From Think Small.
Who are you? (i.e. give any details about yourself – age, place you are living, etc. – you think the readers should/may know and leave out what you think is unnecessary).
Jimmy Tassos, 35, trained in architecture and urban planning and working to help develop affordable housing for the poor. I currently live in the extremely un-affordable Santa Barbara, California with my wife Mary and three fat cats. Favorite bands of all time are The Smiths, The Bodines, House of Love, Brighter, and Razorcuts and the best label ever was Creation.
Why and when did you start your label?
I wrote a letter to a band called Sweet William in June 1997 asking if they wanted to release a 7″ and when they said yes I suppose the label was launched. My interest in starting a label was purely in designing record sleeves…no illusions of making money…which is probably why we are successful and still going today.
How many hours a week do you spend running the label?
Quite a lot! I think people are shocked at how much time it takes to manage an independent record label. It could easily be a full time job, and sometimes it is.
Can you make a living from running the label?
No, I have always had another job to pay the regular bills. Today Matinée is completely self-sufficient though – at the start I was regularly heaping loads of personal cash into the label and now it sustains itself financially.
What bands would you like to have on your own label that aren’t right now?
None really. We’re a bit overextended with the current roster of bands so I can’t imagine more at the moment.
When did you first hear of Shelflife Records?
I was running a mailorder business called Roundabout Records and started carrying the ‘Whirl Wheels’ compilation on Shelflife in 1997. I lived in Washington DC at the time and Ed lived in New York City so we saw each other on occasion and I released the only record by his excellent former band Monterey.
What are your favorite bands on Shelflife?
The Radio Dept., Free Loan Investments, Brideshead
What makes the other label unique (if there’s anything)?
The perception that lots of people are involved and that it is a proper business compared to the ramshackle operations here at Matinée.
What would be the first thing you’d do if you were running the other label?
Release more Radio Dept. records!
This seem to be a bad time for independent labels – and maybe for record labels in general. What’s you opinion on that? Is the internet to blame?
Yes, it is a bad time for independents but I can’t complain too much because we’ve done relatively okay. While the Internet certainly makes file sharing and downloading possible, it also is the greatest single marketing tool for an independent label. I can update my website with news of current releases and be assured that thousands of people will see it within a week or two. Ten or 20 years ago I can’t imagine there was any way for an indie label to reach thousands of people within a week of releasing a new record. Distributor sales are certainly down over the past year but we are selling more directly from the website than ever before so maybe that’s the wave of the future. It seems there are also more people lately who consider themselves “Matinée collectors” who are trying to get everything on the label and that of course makes me smile.