by: Lauren Paschal
Facedown Records is an independent Christian label based out of Fallbrook, California. Facedown features bands of hardcore, metal, and punk styles. Although Facedown the LABEL was founded officially in 1997 by owner and President Jason Dunn, it started out as a distribution company. Dunn, who was touring as a drummer for the band No Innocent Victim in 1995, started doing his own distribution on the road with shows and mail-order. When he began to realize how many bands he was meeting and making contacts with, he decided to start his own label, keeping the name Facedown he had originally used for his distribution label. Jason had no business plan when he started this endeavor. He did not even have to take out a loan; he used his own money from his own bank account. He had a passion, his smarts, and a hobby for music and business.
Facedown was run completely by Dunn (and now along with wife Virginia Dunn). The first band signed to Facedown was a band named Overcome, who were previously signed with Solid State Records. Facedown had no distribution, only mail-order and direct to retail sales. In 2003 Facedown signed their first EXCLUSIVE distribution deal with Lumberjack Distribution out of Ohio. In 2006, they signed with Red Distribution and are currently still working with Red. Facedown does work internationally, mostly with licensing, and have sold in the UK, Japan, and Australia. This is usually done on a case-by-case basis.
The artists currently on Facedown’s roster include A Plea for Purging, xDeathStarx, Hands, Call to Preserve, For Today, Impending Doom, xLooking Fowardx, My Epic, No Innocent Victim, Sleeping Giant, Sleep for Sleepers, Take it Back!, Theives and Liars, War of Ages, and Wrench in the Works.
Facedown runs a tight-knit operation. Dunn works directly with the bands, building personal relationships with everyone on his roster. His wife, Virginia, is head of sales. Friend Dave Quiggle is head of the Art Department, and his wife, Shannon Quiggle, is head of Publicity. They have no A&R reps, but all work as their own A&R department.
Jason’s relationship with the bands on Facedown is like that of a family. Every band has Jason’s number, and he speaks directly with the bands. There is no liason between Jason and the bands on Facedown. He shoots straight with them to let them know what they can and cannot do.
What makes Facedown unique is their genre: there are not many CHRISTIAN heavy music labels. Facedown is going on their 12th year as a label! Another unique feature of Facedown is their profit split. Facedown, like many other independent labels, treat their business affairs as a partnership. They use a 50/50 net split royalty deal, and neither Facedown or the band will make money until advances and other debts are paid.
When looking for bands to sign, Jason will use myspace, other manager contacts, word of mouth from other bands on tour, and recommendations. Some of the things Facedown looks for in a band is firstly, their spirituality. They look at the band’s quality of songwriting, their ability to tour, if they are hardworking, and bands that are looking for more opportunities, which Facedown feels that they can give.
Along with Facedown Records, they also have two subsidiary labels: Strike First Records and Dreamt Records. What Strike First does is sign bands that are in an introduction phase. These are usually bands that are starting out, have little touring experience and a smaller following. Strike First will take these bands and help give them the tools and contacts they need to develop them as artists. Other than maturity, Strike First and Facedown are very similar. They both sign talent that is of a heavier musical sound.
Dreamt Records, on the other hand, is a newer label. They do not sign strictly metal or hardcore music, but have a classic rock band signed as well as a Coldplay-esque band. As of now, there are only 3 announced bands signed with Dreamt, but 2 unannounced.
When marketing or promoting their artists, Facedown does several things. They have placed ads in hardcore music magazines, get plays with the Headbanger’s Ball, MTV2, Youtube, and Myspace. Facedown will try and make touring packages very appealing to headliner artists to entise these artists to take their bands out with them on a particular tour. An interesting thing Facedown also does is hold contests for those who pre-order new releases. For example, with A Plea For Purging’s sophmore release, “Depravity”, they gave away a custom snare drum from Darkhorse Percussion, a guitar, and a wii. With A Call to Preserve’s release, “From Isolation”, they gave away a SONY PSP. And for pre-ordering War of Ages new release, they gave away a 32″ LCD TV! This causes a hype for an album and an incentive to pre-order.
In the future, Facedown sees themself continuing to go along with the changes that are going on in the recording industry. Although physical product is dying, they are going in the direction of artist development. Three years ago, Wal-Mart was Facedown’s biggest retailer. Now, iTunes is their biggest outlet for record sales. They are also trying to get more into merchandising, ringtones, and live performance/touring.
Every year, Facedown holds a festival in California known as “Facedown Fest” with all the bands of Facedown playing for 2 days. They also have their own night and stage at the Christian Music Festival Cornerstone, held annually in Bushnell, Illinois.
In 2009 YTD, Impending Doom’s record “The Serpent Servant”was Facedown’s biggest selling record, securing a spot on Billboard’s Hot 200, a first for Facedown!
Facedown continues to operate as an idependent label. They are still working the same way they did when the started, just with more staff of four! With the direction the music industry is going and if Facedown continues to grow the way it has been, it is