Interview | Mike Sniper on the state of the industry

Celine Vignes, Raphaël Saint-Bris, CORD London.

Mike Sniper is a big name in the industry. Not only has he produced Mac DeMarco’s latest albums, it was him who discovered Dum Dum Girls, Beach Fossils and Wild Nothing – to name just a few. Back in 2008, he founded Captured Tracks, an independent record label now based in the heart of Williamsburg. Besides being jealous of Sniper’s cool work spot, we were curious to get to know the man himself. And crucially get his opinions on the state of the music industry today…

mike-sniper-captured-tracks-cord-interview

Photo: @Impose Magazine

On managing a label

Sniper is straight-forward. « As we all know, the record industry isn’t exactly at it’s peak » he says as an intro. We asked about the current challenges he faces managing Captured Tracks. It’s not an easy game. « The main difference between a label like mine and say, 4AD or Matador, is that they have a huge catalogue of recordings that they’ve built up over a period of years, and rightfully they enjoy the fruits of that catalogue for years. » It’s not the case for Captured Track’s, whose roster is mainly composed of recent artists. Business-wise, he explains, « it’s a constant state of re-investing, without that extra income others can expect from older records on their catalogue. There’s nothing in Captured Tracks’ catalogue over 7 years old that’s not an obscure reissue. » Then, it’s vital for Sniper to sign with the right artists: « Every new hire is a big deal ».

Luckily enough, most of the first and second albums for each artist Sniper has produced were very well received by the public. But Sniper explains, that doesn’t necessarily mean big money: « Sometimes an artist receives a lot of press attention or critical acclaim. It doesn’t mean it’s been profitable or even recouped, on the economic side. »

On choosing new artists

There’s no specific criteria for him to pick his next artist, but it’s mostly a meeting of common interests and a common goal. « If we enjoy the music and the artist has his or her own objective to get across that we can help them with » then he’s worth supporting.

When it comes to recruiting new artists, diversity is key. « We get too many demos of decent-to-good bands that sound like DIIV, Wild Nothing, Beach Fossils, Widowspeak, etc. but we already have or had those bands. We’re looking to add different sounds to our catalogue, like Perfect Pussy or Naomi Punk for example. »

On new music platforms

We were quite curious to discuss the new music platforms that are emerging. What would a record label manager think about Apple Music or Tidal? We asked Mike if he thought these newcomers were offering anything different to the well established platforms, like Spotify. « The more services open up, the more users will start to feel disenchanted and just stick with what they have » «Apple Music is trying to have a similar feel to terrestrial radio, which is interesting. But I am unsure it will catch on. People are freaking out about streaming, but to me it’s no different to what the radio and MTV used to do. People need to relax. »

On vinyl

People read everywhere that vinyl sales have increased dramatically recently. Some estimations state an increase of about 270% in the last 5 years… which sounds huge. However, Sniper is quite critical about these numbers and he’s got his own interpretation of the vinyl landscape. « The sales reports are dominated by labels who have the capacity to effect the soundscape, so they’re vastly incorrect. I’d say there’s been a much slower, steady increase. Vinyl records have never diminished since the initial drop-off. In 5 years when “the bubble bursts” it will be the same exact circumstance. »

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