In the mid-90s producer/engineer Evan Brubaker founded Cake Records as a boutique label, producing and collaborating on records by artists such as Holly Figueroa and Kym Tuvim. Since then, Cake has undergone a dramatic growth spurt, embracing a wide range of musical genres, securing national distribution and garnering lots of press interest as the Little Label That Could. A new release by dark-popsters Mon Frere is due in early May, courtesy of Cake.
I asked Evan to share some thoughts on his label in today’s 5 Questions interview.
Cake Records has been around for almost a decade now, but you seemed to have had a breakout period in the last year or two. Was there a pivotal moment or event that, when you look back a few years from now, you can point to as crucial to your label’s development?
A few years ago, I opened a studio with a great engineer named Troy Glessner and our work really rose to another level. I started working on developing artists, networking, basically trying to put the facility and my experience to work. As part of that, I met a great attorney who made a lot of great things happen for us as a label.
You once described Cake’s sound as “indie overground” — accessible pop that still bears the hallmarks of indie production. Do you think it’s important for fledgling indie labels to establish a “sound” as opposed to experimenting with different types of artists?
I do think it’s important to try to establish a niche. In fact, I would say that we didn’t do a good enough job of that last year. We had several releases that had too wide an appeal and ended up competing against major labels with massive resources for every scrap of attention. The reality is that it’s incredibly crowded out there and taking more of a niche approach allows you to get the word out more easily and build momentum. There’s a reason why labels like Victory are having such incredible success right now.
Cake recently signed a distribution deal with RED. At what point do you think aspiring labels should consider approaching a distributor?
Distribution is really tough. It increases your reach but also makes pretty much every aspect of releasing a record more complicated. Until a label has at least a few artists who are committed to touring regularly or some dramatic attention from press or radio, distribution doesn’t make a lot of sense. In order to really take advantage of having distribution, a lot of other parts of the puzzle need to be in place.
What’s the one myth about your profession you’d like to explode?
That you don’t need to be afraid of everyone in the music business, you just need to try to find people who can help you and try to be smart.
It seems like anyone with a website and CD burner can start a label these days. Any words of warning to the uninitiated?
Hahaha, well, if my answers to the other questions aren’t a warning, uhhh, let me just say this…you’ve got to have faith to succeed and almost every aspect of this business is easier if you have people you can collaborate effectively with.