If you know me, you know I am not a quitter. I pride myself on fighting the good fight but a number of things have been working against the record label over the past few years. A few of you have noticed that we have been quiet lately and I thank you for reaching out to ask if all is okay.
It isn’t actually. The record label is currently in a holding pattern for several reasons.
It started with me being struck by a car 5 years ago. It took years for me to recover (mostly from serious muscle damage in my legs) and I still battle a mild but permanent brain injury. I then lost my job a few weeks after the accident but because I was uninsured at the time, I was too poor to look into any legal recourse. I survived off of unemployment while healing and looking for a new job – no easy task when you cannot get around with ease and are plagued by memory loss and migraines. About a year later I was finally employed and rebuilding my life. But then the unexpected happened.
The Virginia Employment Commission discovered I had a small hobby record label (which any sane person knows is not a making venture). I was totally unaware that legally my record label did not make me eligible to collect unemployment so they demanded I repay over $12,000 back to them. Again, because of injuries and being out of work for so long, I could not afford a lawyer to defend myself against this charge. This meant that on top of massive medical debt from my accident, I was asked to pay the VEC back in full as well. This was the final straw for me financially.
The irony is not lost on me. I named my record label Little Black Cloud and I have really lived up to the name.
I am not a person of wealth. I do not have a family to help me through tough times. I have done everything in my power to keep my life on track while paying down these debts (which will take me a lifetime at this rate). I am thrilled to say I am still on this planet. I am able to finally make my own music again which I truly never thought would be possible. I kept the record label alive because music is my life. It has saved me over and over again. Little Black Cloud Records has been an extension of this passion for nearly a decade and I am so grateful for this experience. The artists on the roster are my friends and of constant inspiration to me. I am so proud of the art these talented people have created and I feel deeply honored to have played an important role in bringing their art to the rest of the world. The label has been such an important anchor to me over these past 8 years.
The reality is however I can’t keep releasing music and feel like I am being a smart, responsible adult. To put it simply I can’t afford to keep the record label active right now. The silver lining is that the LBC catalog will remain in print digitally. Whatever remaining stock of physical product will continued to be sold to those who want it.
There is one last key aspect to this story to share. Records for most of us do not sell like they used to. They are more expensive to make than ever. They take longer to produce than ever. National distribution for records has been shrinking over the past decade. While new record stores are popping up all the time, many are also closing. The margin of profit on selling new records is laughable it is so small so most retailers rely on dedicating a larger portion of their store's real estate to used records that carry a much higher profit margin. I began working in the music industry nearly 30 years and to be honest, I have no idea how any small label turns a profit now or consistently breaks even. I believe the dirtiest secret of the independent music industry is we keep doing it because we love it, hemorrhaging money be damned.
Thank you friends for your support. It means as much to me as the music does. Don’t think of this as a hard stop for Little Black Cloud Records. Think of this more like a much needed pause in play.