s music first in all cases. The difficult thing is, that music has to live somewhere to be able to connect people and share an approach, and it’s difficult to have that without some name or something. We use a pretty awkward spelling of the label and domain that isn’t entirely clear what it is to provoke conversation if said verbally. We did this deliberately. But I totally agree I don’t think it’s even possible to remove branding altogether, although this isn’t something we are against. I think brand and artists being popular is a fine thing. We aren’t against these things, we just wont be supporting them ourselves as there are many amazing labels who can do a way better job than we can.

Really interesting thinking tho, thank you :slight_smile:

Hey :slight_smile:

We are always open to chat with people about working together.

I think the demo approach is not something we are the biggest fans of, as we worry artists spend ages on a release and then present this finished thing, which is a bit like asking a label to approve it or not, which always feels odd to me.

Having said that, if we like it then it becomes easy, but typically we have worked we most of the artists back and forth, and sometimes when they haven’t even got a demo yet, but they have a direction or idea and some sketches perhaps and are willing to work together on those ideas to make a good record. For example, an upcoming release started as few tracks that were really just tones, but one had some bass movement that we really liked, and so we worked with that artists sharing sounds and direction to create a long release of rhythmical sketches. Sometimes its a process over many months before settling on something, other times just days. I personally like the quick turn around, but it takes the time it needs.

hey

Ah thats super interesting. This is largely how this idea started. I too have found that names become a constraint.
Initially I used other names to help me think about my music, which it did, but now it really causes me issues and I began thinking about removing artists name, which quickly spread into thinking about that within the label. Initially it felt like nobody would want to do that as people want to be known and successful, but then I thought, well I don’t want to be that, so maybe others share that feeling too.

So we set out to try to see if it was something that could actually be delivered and fast forward to recent days and we are going to try it.

We did consider running past the artists we work with first, as we worried they would all stop working with us haha but the more we talked about it throughout this year we realised we believed in it strongly enough to take that risk. It seems many of the artists we work with are not bothered and are super into working with us on this, which is obviously super exciting.

I think the it’s worth mentioning, a thought that popped into my head, it’s not that all labels should be this way, or more labels should be this way or anything to do with being against something, it’s more that there aren’t many labels that offer this, and we want to try to offer that choice :slight_smile:

thanks :slight_smile:

I will try to report back our findings. So far all good news with a lot of excitement from many of the artists we work with.

thx

you and me both haha :slight_smile:

feel free to chat to us more about it.

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@pokk i think this is a totally rad project. you’ll attract those who share the vision, and the fact that it will polarize peoples’ sense of individuality means something actually interesting is happening.

looking forward to seeing it develop!

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Hey

Pleased to hear your excitement :slight_smile: and totally agree with you. It’s super rewarding to hear all views from people, supporting or not, as it helps us work out the best way to do things.

I’m sure and hope we will hit some challenges as the last 6+ years working on the label has been many challenges, and it’s great.

Thanks, will keep posting updates as and when.

there has always been the trend of bands becoming famous on there name alone and or there cool t shirt and this is something that while i don’t like i have tried to use for my own benefit when releasing music thinking of what the album cover should look like and what the concept of the release is to make it seam attractive all while just wanting people to give my music a chance to listen to so i am very curious to see this play out.

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Yeah totally, been there with you 100%

Our initial label logo (now removed) was to be striking, stand out, but also keep to our values, all to just find a way to help people find us in the best way. We have used that t-shirt analogy many times, as this is certainly what I grew up on.

Hilariously our latest t-shirt was a black square (as we have to have something otherwise Bandcamp wont let us move on hahaha) on a black t-shirt. We called it “unrequested genre specification” hahaha. It was based on a promo form we couldn’t fill out as it had a required genre field :slight_smile:

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my feelings are twofold

1st…heightened curiosity as a listener and greater interest in the first few null projects
2nd…as an artist i would gladly release with a label that does this (my feelings about credit are similar)

would remove some inherent awkwardness that comes with self promo

i could hype any/all releases from the label which would give equal shine to my own work and that of my colleagues

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My gut reaction is that this is a great idea and it feels like its coming at the right time. I’ve been uncomfortable releasing music for most of my life, always feeling squeezed between too many different worlds/communities/genres, and in todays social media / Spotify based musical worlds I feel uncomfortable being a fan let alone an artist. I think anonymity employed in good faith can be a real blessing and can allow the creative soul to breath.

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My initial thought was a novel approach like this walks a knife edge between being nothing but another gimmick and being an interesting new paradigm (ie doing anti-marketing/branding as a form of marketing/branding).

I actually think it’s a very cool idea you’re trying out. It sounds quite refreshing to me, I like the idea of negating all the self and ego involved in making and releasing music - quite a challenge, there’s obviously quite a few technicalities to consider. Good luck with it!

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