Heart of Steel: Interviews

Industry Profile – Eclipse Records Chris Poland
Label CEO Gives Some Insight into his Label

Interview By Keith McDonald

Eclipse Records may not be a household name to many, but the label has been making some noise in the industry. Riding the success of the band Mushroomhead, the label has been gaining some respect as a label that is on the rise. Despite the fact that their biggest star has jumped ship to the powerhouse Universal Records Group, Eclipse has been making strides with newer acts that include Disarray, among others. I had the opportunity to speak with the label’s CEO Chris Poland who gave me a little look into what Eclipse Records is all about. You can check out their website at www.eclipserecords.com.

 

How did you get started in the music business?

I used to play guitar in metal bands growing up, but just to be clear about it, none of those bands was named Megadeth!

 

How did Eclipse Records start?

Eclipse started in 1995, and we incorporated in 1997. We got our start as an underground compilation label, before we started putting our CDs, we were doing compilation cassettes of different unsigned metal bands from around the world. We must have done about 6 or so before we got into working with individual bands. As it developed, I got hired as the Marketing Director for Big daddy Music Distribution in 1998, they also picked up Eclipse for distribution then. While working there, I got to see a lot of labels in the industry, (not just at Big Daddy, but at other Distribution companies that I made friendly with) putting out too much product and none of them really focused on creating any demand for the band's music, many labels operate on the principle of throwing a lot of bands at the wall, and only chasing what sticks. I decided I didn't want to operate in that manner, only work with one or two bands at a time, focus on creating the demand and do things right.

 

Who is currently on your roster? Who has been the most successful?

Currently Disarray is our top priority. We're negotiating several deals with other bands now, lining up the next project to work after Disarray. The most successful band we put out so far was Mushroomhead, we have soundscanned over 60,000 units since Eclipse released the XX record in May, 2001. We're expecting Disarray to do even better.

 

How did Universal get Mushroomhead from your label?

Due to the current legal situation between Eclipse and Mushroomhead, I can't comment much other than saying that we have an existing contract which the band signed giving us the exclusive rights to the XX record. The band basically breached their contract with Eclipse in order to give the record to Universal. Since Universal is so much bigger than Eclipse, it's become a story of David vs. Goliath.

 

Who distributes your label? Do you find it hard to get your CDs into major chains?

Currently we are distributed by Big Daddy Music Distribution. They have never really experienced any problems getting Eclipse product into the major chains, they have even managed to get the mass merchandisers (Kmart, Wal-Mart, Hot Topic) to pick up our releases. Placement in the major chains is based upon two things. Do you have the $$ to place the product (because all shelf space in the major chains is essentially bought in the form of listening posts, endcaps, etc..) and have you, as the label, created enough demand for your product that the buyer is aware that kids are going to be looking for your releases in their stores. If the buyer doesn't feel the demand, even if you are willing to pay them to take your product, they will not take it, because every store has limited shelf space and they need to turn over their inventory quickly. It's essential to market the product to the buyers, as well as the consumers. Nah, haven't had any problems yet.

 

What role do the "mom&pop" stores play in getting your releases out there?

The mom and pop stores are essential in reaching the people that buy their music there. There are basically two types of consumers, those that shop at chains, and those that shop at independent accounts. Based on the most recent NARM survey (National Association of Record Merchandisers) independent stores account for a much smaller share of the market, but it's still a very important group because they tend to be the people that tell friends about what music they like. Word of mouth is essential for creating a grassroots marketing campaign.

 

Do your artists tour? How expensive is it to get bands on the road?

Yes, all the bands we work with tour. It's part of the process that we use to qualify signing a band. Getting bands a good tour is more of a networking thing, who the band's booking agent has connections with is the most important factor.

 

How do you find new artists? How many artists do you sign a year?

Eclipse receives about 25-50 unsolicited demo packages in the mail each week. Many of the bands are new and show a lot of potential, but lack the experience needed to be signed. The best prospects come from friends that work at other companies in the music business that we hire We come across some really good bands from the folks at Concrete Marketing and EMI music  publishing.

 

Does Eclipse have a substantial back catalog?

The back catalog of Eclipse is not that big, it's about 12 titles, not counting the stuff we have discontinued and the stuff that was released on cassette prior to 1998.

 

What advise do you have for an unsigned artist?

Develop a following locally before you try to get signed. It's a smaller market to attack, it's easier. If a label sees that a band can develop a following in their own area, then the label will think it can spread that following to other markets. Write music that comes from the heart, not from what you hear on the radio or what's currently "in". Make sure there's a barcode on your CD. Most manufacturers will give you one. That way if you put the CDs in stores on consignment, the labels can look up the titles on soundscan and see that the band really is selling. Don't put your demo on a cassette.

 

What's the future for Eclipse Records?

To continue to put out great metal bands that people need to know about, and to educate the target audience that the product exists. Disarray is the next messiah for metal. Anyone who wants a free sampler CD, check out www.eclipserecords.com/freestuff.htm to find out how to get one. Free metal that doesn't suck, how can you pass up that offer, huh? 

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