There are times when a conversation with a person can give you a different perspective.
Especially when you are “out of the dance you can sing a lot of songs”, but when they put you in their world, you probably change your mind.
This happened to me after the conversation I had with the Founder and soul of Eclipse Records, Chris Poland.
It put us in the world of the music industry, giving us another aspect of it …
About Eclipse Records
…I need to be passionate about the bands I decide to work with…
Where did the name Eclipse Records come from?
When I started the label in 1997, I had originally named it Spider Records, however, after discovering another label in Canada using the same name, I had to come up with something else.
I wanted a name that sounded big, something that could dwarf the competition, or command attention, etc… eventually I came up with Eclipse Records, and the name went over well.
We’ve been using it since 1997.
What was the main philosophy of Eclipse Records when you created it? Have you managed to maintain that philosophy and if yes, how?
Yes, I believe the philosophy hasn’t changed much in twenty-five years.
Basically, I have always felt that the brand of Eclipse Records was important because it would be/has been the consistent identifier of everything the label has done for almost twenty-five years.
The philosophy is that first and foremost, the bands have to be doing something that I feel is different, and worthy of attention.
I need to be passionate about the bands I decide to work with because that passion is the fuel that motivated me to work.
When I discover a band that I feel the world needs to know about, it becomes my mission to try and get that band out there, to create awareness about the band among a greater segment of the population than the band was able to attain on their own.
What part has been the biggest challenge that you faced in terms of getting this label off the ground?
Initially, the biggest challenge was financing the early stages of growth.
It takes a lot of money to run a record label and establish a label’s brand within the music industry.
In the first couple of years, I joined small business organizations such as the SBA (Small Business Administration), and the NJSBDC (New Jersey Small Business Development Consortium).
These organizations helped me learn about writing a business plan, and I attended workshops where business owners gave presentations to lending officers at banks.
Eventually, I was able to get together a business plan and through regional networking events, met some loan officers and investors who worked for Chase Manhattan Bank, J.P. Morgan, and PNC bank.
Through the three contacts, I secured over a half-million dollars to get things off the ground.
How difficult is it to maintain an independent company, in a place where similar companies are constantly being created?
It’s not so difficult because other labels are starting up, but the challenge for Eclipse is to quickly identify changes in the music industry and be able to quickly adapt to those changes.
For example, when the primary method of consumption changed from physical CDs to digital downloads, it was a difficult transition because of the difference in value per transaction.
It was a learning experience for Eclipse.
However, a few years later when streaming forced yet another disruptive change to the industry, Eclipse was better prepared by applying the lessons learned in the downloading transition, to the new challenges of streaming.
What makes Eclipse stand out?
Personally, I feel some of the qualities which make Eclipse Records stand out are amazing bands, integrity and honesty from the label and its employees, the ability to stay small and survive the drastic evolution of the industry which has destroyed so many other labels, and the fact that every band we’ve ever worked with is still able to get in contact with me directly if they want.
If you could go back in time, what would you do differently in Eclipse?
I am very happy with everything Eclipse Records has accomplished over the years, and where we are currently headed, so I can’t really say I would change things or do something differently.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
To spend more time with family, work less on weekends, and make a better effort to keep in touch with my friends.
Covid & Music industry
…history does tend to reward the early adopters of new technologies…
With the COVID pandemic, the music industry went through very difficult times, both emotionally and financially. How did you experience all of this?
For the label, I think we did better than most.
All our numbers went up because people were in lockdown spending more time listening to music, watching videos, and consuming content our bands created.
Where I think the industry really suffered though was the bands couldn’t tour and as a result, they couldn’t sell as much merch as they’re used to selling.
In some countries, the governments gave subsidies to live musicians which was good, but many of the bands had difficulty securing that sort of assistance.
What does it take to restart the music industry?
I’m not sure I understand the question, but I don’t really believe it needs a restart.
Things change and often its because of economics or major disruptions to technology which supports those industries.
Music business isn’t very different.
It’s impossible to alter the tide of the music industry, just like it was impossible to force consumers to stay with CDs instead of transitioning to downloads.
Many labels and artists tried to resist downloading (as did Eclipse) but we learned that it is not possible to change the will of the consumer.
So we have to adapt and change. Those who do adapt will learn from their transformations, and those who resist change will eventually die.
Many artists stated that COVID brought to the surface mistakes that had been made for years. Do you share this view? If so, what do you think these are and how can they be fixed?
If I had an example of these mistakes, I might be able to better offer an explanation, however, COVID did teach the industry many lessons.
I think it created some new possibilities of additional revenue streams for artists such as live streaming and monetization of direct-fan relationships.
I’ve seen some bands embrace these new possibilities and as a result, explode on these fronts while others have patiently waited for things to “return to normal” and have been in holding patterns for almost 2 years now.
Will things ever return to normal? Wil those bands that embrace the new opportunities all become “successful”?
Its still early to tell, but history does tend to reward the early adopters of new technologies and we shall see…
…Build a team of honest, trustworthy individuals that can offer the wisdom of experience…
Which qualities are you looking for in an artist to make them a part of the Eclipse family?
Great music, original ideas, big visions, willingness to learn, and realistic expectations.
You sign an artist to Eclipse Records. What happens next? Can you give us a general overview?
When I sign a new band to the label, we don’t generally make an announcement right away.
There’s often a lot of things that need to be prepared before we can announce, and we refer to this as the onboarding phase.
We’re gathering assets related to the band, the singles, the album, and the videos.
Preparing and identifying how we plan to market the band, scheduling a timeline and plan for the next year wherein we plan on executing the album pre-release and post-release campaigns, and so much more.
It’s a very busy time really, but exciting as well!
While it may not appear that a lot is going on, things are bussing strongly behind the scenes in the early stages, and they get more and more visible as we start pushing out things publicly such as singles, videos, pre-saves, and pre-orders, etc…
What advice can you give to emerging artists who are trying to break into the music business?
To create their own path, to follow their hearts and write music for themselves – not because something is popular, and they want to be a part of that.
To do research on the people they surround themselves with and build a team of honest, trustworthy individuals that can offer the wisdom of experience to assist with guiding their careers.
To avoid getting caught up in the streaming numbers or playlist placements.
To focus on building relationships with fans directly and utilizing that fanbase as a street team (digital or physical) to assist with spreading the word.
There’s so much I could put here!
What makes an artist stand out from the rest?
As a label, I think we usually look for a story behind an artist that we can use to help that band grow.
Of course, the music and image are important, because after all, that’s what we are selling.
Ultimately, it’s easier to throw a gallon of gasoline on a spark than it is to start that spark.
If a band is huge in their hometown that’s a good starting point.
There’s a story for us to work with and tell the world. When you think about it, that’s the job of the label – to tell the story about the band.
What kind of mistakes do artists make and while they have great music, they do not manage to become known to the general public?
One of the biggest mistakes I see is that bands release their music independently without a plan, without any guidance or experience.
Success doesn’t happen quickly in the music biz, it takes years of hard work to build a fanbase.
New bands tend to get wrapped up in follower numbers on social media, or video views on YouTube – the same goes for streaming numbers on the DSPs.
Rock & Metal music…
Music and especially rock and metal have the power to influence the masses. Do you think that music should be politicized or something like that can do more harm than good?
That’s an interesting question…
I’ll circle back to what I said before, about an artist needing to write music from their heart and remaining true to themselves.
If writing about political issues is what moves them, then that’s what they should do because their emotional connection to that song will make it better.
For a record label, however, I believe it’s important to remain impartial and not become politically motivated on either side of various issues.
We have bands on both sides of the political spectrums (conservative & liberal) and it’s not the label’s place to take a side on one position or another.
I believe it comes down to integrity and again to protecting the brand of Eclipse Records by doing whatever we can to help our bands reach a greater audience, grow, and work towards building themselves a career in music.
In closing, I would like to personally thank Chris for this wonderful discussion, but also for the excellent cooperation we have.