Heart of Steel: Interviews

Industry Profile Ė Kivel Recordís John Kivel: Label President adds to the Metal Mix

Interviewed by Keith McDonald

Kivel Records have been doing what major labels did in the 80ís and early 90ís Ė turn out great melodic hard rock. Theyíre not interested in what happens to be the Ďflavor of the monthí or what can sell a million albums with the right packaging and promotion. Kivel releases albums by bands that are talented and like to put some fun into their music. With artists that include Funny Money, Guardian, Radar, Nine24, Rain, TNA and Damn Cheetah, theyíve been doing exactly that. I had the opportunity to speak with the labelís founder John Kivel who gave me some information on his aspiring label. You can check out their website at www.kivelrecords.com.



How did you get started in the music business?

Well...I've always listened to music since an early age..Loved it! Started on my dads old BOB SEGER and MEAT LOAF albums. I recall going on ski trips to Vermont and listening to BAT OUT OF HELL all the way up there...Ah memories. I guess thatís how I was bitten by the music bug, from there I just wanted to become more and more involved. I went to school for Photography and video production. I started out photographing local bands at an early age. I progressed from there to national acts. As I got older, I made a lot of friends at labels and management companies as well as a lot of the bands. A close friend of mine who I grew up with also worked for a big label and then moved onto Mellissa Ethridge's management company. I learned a lot from her about the biz. I then started scouting as well as handling art/photography for an indie label. I was frustrated with the way they cut corners and passed on some great bands. So I ventured out on my own. I wanted to bring out the best in a release as well as giving bands that most companies, both big and small would NOT give a chance to. Now Iím here.


How did Kivel Records start?

Well, I was frustrated seeing great bands not getting out there or indie labels that had the right idea but didnít really have the follow through on the products quality. I guess I just put my money where my mouth was and stopped criticizing and decided to do it myself. I really didnít set out to make this a huge PROFITABLE thing. I just wanted to get some good bands out there for people that wanted to hear them. To my pleasure I've surpassed my original expectations. 16 releases later and about another 6 due this spring, a few dates in Spain as well as offers to have some of my bands play throughout Europe and sales coming from people all over the U.S. to all over Europe. I have to say Iím very happy.


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

Well, I have to say they have all done well. However out of respect for a band that might not have sold, as many as another I will just leave it at that. As for who we have here. ADRIANGALE which has Jamie Rowe former vocalist of GUARDIAN at the helm. RADAR , TOUR DE FORCE, FUNNY MONEY (Steve Whiteman / Kix) NINE24, RAIN, TNA, BARON, ATTRACTION, STONE ANGEL, SMILEK, BRAD L'NART. Some upcoming releases, TANGO DOWN, DAMN CHEETAH, ADRIANGALE, PYN SIREN.


Who distributes your label? Do you have worldwide distribution?

We are distributed through out Europe through various distribution companies as well as a few here in the states. We are right now looking into expanding to bigger outlets this year.


Does Kivel sign hard rock/metal acts only or all genres?

Well, for the most part so far we have signed bands with an 80s sound and style. Although, we would NOT turn away a band with a sound similar to a band like Marvelous 3 or a band that simply has great songs.


Do you find it difficult to get your records into stores these days? How do the mom&pops help?

I wouldnít say so. We have some good success moving our titles. As for Mom and pops...they are the best...They are the ones that push this music the hardest and for the most part appreciate it.


How extensive is your back catalog and how important is it to the labelís growth?

Well, we have 16 releases, so it cant be that extensive...LOL. It is growing though! As for the importance of my catalog's size, I would rather have 5 killer releases then 5 ok 5 good and 2 great. I like to focus and pace myself.


Do you move many CDs through the website or do retail outlets provide the most sales?

My site sales are about 10% the rest are wholesalers, mail order companies, mom and pop shops and various chains


Any advise for an unsigned artist?

Just do what you enjoy doing. The people that do what they enjoy doing will always walk away with more to show for it and will be less bitter if they donít accomplish what they hope to. That way if you fail or succeed, it will be on your terms and who you really are.


Are most of your acts self-supporting or do they need support?

If you mean do they work day jobs...some of them do, some of them donít. As for the band needing financial support...We take care of it...Gear repairs...studio...photography ...the occasional shopping for clothes if they are feeling naked .....etc etc.


What's the future for Kivel Records?

Just keep doing what we do and not look back! Thanks Keith for the time and the questions...Best of luck to you and your site! 

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