IDOL Insights: meet B3SCI

Welcome to IDOL’s monthly interview series featuring one of our label partners. This month we interviewed Los Angeles based indie label, B3SCI Records. Meet the co-founder, Mike Clemenza, and his journey that began with the creation of the music blog blahblahblahscience.

For B3SCI, the adventure began in 2009 as the music blog blahblahblahscience. A few years later, co-founders Mike Clemenza and Troy Meyer decided to launch a record label. Since 2013, they have participated in the early successes of artists like Jungle, Yoke Lore, Aquilo, and Moses Sumney, to name a few. Mike Clemenza talks about his journey and aspirations.

What made you decide to become a label?

Ever since the early days of the blog, we appreciated developing a personal rapport with the artists that we’d cover. We found that this talent was often unsigned and as we got to know them, they would occasionally develop and move on to do incredible things.

The music blog scene around 2013 was particularly focused on high volume, speed and being click-bait heavy, and outside of just sharing great songs, we weren’t inspired by that type of curation. So we figured that with our own experience as musicians, and having personally worked in radio, at labels, publishers, and in artist management, plus having a critical understanding of new music discovery and online press, why not start a label and work with some of this great talent ourselves?

You have a very international catalog, how do you manage remote A&R?

Our tastes have always been pretty territory and genre agnostic. Troy and I grew up as two dudes from the midwest, and basically the only ones at our entire school who were into Britpop. It wasn’t a conscious thing, but we also never put a ‘from location’ on the blog and we always covered music from anywhere and everywhere. If it’s a great song and a recording with integrity, and we can see ourselves wanting to listen to it in 15 years, then we’re into it.

That’s just the start though, especially in assessing international signings. We have to feel confident about the artist’s vision and goals, the team around them, the timeline, the deal, and if it’s the right fit for both us and them. Hard data matters too but it’s never the end-all be-all for us. When it comes to any artist, we have to be willing to stand behind it 110%.

This is especially true for brand new artists because so many people won’t be early on something until there’s validation from others first. But that’s just the risk in being a record label, and signing new artists, and doing what we do. If the stars don’t align, we won’t sign something. Even if we love the music. It can be unfortunate but we have also learned that it is very necessary.

Regarding the day-to-day work on international releases, aside from early mornings and late nights, and being aware of various best practices for different territories, it’s pretty universal that some artists need help with some things that others won’t. For example, an artist or team can think they have everything dialed-in and are ready to start a release — and occasionally they are, but oftentimes more work still needs to be done before a campaign can begin.

It’s always very dynamic per project, and it’s not always easy to have some conversations, but we’re here to make sure every base is covered correctly for a release. It’s our job to sign the right artists and teams who are willing to work together, and be on the same page of critical understanding and workflow, so that ultimately a release can reach its fullest potential.

How do you manage the label on a daily basis? Do you rely on your own expertise or do you outsource the skills?

My partner and I have learned over the years to be very selective with what we choose to sign, and how we choose to release it. The music industry is always changing, quickly to say the least, and it’s critical to stay ahead of the curve on best practices. We have our own inhouse marketing abilities and network of sync, radio, press, retail, creatives, etc. and so whatever we put our label behind has to be up to par and on brand.

Outsource team-wise, every project is different and there’s no one-size-fits all. Some releases make sense to hire on additional help and specialists from the onset, and others don’t, and sometimes things change entirely depending on feedback and market reaction, and we will pivot our strategy accordingly. There’s an incredible amount of options and teams available for hire, and I believe that’s one of the key values in working with a good independent label. A good label is experienced and knowledgeable enough to not only know the right teams to hire, but can also effectively manage those external teams for the best possible results within important parameters like budget, timeline, expectations, etc.

Why do you think there’s Strength In Independence?

Independence is everything. Most great artists, labels, brands, products, anything really, all started off DIY and independent. As a record label, I’d say that being independent means being on the front lines of the music industry, without having anything to lean on and the complete responsibility of the risks and rewards that come with it.

There’s growing pains and hurdles that independent companies need to face, and to me this is also part of the strength in independence. Rarely can these hurdles get skipped without losing something along the way. We’ve all seen independent artists or labels grow so fast that they attract the sort of situation that compromises the very independent spirit which made them successful to begin with. For record labels, an independent partner like IDOL can help empower them to embrace this true independent spirit because it’s steadfast in their own DNA too.

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