Lowell Levene-Sims joins Relaxed Machinery label!

I’m extremely pleased to announce Lowell Levene-Sims has joined Relaxed Machinery!  He’s an incredible musician, a great person, and I’m very proud to have him join the label!  He’ll be releasing a full length album later this year.

Click on his name above to visit his Relaxed Machinery Community profile page, you’ll find soundcloud and tons of videos he’s uploaded to the community.   Also, visit his website below and be sure to keep clicking the “next” link that appears on each page!


 Welcome, Lowell!

 Current Relaxed Machinery Artists:

“Coniunctio” Now Available on CDBaby

Coniunctio Now Available on CDBaby!

I’m pleased to announce that “Coniunctio: Pale Blue Orb/The Beginning Of Days,” my  new release on relaxedMACHINERY.com, is now available as a download from CDBaby for $12.99!

CDrs of this release will be available at the Hypnos Store in the near future.

A wallpaper, press release and full cover art will be available here in the near future. Stay tuned from more developments.

Quick Update and Pondering Demos

.: First a quick update

Steve Brand – Circular Scriptures is scheduled for release on Jan 11, 2010. It will be available for download from CD Baby and as a CDR in the Hypnos store first… and later will roll out to iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody, eMusic, etc… We’re in the process of finalizing the release and it’s looking good for the 11th. Of course, things happen… it might be available a day or two earlier or a few days later. That’s ok!

The New Release and Official Label Launch party is set for 9 pm Central Time on http://stillstream.com on Jan 16, 2010 during the Zen Caffeine program hosted by David Herpich. A huge thank you to David and to StillStream for welcoming us and hosting the event!

.: Pondering Demos

It’s funny to be pondering a few artist’s demos when the first album technically isn’t even released yet. There are a lot of factors involved – from whether I know the artist already, or were they recommended by someone I trust, or someone I’ve never met previously and emailed me out of the blue? The first step is getting to know the artist at least a tiny bit – at least enough to know whether I want to listen. Knowing why someone wants to release with Relaxed Machinery also helps me out.

Then, of course, there’s the music. Does it really jump out and grab me? Am I excited by it? Is this something I want to invest my time and energy on promoting? Do I have a gut feeling about it? It’s important to keep in mind that for better or worse – I’ve decided to keep this essentially a no profit for me label – and yes, I’ve been told I’m insane by many of my label owner and artist friends. Maybe I am a little off kilter, but I believe in what I’m doing and how I’m doing it. There are many pluses to me not trying to make money off of this, however, don’t get me wrong, this is not a free netlabel – I want the artists to profit as much as they can – and as an artist, I want to profit as much as I can from my solo releases coming in the future.

So back to demos. Assuming that, yes, I love this album and want to proceed. Is the album professional quality already or does it need mastering help? If it needs help, is the artist able to do it? Who will?

Another very major factor is how well the artist and I get along. And what can the artist bring to the Relaxed Machinery table? Will they do a lot of self-promotion? (I certainly hope they’ll do some!) Are they particularly “good” at some aspect of the music label process? For example – Steve Brand is an exceptional graphic artist and I’m confident he would have helped me with logo’s and album art templates even if he wasn’t releasing an album on Relaxed Machinery – the fact he has done so much work on his own time makes me very, very comfortable with the ‘artist gets 100% of sales’ policy. Maybe someone will come along that not only writes great music, but is exceptional at mastering and can help the other artists? Maybe someone will come along that is also good at video making? We’ll see.

While at AtmoWorks I ran into every level of artist enthusiasm… from people who were right there willing to go the extra mile, making sure that all the bits the label needed for release were available (like album files, bios, descriptions, etc…) and that made sure that their fans knew about the release… to artists that somehow seemed to thing AtmoWorks owed them everything on a platter – which was extremely odd. Most of course fell somewhere in between.

Countdown to Release – To Do List!

Steve Brand’s “Circular Scriptures” album is nearing release – with a planned date of 1/11/10. We’ll be celebrating the release on 1/16/10 on StillStream.com at 9 pm CST on the Zen Caffeine show hosted by David Herpich.

Lots to do between now and 1/11! A few items if you’re interested:

* Album Artwork is complete (and amazingly beautiful, I might add). This needs to be uploaded to CD Baby for the download version and to Hypnos for the CDR version. After it’s uploaded to CD Baby – they will distribute the album to multiple websites like iTunes, Rhapsody, Amazon, eMusic, etc…

* Audio files – finalized, tagged, and uploaded to CD Baby and Hypnos.

* Preview versions of the tracks need to be cut – and uploaded to our music player.

* I need to tweak the header images on this site, and settle on a left column format.

* Create the promo package (a printable file that describes the album, the artist, and the label) – as part of that, Steve needs to write about his album and I need to sort out what I want to say about Relaxed Machinery to potential radio hosts, reviewers, bloggers, podcasters, etc…

* Upload the great wallpaper Steve created for this album release

…and then the promotion begins.

I’ve heard Circular Scriptures at least 30 times now. I dearly love it. I hope you do too.

More details on the release and label activity as we countdown to release day!


I’m ready… musings on time, rM, and recording again

If there’s one thing there never seems to be enough of, it’s time.  So I try and focus on what matters to me.   Launching Relaxed Machinery is something that matters to me.  Recording again is also something matters.  Obviously, my wife, family, and work come first – so prioritizing and picking what musical projects I tackle is a key.   I don’t think this philosophy is very different from the majority of label owners and artists out there.   You squeak in time when you can and don’t fret too much when not everything goes perfectly!

I still have a ton to do on this central Relaxed Machinery website – as well as getting the Reverb Nation page configured and running before Steve Brand’s debut release on 1/11/2009.  What’s definitely missing on relaxedmachinery.com is the logo.  I ran into a technical quirk with Internet Explorer where the logo from the WordPress template (WordPress is the software running this site…) – the logo simply wouldn’t appear.   Works 100% fine in Safari, Chrome, and Firefox.   Go figure!  The solution Steve and I came up with is to change the horizontal photos that randomly appear at the top – and append the logo directly into that image.  I just need some time to do that – and over Christmas break I will likely get that done. 

I also need to tweak the left side to be more useful.   As I’ve mentioned in earlier blog posts – this website isn’t about being perfect – it’s about showing the evolution of the label and letting you see what I’m doing.  Snapshots into how a label is created and how it evolves over time. 

I’m very excited just how much has been done so far… I love the logo that Steve created.  I love the imagery that his designs have inspired in my head.   I love the whole organic ambient techno concept.  I love the idea that this label is both a label and an artist collective.  So much to love for me in this.

As far as my studio goes… it’s been in various stages of torn apart for years.  I stopped recording in 2004 for various reasons – tried to jump back in only to have my trusty old 1999 era pc crash on me.  Got that mostly fixed, but not quite fixed.  Bought a new pc – couldn’t quite get that running and partially that was because I wasn’t ready to dedicate the time needed to get it running.  

Dial the clock forward to last year – I jumped in with both feet into AtmoWorks and for the majority of my time there – loved it, especially connecting with the artists and the fans.  This year I decided it was time to get going again on my own music – replaced my pc with a mac – bought Logic Studio.  Only thing left is to reset up my studio (and learn Logic) which I’m hoping to have done in January.   I have a ton of ideas floating in my head.  Last month I realized another long time dream and bought a fretless bass – wow is it fantastic.

I’ve set a goal for myself to have a full album ready to go by my 40th birthday in August.   I’m thrilled with the label and the prospect of jumping into recording now with both feet.  I’m ready.


Promotional Copies of rM Albums

I posted a “promo requests” page last week to the site (it’s in the menu at the top) which essentially says if you review, blog, create podcasts, or any other form of writing/recording about ambient music – let me know.   It’s interesting how much has changed in the last decade plus that I’ve been following ambient music on the internet.   There used to be a lot of webzines and review sites (Ambientrance, Ambient Visions, EER, Ampersandetc), and quite a few radio stations (normally college or public stations) that played ambient music.   Some of those still exist, but by and large, most that were doing webzines or shows have shut down for various reasons.  Now there are a few blogs and podcasts – generally individuals that love music and let their friends know what they’re listening to and liking.  Some of the podcasts are great mixes – put together with care for how the music flows in and out.  

Do you write about your favorite ambient and/or minimal techno music?   Do you create mixes, podcasts, or have internet radio shows?   Let me know and we’ll talk about promo download copies of Relaxed Machinery albums.   Read a bit more on the “promo requests” page and email me at [ jkn at johei dot com ]

Interestingly, Mike Griffin at Hypnos just posted recently about promotional copies of releases:  http://www.hypnos.com/smf/index.php?topic=2590.0

“We at Hypnos are constantly evaluating the way we mail out promotional copies of our CDs, traditionally to music reviewers and DJs who focus on ambient & experimental music. One thing I’d like to do a bit more of is share a few promo copies to people such as podcasters, bloggers, or others who aren’t exactly traditional print/webzine reviewers, or radio DJs, but who may nonetheless have an interest in helping to spread the word about Hypnos music.

If you’re such a person or group, post here (other label owners and self-releasing ambient artists will see, too) or contact me by PM if you wish.  It’s increasingly obvious that the old ways by which people discovered their music are being replaced by new ways, and I’d rather spread a few CDs around to enthusiastic people who may write about them or include them in mixes or podcasts for others to discover, then send out copies to some of the magazines or radio stations that really don’t support this kind of music anyway.”

organic .: ambient :. techno

I’ve chosen “organic .: ambient :. techno” as a short concise description (or tagline) for Relaxed Machinery.  What does that mean to me?

“organic” – This brings a feeling of being made from scratch and isn’t full of extraneous elements that don’t need to be there.  The artist sat down and composed the music with their heart.  There’s a certain “hands on” approach to writing, recording, playing.   Organic to me is a feeling that describes the music… textural, earthy, healthy, natural, rich in depth.  

“ambient” – This means so many different things to different people.   I subscribe to “ambient” as music that’s able to be fully listened to and enjoyed – or music to put on the background to subtly fill the mind and help focus on other things.   Ambient can be beatless or have drums to me.   It’s normally instrumental music – and made by acoustic or electronic instruments.  Some people think of ambient music as similar to soundtrack music – the kind that fills the background of a scene and expresses emotion in sound.  

“techno” – This also can mean a bunch of different things to different people.  I do love a good dancy techno tune, but for Relaxed Machinery – I’m focusing more on the ambient side of techno…  the minimal or dubby side.   Minimal repetitive beats.  

My personal music has always tended towards those three descriptions of music.  Whether I’m writing beatless music in a more generative way solely with electronics – or layering trumpet and bass over a minimal techno groove…  I truly like to blend all these styles on the same albums.  If you have a chance to listen to my “Temporal Arc” album rereleased recently on AtmoWorks – you’ll hear all of these elements together.   Strong drum grooves, ambient soundscapes, microsound generative minimalism, beatless drones, field recording, acoustic and electronics…

Steve Brand is the first artist I’m releasing on Relaxed Machinery – and while he so far hasn’t delved into the “techno” side of things – he absolutely fits “organic ambient”.   He writes his music from the heart.   He considers his music “healing”.   His sound is stunning.   He crafts beautiful music with care and understanding – and that’s why I’ve liked everything I’ve listened to from him and am proud to have him be the first release on Relaxed Machinery!

websites: why? what?, how follows when you have a plan

Artists and labels pretty much live on the internet now – especially with ambient and electronic music in general.   Creating a “home base” for Relaxed Machinery has been a key project in getting the label launched.   Even though this website is not done yet, I decided to open it up and let everyone see it develop as we ramp up to the official “launch” in January 2010.   By posting these blogs I hope that my journey to launching a new label helps other artists and label owners along the way.  I also hope the listeners and potential fans get a kick out of it as well.  🙂

First things first… questions I asked myself with input and advice from couple of close friends:

* Why am I building a website?
* What am I trying to accomplish with the website?  A sort of “brochure” site for each artist and release?  A “community” for music fans to congregate?  A blog?
* What information do I want to present?   What do I hope people will enjoy seeing?
* Do I want a “store” on the website?

These are all big key questions – and they also tied in with what was the label as a whole trying to accomplish.  

The “why” was fairly easy to me.  I wanted a central main website for Relaxed Machinery – somewhere to point everything and everyone to for information about the label, the music, the artists, the artwork.   I didn’t want to rely on a social network as a “homebase” – I wanted it to be on my own terms.  Not to say I’m not putting Relaxed Machinery on the social networks (it’s already there on myspace and facebook) – but that’s just one piece of the label. 

I ruled out a “store”.   There are a ton of pros and cons to having a direct store and for this point in the life of the label, it doesn’t make sense.  My big goal with the label is to get this music out in front of a lot of potential listeners which means reaching out into iTunes, Amazon, eMusic, etc… building a webstore on this site pulled me away from that goal.   Maybe someday, but not now.

Then there’s the “community” aspect.  I do think this is a great thing to build, but there are already other larger communities out there. 

It boils down to the key idea RelaxedMachinery.com is trying to present is information about the artists and releases – and a place to blog about building the label and about what I’m doing in the studio.   I also want to make the blog aspect available to Relaxed Machinery artists.  

So… the end result before ever touching any code… is I wanted a site to present information about the artists and the releases and to allow us to blog about the label and recording and music in general.   Now I could begin to figure out how to build the site.

Which brought me to WordPress – which is what this site is using.  WordPress is designed to be a blog, but has many aspects that allow for the “brochure” aspects like artist bio’s and release information.  Once installed – I searched for a theme that fits my design sense… and Atahualpa fit the bill after trying about 5 others out.

Thanks for reading!


Label Launch / New Release Party on StillStream Jan 16

Relaxed Machinery is proud to partner with StillStream.com and David Herpich to host a label launch party and listening party for our first release:  Steve Brand – Circular Scriptures.

David will be playing the entire Circular Scriptures album – and we’ll also be playing some of Steve’s and my backcatalog releases. 

The party is planned for 9 p.m. CST on http://www.stillstream.com

More details in the coming weeks!

A very big thank you to Darrell Burgan at StillStream and David Herpich, host of the weekly Zen Caffeine program from 9 pm Saturday to 1 am Sunday.


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 ( http://www.hypnos.com ) 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.