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Projekt Turns 25

from Projekt's Sam Rosenthal

September is the 25th anniversary of the first cassette compilation I released on Projekt. Projekt didn't even have a name when I put out that tape featuring some of my friends' electronic bands. I released it as an offshoot of my fanzine, Alternative Rhythms. I certainly didn't expect that 25 years later, I would still be at it, paying my bills by releasing music I enjoy. Though I have run Projekt full-time for the last 16 years, I guess you could say I am as surprised as anyone.

Robert Rich recently wrote a blog about 1000 True Fans discussing how the business for independent artists has shrunk over the years and an artist is lucky to have 1000 true fans who buys their work. This got me thinking about a topic I often ponder: knowing where my bread is buttered (as my friend Athan says). How do I do it? Well.... You do it! You feed me, Sasha, Shea & Sarah (and Harley the cat). Through purchasing Projekt releases and the releases we distribute through the webstore, everyone gets a paycheck for the week, and Projekt keeps the lights on.

Let's face it: it's not an easy economy for either you or me. (see political rant, here). Wages don't go up, prices do. Stores go out of business, our releases grow harder to find. Some people purchase music legally, others rip copies for their friends and/or steal downloads. Yet at Projekt, I continue to invest in new artists, taking risks to release interesting music.

In the last year, three American labels in our genre have shut down. One for financial reasons, one for health reasons, and one bolted the doors to raise a family. I keep plugging along (while raising my son, and I *do* have my health).

I remember going out on the road with Lycia in 1997, when they opened for Type-O Negative. Projekt fans would come up and say things like, "Oh, Lycia! They don't need me to buy a CD; they sell 20,000 records." I did not want to dispell the myth with the cold, hard facts, "Lycia never sold 20,000 on any of their brilliant albums." This is equally true for Black tape for a blue girl, Voltaire, Android Lust and every other Projekt artist except Steve Roach. Only Steve has topped 17,000 sales on a single album! Steve and Voltaire are the only full-time artists on the label. These days, breaking 5,000 is my goal for the bigger acts; selling under 1000 is the order of the day for many of the bands I release.

Why do I mention this personal information? I want you to understand we NEED your support. We NEED you to buy our CDs. We NEED you to come out to our shows. Tell your friends! When somebody says, "Hey, I'll rip that CD for you!" Respond with, "No way! I don't want the music if the artist isn't being compensated." I know, that sounds pretty naieve, right? Well, that's the way I do it (and in a similar vein, when those people come up to me in Chinatown, hawking "DVD! DVD!" with their badly ripped dubs, I squawk back, "Bootleg! Bootleg!").

I don't think music should become open source where it has no value. Because you know what? I like to eat my bean burritos with guacamole. And Sasha likes his chicken nuggets. And Shea likes her arugula and cappuccinos! And Sarah likes whatever the heck it is Sarah likes! ; )

Everyone likes to be fairly compensated for the work they do, whether you are in IT, a hairstylist, accountant, or teacher. You wouldn't go to work if you weren't being paid, and yet out there in the digital ether, people think musicians should work for free. There's something obviously wrong with this bellief. Would you like the masses to decide that your job should be done for free? Who might be next?

Those of you reading this list are probably already in agreement with me on this one. I suspect I am preaching to the converted. But spread the word! Labels don't get to be 25 years old if people don't support the music. We need you! When there is a band you like, buy their album! Tearwave needs your love. Revue Noir needs your love. Steve Roach needs your love. Voltaire needs your love, and he will gladly accept it in person at one of his shows! ; )

Thanks for sticking with us over the years. Here's to 25 more (yikes!).

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