When you think of rock and roll and Cleveland, the two things that immediately come to mind are the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum and, um, the theme song from The Drew Carey Show. Standby Records is looking to change that. After catching the attention of the industry as Black Veil Brides’ first label, Standby is currently home to acts like Davey Suicide, Modern Day Escape and Hopes Die Last. The label recently got a new GM, The Artery Foundation’s Shawn Carrano. He spoke to us about the label’s perception, what they’re looking for in signing new bands, and what we can look forward to next year from the label.
How did you come to be involved with Standby and what were your thoughts on the label?
[President/CEO] Neil [Sheehan] had sent over some emails to the Artery Foundation pitching some bands for management. At the end of the e-mail, he said he was looking for some marketing staff, and possibly looking for a new GM for the label. After a few e-mails back and forth, I let him know I was interested in expanding my resume and doing things outside of management, which I’ve been doing for 12 years or so. He let me know that we were kind of starting from scratch, and instead of being thrust into something that was already moving and working, I felt like starting fresh with some new bands and a new genre I’m not used to working with, I thought it would be fun.
How familiar had you been with label?
I knew of the label. What really put them on the map was the success of the Black Veil Brides, but I had honestly not kept tabs on the label since then. Once they’d done their partnership with Universal for Black Veil, I kind of lost track on what was going on. I’ve known Neil for five or six years in his various stages of owning a label and management, though. When I came in, I was really excited about bands like Picture Me Broken and Davey Suicide, newer acts I would work with.
The label is located in Cleveland, which isn’t exactly the epicenter of the music industry. How does a label located there keep pace with those in New York and Los Angeles?
Honestly, the internet and social networking these days, if you have a label, and you have your contact up somewhere, people are going to email you. As a manager, I get 20-25 solicitations a day from all over the world. At Standby, we probably get upwards of 50-75 a day of bands sending us Facebook links and Soundcloud links. Neil combs through every submission. He checks out all their stats, their Twitter followers, he goes to their YouTube and looks for plays. He’s really good at looking and seeing what kids are tapping into.
We’ve been able to find a couple of artists through these kids that have become social networking celebrities by having a certain look, or the 13 year-old girls find this boy on Facebook attractive, and the next thing you know, he’s got subscribers and 40,000 15 year old girls that care about what he’s doing. Neil’s been able to turn a couple of these guys into artists by getting bands around them and getting them into the studio. The internet has been the saving grace. He’ll be up at 3AM on Facebook, and when a label signs a band he’ll go check out that band and he’ll go check out the 50 other bands that like their page. It’s just countless hours of research and word of mouth is still a big thing these days. I almost feel with the way everything it’s almost become a competition and then it’s first one to find it wins more or less.
It definitely seems like looking at the semi-current roster of Standby that with the whole rock and roll 2.0 thing they’re kind of based off the Black Veil Brides-ey type. Is that still the identity of the label?
No. Rock and roll is definitely the identity of the label but the whole 2.0 thing we’re dropping. I didn’t feel it was necessary to be honest with you. Throwing a digit in front of something like that limits you and puts a ceiling on what you can possibly do. What happens when there’s a 3.0 or a 4.0? That’s not going to keep anyone away from doing that. If we want to be branded as a rock and roll label then we can just put up there “Hey, we are rock and roll.” But that’s not going to limit the type of bands we sign. We’re in the middle of a couple of negotiations with metal acts, a couple of scene acts. There’s going to be diversity to the label and getting away from the strictly Black Veil Brides kind of stuff. The reason the kept going in that direction is because it worked for them but at the same time I know there’s not a another dozen Black Veil Brides out there. So we need to keep our eyes open for other things. We’re looking at metal artists, scene artists, solo artists, a couple of alternative artists. We’re trying to branch out and become a fluid label rather than just a brand.
Are there any established bands from other labels that you’re looking at or are you trying to build from the ground up?
We’re trying to build from the ground up right now. We’re always keeping our eyes open for established acts. We are actually looking for an established act or two to take a spot on the roster and be that flagship band. But these days with bands running out of their deals, a lot of these bands have high expectations as far as what their deal should be based or their prior deals or the final terms of their contract as they exited their previous deals. Some of those publishing and recording agreements for bands that did deals back from 2005 to 2008 who might be out of their deals now have numbers that are through the roof. Promising a band $50 to $100K in publishing because that’s what they got from the last label or promising them $50K to record with isn’t realistic in the market these days. For us, it’s more about developing new bands and seeing what else is out there. But if the right band does come along, we’ll make a serious effort for them.
Are you out at clubs trying to find bands or does a lot of it come through looking online?
It’s primarily online and word of mouth. At the Artery Foundation, we have a staff of over 10 or 12 people here not including interns. So I’ve got people constantly telling me [about bands]. There’s no shortage of music to be turned on to by any means. I just feel like it’s part of my day every day that I look through a dozen or so acts that have emailed me or whatnot. There’s no limit to find a new client these days or a new band for you roster or anything. It’s in your face, it’s always in your face, and it’s always there when you need it.
As someone who is relatively new to the label, is there anything that’s been frustrating so far?
Just picking up the pieces of where the last guy left off. It took me about two and a half weeks to get my bearings and then I was able to wrap my head around it. I was able to format everything the way I like to work. Now I feel like I’ve got a firm grasp on everybody we’re dealing with in terms of editorial stuff, calendars, radio, marketing, and online stuff. I feel like now I’ve definitely got a hold on everything.
What acts are you most looking forward to developing in 2013?
One band I’m really excited about is called The Relapse Symphony. That are definitely in that rock and roll 80’s kind of vibe. They really get it. They’re responsible with email and you don’t have to tell them five times to replay to all. They have ideas, they’re responsive, they’re creative, and they’re willing to just get involved and work. A lot of our bands like Picture Me Broken are great about doing interviews and talking about the band. There’s another band I’m excited about that’s definitely going to surprise some people when it comes out in the spring of next year.
You guys are distributed through Victory Records. Is there any disconnect with them since they’re more of a metal/punk/hardcore label?
No, they let us do our thing. The staff over there is really good. Mike and Clint over there are great with us. They’ve been really responsive and really helpful with walking me through some stuff I initially wasn’t clear on when I started at the label. I’ve got no complaints with the staff over there. They let us sign the bands we want to sign. If they have any opinions in regard to what they sign they keep it to themselves [laughs]. They’ve been really helpful with everything.