Deciding how to release the albums.

A lot of thought has gone into exactly how Relaxed Machinery will release it’s albums.   My personal opinion is most people are interested in downloads now.  I’ve switched over to an iPod and primarily buy downloads myself.  And my time at AtmoWorks showed that the majority of listeners were buying the downloads and not the cdr’s.  Some albums were 5 downloads for every 1 cdr, and some were as high as 10 downloads for every 1 cdr.   

Regardless, I still love physical discs, and I know some listeners are still very keen on getting cdr’s vs. downloads.   So I’ve set up a wonderful arrangement with Hypnos ( ) to have them manufacture and sell cdr’s for Relaxed Machinery.   Between 10-20% of AtmoWorks customers still buy cdr’s – I don’t want to block those people out from our releases!  And if you’ve bought an AtmoWorks cdr… it was made and shipped by Hypnos.  (And while I’m mentioning them – they’re an extremely high quality label and well worth checking into their catalog…)

So, now that I’d decided that downloads were going to be the primary way of releasing Relaxed Machinery albums… how to do it?   I spent a long time researching the various ways of getting an album into iTunes, eMusic, Rhapsody, Amazon, etc…  (In fact, I’d been researching this topic for a long time prior to leaving AtmoWorks…)  There are many, many ways to get your music out there, but I narrowed it down to three major players that I was comfortable working with and will get our albums into the “major” download stores:  CD Baby, Tunecore, and Reverb Nation.

So after a lot of comparing, I chose CD Baby.   Several key reasons:

+ They allow our artists to maintain their own store on CD Baby’s site – and if you buy directly from that store – the artist makes a little more than off of a sale through iTunes or Amazon.  

+ CD Baby charges a percent of every sale ongoing – but doesn’t have a yearly recurring fee, which both Tunecore and Reverb Nation have yearly fees per album.

+ CD Baby has been a huge help for independent artists and labels for many years.

As always, thanks for reading and feel free to ask questions or comment!


p.s.  Quick rundown of numbers (rounded) for those interested…  at the time of all my research which was late summer/fall of 2009:

CD Baby – Charges $35 per album to setup and $20 for the barcode = $55.00 total setup.   They take 9% off the top of profits from the major stores.   No yearly recurring fees.

Tunecore – Initial costs vary greatly depending on where you want to put your album out for sale.  But my estimates were putting it close to $40-50 per album initial setup with a $20 yearly recurring fee.   They give 100% of all profits to the artist/label.

Reverb Nation – Also great services – and the only service with a ton of “widgets” (more on that in a future blog) which I’ll be using for Relaxed Machinery.   $35.00 per year per album.

The artists get 100%?!

Relaxed Machinery is set up in a fairly unique way.  As the label owner, I don’t actually “make” anything.  The artist pays for their release, and in turn, gets 100% of their sales.  In fact, I never see any of it.

Why?  There are a lot of key reasons.  One is, of course, I love the artist’s music and want to see them get something back for their talent and hard work in putting an album together.   Another reason is today’s technology allows me to do this.   And yet another is I don’t really want to be an accountant.  I didn’t enjoy sorting out all the sales at AtmoWorks while I was co-owner.  It takes a lot of time and energy that I could be using somewhere else!

Most of the artists reading this already understand that the music business has dramatically changed many times over the last decade or so.  Listener’s have migrated to easily portable mp3 players with large collections of artists and albums in their pockets – labels keep getting smaller and smaller.  The ability to put an album out on the internet ranges from totally free netlabels, to getting their music into iTunes, and other services, to full blown manufactured cd’s. 

I decided to focus Relaxed Machinery on what truly matters to me.  Make it possible for artists who I enjoy working with and who write music that moves me – to have a label to release through that will support them and promote them.   I take care of the websites and the overall vision – I make contacts with reviewers and broadcasters – I distribute the press releases out there.   The artist pays for their release through CD Baby – which makes their albums available at such very common sites like CD Baby, iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody, eMusic, etc…  and they then get 100% of the profits back.   I don’t want to see a dime from their release.

What’s in it for me?   I enjoy this!  Working on the websites hones my IT skills, working on the albums and promo latches into my creativity, working with the artists – I just love that.   And in the end, if Relaxed Machinery is successful, the artists are successful – and I’m one of the artists!

Thanks for reading! And if you have any questions or comments… just type them in below!


First Release, Working with Steve, Who Am I?

.: First Release and working with Steve Brand

I’m very happy to be able to release a new album by Steve Brand called “Circular Scriptures”.  The release date is set for 1/11/10.   Steve has released many albums under his own name, and earlier in his career under the name Augur.  I met Steve while working with AtmoWorks… his music blew me away and his art did as well.  Eventually Steve helped redesign the branding for AtmoWorks and created the album art template that’s currently in use for most AtmoWorks albums. 

I knew I wanted to work with Steve from the beginning with the new label.   He agreed to start working with me on a logo which then developed into further branding and templates for album art and press releases.   I feel we’ve made a good team on the artwork.  It’s truly a pleasure to work with him.

But most importantly for this first release – I love his music.   And “Circular Scriptures” is no exception!  I’ve listened to it countless times and it holds up on repeat listens (why would I be releasing it if it didn’t?).  Of course we’ll be posting samples and sneak peeks of the album art and all that as we get closer to relase.

.: Who the heck am I?

Really I’m just your average music nut.  I love all kinds of music.   I was the type of kid in high school that loved to spend an afternoon going through records in a used record shop – and made special trips to Chicago or St. Louis to find records that weren’t available in central Illinois.  (yes yes, vinyl records…) 

I started learning piano from my grandma when I was 5 – and I have a natural talent for playing and writing.  I played trumpet and piano through school in concert and jazz bands.  I wrote my piano solos for state contests in high school.  Student band director – yeah – I was a major band geek.  I started playing gigs in bar bands when I was 15 – synth for the first few years and then I switched to playing bass guitar.

I’ve recorded my solo electronic and acoustic (and mixed) music since about 1983 – although if I pull those tapes out they’re fairly hilarious… 🙂   I’ve released my solo music on cassette locally – and around 2000 started releasing as “Interstitial”.  I’ve been lucky enough to have had full releases or tracks on albums released by the following labels:  The Foundry, AtmoWorks, Red Antenna, Saasfee*, and Hypnos/Binary.   I’ve been on a long break from recording for the last few years.

I’ve helped several labels behind the scenes since about 1998 – usually with their websites or technical questions and a bit with promotion when I loved the albums.   I also was one of the three co-owners of AtmoWorks music from February 2008 to June 2009. 

As far as non-music stuff… I’ve been an IT guy specializing mainly in data for way too many years.   Happily – I do love what I do.  I have the best most supporting wife a person could ever want.   I’m amazed at how lucky I am.

So that’s enough about me for now!   Next up I’ll talk about some of the ideas behind starting up the label the way I have.    


Relaxed Machinery – Welcome!

.: Relaxed Machinery – Welcome!

Welcome to the first of a series posts about the creation and set up of Relaxed Machinery – a new label focusing on organic ambient and techno.  This will be a small label focusing on a few releases per year from artists I admire.   I plan to make the releases “special” by working with the artists to provide extra downloadable content – larger artwork, photos, press releases, wallpapers.  Something more than the little thumbnail that appears in your iPod or mp3 player.

The releases will be available through all the major download providers such as CD Baby, iTunes, Amazon, eMusic, and Rhapsody.  For those that prefer a physical product, I’ve contracted with Hypnos in Portland, OR to make CDR versions of Relaxed Machinery albums available in their store.  The CDR will have a printed booklet and uncompressed audio.

.: The artists get 100%

What makes Relaxed Machinery so different?  I’ve set up the financial end of Relaxed Machinery to be totally non-profit for me.  The artists directly upload their album to CD Baby themselves – and they keep 100% of the money they receive back from all digital sales through CD Baby or iTunes or Amazon, etc…  

Why did I do this?  I really don’t want to be an accountant.  It’s as simple as that.   I co-owned AtmoWorks music for well over a year and that was one job that I just didn’t enjoy every quarter – sorting out all the sales, doing the calculations, figuring out who owes who what. 

.: What’s next?

Over the coming weeks leading up to our first release on 1/11/10, which is Steve Brand’s “Circular Scriptures”.  I’ll be talking about who I am, why I’m doing this, how Steve Brand and I (well, mostly Steve…) developed the artwork for the Relaxed Machinery logo and album.   I’ll also discuss the various decisions that have to be made when starting up a new label.

Steve will also be blogging regularly.  

Thanks for reading and I hope to see you again!

John Koch-Northrup
Relaxed Machinery
organic .: ambient :. techno
.: Launching in January 2010 :.