Black Market Activities

Post by Susan Ma.

Black Market Activities receives an unfortunate reputation, that they were created as a subsidiary branch of Metal Blade Records. Just to clear that up — Metal Blade and Black Market Activities entered into a production and distribution deal (Metal Blade/RED (U.S.) and Metal Blade/Universal (Canada)) so that BMA would be able to record and release within the same mediums as MBR. So there is no actual share in ownership or relations as far as record management is concerned.

The music of BMA includes those of the Mastodon and Hatebreed era, so those of you interested in making a positive difference with knowledge and solid application through the metal industry, LISTEN UP! This is a label that you should be closely critiquing and experimenting as an upcoming, hopeful label.

Starting in 1992, Ced Singleton (NOT to be confused with the film director) and Guy Kozowyk (vocalist for The Red Chord) came together to create an independent record label with the idea that what the general public labeled as “extreme music” would be dealt with in a friendly, yet professional manner in benefits to the music artist. This idea wasn’t executed until about mid-2003, Guy Kozowyk becoming the sole proprietor of this label and releasing records such as Murfreesboro, TN’s own, The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza’s Danza II: The Electric Boogaloo and San Francisco’s Animosity’s Animal albums.

Demographically, a majority of BMA’s roster reaches a target audience of males between the ages of 16-32. I know, it’s a large gap. Though many labels may see this as a bad attribute, due to the spots of absence within that demographic, Black Market Activities turns this into a positive by ensuring each band has a specific, yet different target audience. This enables the label to reach and touch base with these different demographics to ultimately reach as many people as possible. Basically, according to this phenominal cartoon by Sean Carney, BMA’s demographic is Hesher Type IV.

I know, independent record labels were initially created with the mindset of reaching a “niche” market. Something small, something specific. Whether BMA’s approach to this marketing technique is for the better or worse, only time will tell. Especially as a METAL indie label, labels like Black Market Activities get an IMMENSE amount of backtalk regarding the Metal genre within the music industry. Like most A&R reps say about metal music, “It sounds a lot more like it does now than it did ten minutes ago.”

Working against these kinds of odds, the label must find a way to embrace their niche market and ensure that their artists are exploited in the most raw form of the artist’s musical expression possible. That’s from one end of the spectrum though — the label must also ensure that their consumers are satisfied.

Their initial objective is a great outlook on how to survive in a publically-claimed “declining” industry. It’s unfortunate to say that this prime objective does not seem to be held accountable anymore. I don’t own, nor manage a record label, so I don’t hold any professional opinion as far as management goes. But, I will speak from a consumer point of view, so the marketing and promotional aspects are especially (and should be) eye-catching. And as a consumer? I’m VERY unhappy.

Why? Look at the image above. This is the front-page of Black Market Activities before their actual website comes up. This is a flyer for The Patrons of Destruction Tour. I’m checking this on the morning of June 22, 2009. Guess what? This tour ended almost 6 months ago. SIX MONTHS AGO! Surely, there MUST be more recent updates…. right? Going into their website, you see that their last “news update” was exactly a month ago. Again, there MUST be more recent updates… right?

I can tell you things about this label that is NOT provided on the label’s website (Click here for BMA’s website) or their Myspace (Click here for BMA’s myspace.) As a consumer, I should be able to check the label’s direct source to receive the most updated news first and foremost.

Below are points of ideas I feel would enhance the label, as a whole. And please take into consideration that my idea of a label being well-managed is based on the professional and clean manner of general management, but more importantly the needs of the artists and consumers being met.

UPDATE YOUR WEBSITE! Whether you have one or five, you should update all material as soon as possible. How do you expect your consumers to know what’s going on if you don’t? Here is an example of BMA’s Dance Club Massacre out of Chicago, IL. They created a banner to feature their 2007 album, which also shows BMA’s logo to inform their consumers of who they’re under. Though this seems like just a banner, don’t underestimate the power of this tool.

Oh, and P.S. Lamb of God is not on BMA… So yeah.. They should probably change that.
02. Give your artists incentive to become excited about their music! Though I can’t tell you from a personal standpoint how Guy is doing this or not doing this, I quote from a member of one of BMA’s bands, “I mean.. He has The Red Chord. He even admits he’s half-assing his way.” Even if I were to disregard that quote I received, the turn-over rate for these artists go faster than Verizon Wireless representatives.
03. CONNECT WITH YOUR CONSUMERS!!!!! I can’t stress how important it is. For anyone who’s attended Charlie Dahan’s RIM 4810 Indie Record Labels class, how much have we learned that your consumers are one of your most important assets? Honestly, I don’t even think Guy knows the demographic market for each of the bands on his roster. I’m not judging on character, I’m judging on execution of good management. Give your consumers a reason to listen to your artists, a reason to visit your website, a reason to buy your merchandise. I think Bob Lefsetz adds great ideas, such as adding downloadable mp3’s on your website. (Click here for the article.)

(Click the image below for Bob Lefsetz’ website)

From my subjective standpoint, I work with one of BMA’s bands, whom shall remain anonymous in this post. And from their beginning struggles to well… their current ones, they have not received the support a record label should be providing their artists. Obviously, this is also a subjective judgment, as well, but how many bands do you hear from that their record label’s sole purpose is to milk the dollars out of them? WAY TOO MANY.

I only hope that Black Market Activities not only embrace what they have, but be able to embrace the CONSTANT change the industry goes through. You know when your company goes through hardships, whether it be financially or socially? Don’t feel too bad, because thousands are going through the exact same thing. Don’t be ignorant like the majors were! Accept the reality that you sit in and use your resources as efficiently as possible to provide the much-needed support towards your bands and your consumers. Striving for an objective like this, I can guarantee that your business will advance in more ways than one.

So end things on a better note, I still believe there is vast hope for Black Market Activities to achieve this long haul of record production and distribution, but there needs to be a stronger connection, whether the label become a separate party within the recording industry chain, or a middleman between the artist and the consumer. To give you an idea of some of the music that BMA puts out, here’s The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza’s “Carroll 14 Wossman” video from their latest album Danza II: The Electric Boogaloo.

Black Market Activities Official Website
Black Market Activities Official Myspace
Black Market Activities Wikipedia
Animosity’s Official Myspace
Dance Club Massacre’s Official Myspace
The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza’s Official Myspace

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