Summer Rain Recordings: an interview with David Holmes

“Summer Rain Recordings, established in the summer of 2007, is a record label with a difference. Every artist signed to the label donates a minimum of 5% of their royalties for every release to NextAid, or a charity of their choice, and we match their percentage donation from the label profits from the release. ioda, our distributor, also donate 25% of their fees for each of our releases to next aid too.
As well as a fine selection of fresh new music from new artists, you will find guest releases from more established artists who wish to give something back in the form of royalty donations to charity.
We are not about greedy profits, unfair contracts, fame and fortune, we are about excellent music, honesty, fairness, and giving something back to the world in which we live in.”
– from the Summer Rain Recordings website

Summer Rain Recordings1 – How and why did you come about starting Summer Rain Recordings?

The ideas for Summer Rain were borne from a growing desire to do something more than just release music for profitable gain. Having stumbled upon Nextaid during my internet travels, I found a means to do something much more with the sales of music via donations from royalties – something that provides hope, support, and sustainable aid to children in Africa who have been orphaned by AIDS.

Based on the encouragement and support from other musicians, peers, and fans, I quickly realised that many others had a similar desire to help greater causes through music, be it supporting Nextaid, or other equally worthy causes.

The reward comes from knowing that no matter how big or small a donation, it goes a long way to providing a better life for those in need, and a better environment for us all.

2 – When you started Summer Rain Recordings, were there any labels that you could say were a reference/inspiration for your efforts?

There a good few labels out there that are a refreshing inspiration, though given the motivations for starting the label are a little different to the norm, much of our inspiration came from individuals, artists, and organisations doing something more with music.

3 – Almost mandatory question, how did the name “Summer Rain Recordings” come about?

Since childhood, I have loved the smell and feel of Summer Rain, it never ceases to inspire me, to me it symbolises freshness, rejuvenation, a welcome break, and a soothing calm. I wanted the label to represent similar values, so the name selection was quite an easy process, it just felt right, and it also acts as a constant reference and reminder to our aims.

4 – So far what would you consider as special highlights (or successful) releases and artists in the history of Summer Rain Recordings?

The special highlights for us have been watching the label become an interactive community of artists, rather than just a commercial machine. It’s great to see all of the artists collaborate, communicate, and share ideas to help each other reach a common goal.

It’s also rewarding to see many of our artists grow both artistically, and in terms of popularity. Artists that have been with us since the beginning such as Proof of Concept, Plum, Manic, and riccicomotto have been developing their careers profusely, and they are also a great encouragement and inspiration to our newer artists.

5 – Are there any releases in particular that you would recommend as good ‘introductory material’ to the Summer Rain Recordings label?

To be honest, we like to think that any one of the tracks released by Summer Rain is a good introduction, but if we were to pick one that explicitly conveyed our ethos and inspirations then it would be Get Green Soothe by Auditory Canvas – the track contains excerpts from a talk given by Severn Cullis Suzuki about the ‘environment’, our interactions with it, and our responsibilities relating to it.

6 – Looking back, do you have any regrets with the label? If you could go back and change something, what would it be?

We don’t actually have any regrets. There have been many difficulties and obstacles along the way, and not everything we have done has been successful, but those things have been good lessons that continue to help us grow. If we always waited until we felt entirely ready and sure before doing anything then we would never take risks and not progress, learn, and grow as a result.

7 – An obvious question, but what is Summer Rain Recordings’s ‘relationship’ with the Internet? From promotion tool and digital sales to file sharing and piracy, how has it affected you?

We started life as a digital only label, without the internet we would probably not exist. The internet has provided discovery of, and accessibility to, music never before possible. We are no longer reliant on the tired, corporate controlled, model of music exposure and sales. Independent artists now have a much greater chance of being heard, and establishing themselves.

Social media has given us the opportunity to connect to fans and supporters on a more personal level. While it appears to be on the decline, love it or hate it, we think MySpace did wonders for independent music. It gave artists a free and powerful means of global exposure and connectivity, prior to which, only big labels could provide. Years on, and there are a multitude of tools and channels that musicians can now use to help them get out there.

There are potential downsides to the internet, saturation of choice being one of them, though we feel that good music still finds its way through, and there are means for the artists to use a little initiative to break though the saturation – a fighting chance is still better than little or no chance.

Piracy is another perceived downside of the internet, although we don’t subscribe to the view that each pirated download is a lost sale, quite the contrary, we believe that it’s just as likely to be a potential future sale – people are exposed to music they might not have otherwise heard, if they find an artist whose music they like, the propensity for them to either buy future music/gig tickets/merchandise from that artist, or suggest them to friends is quite high.

8 – Slightly related to the previous question, how do you see the concept of ‘netlabels’ and, as a labelhead, what is your perspective as to the future and evolution of physical media (CDs, vinyl, etc)?

We think that netlabels are helping artists cut through the saturation of choice by providing a home for a collective of likeminded artists releasing music of a similar genre, and as a result, providing a goto for fans and listeners of such niche genres.

Providing the labels have good distribution channels setup, then it can also be of benefit to the artist to reach retailers otherwise not accessible, and utilise marketing tools and channels provided by certain distributors.

We are soon going to be commencing distribution of physical products such as limited edition CDs, posters, postcards, and apparel to compliment our current digital offerings.

While the MP3 has clearly overtaken the CD as the mainstream format, we do think there’s demand for CDs and other merch. Fans want something tangible, something that they can buy to support the artist in addition to the virtual product. These items then become more of a collectible, rather than a commodity.

9 – Perspectives for the future, what lies in the horizon for Summer Rain Recordings? Can you share some long-term goals and where would you like to see the label heading to?

As mentioned we will be venturing into physical distribution of CDs and other merchandise later this year once we have the infrastructure set up and ready to go, which is quite exciting for us as we’ll be able to offer our fans and supporters more than just good music. As well as separate goods, we’ll also be offering some great package deals on limited edition goods.

We are only a year and a half old, and much of our work has been in developing the label as a brand, and building our infrastructure. Now that we are nearing completion of the key elements of that area, we can start to put them to use by working a lot more on developing some of our existing artists and helping them achieve their golas, as well as increasing our exposure and name as a label, with the aim of generating greater donations for the charities and benefits we support.

Something we’d also like to get into much more is music for film, TV, and games. While we work with a few good companies at the moment to promote our catalog, it’s an area we intend to get much more involved in, so if there are any prospective clients reading this then we’d love to hear from you.

Exciting times are ahead for us, and we are looking forward to a great future.

10 – What other labels/artists would you recommend at the moment and why?

Label: Ghostly International (http://ghostly.com/) – great ethos, and home to many great artists.

Artists: Beats Antique, and Random Rab – awesome music, and great attitude

Also worth checking out are El Circo and Dolab, both event organisers who are throwing great shows at the moment, for the right reasons – for the love of good music.

11 – Thank you for your time, do you have any final comments?

We’d just like to say thank you very much to all at Connexion Bizarre for their time and support, we greatly appreciate it.

Relevant links

Summer Rain Recordings

— interview by Miguel de Sousa & Kate Turgoose (July 2009)