Between the teetering economy and the wildly erratic music industry, it would require balls of absolute platinum to start a record label now. And those shiny cojones in your Jo Boxers are likely to be the only platinum you’ll experience if your label deals primarily in 7-inch vinyl singles.
Terry Cole is aware of the odds against his Funk/Soul/Hip Hop label, Colemine Records. Inspired by the output and success of Daptone and similar labels, the Middletown entrepreneur isn’t thinking in terms of limos, Cristal, bling and flash.
“I’m not concerned with making money, I’m really only concerned with not losing any,” says Cole. “Which is probably the worst business model ever.”
Although Cole doesn’t deal strictly in vinyl 45s — he’s releasing several CDs this year — they comprise a big chunk of his release schedule and he does well enough to warrant pressing them on a regular basis.
“45s move themselves, it’s awesome,” says Cole. “It’s very much word-of-mouth with the 45 collectors. If you get the 45s in the right hands, everybody knows you.”
Cole comes by his love of music honestly.
His father collected Doo Wop/Soul records and Cole financed his college education largely by selling his father’s collection of extraneous 78s on eBay. His musical expertise remains rooted in that period.
“My knowledge of it is way better than it should be. My point of reference for music is like 1955, and I’m 24,” says Cole. “I’m just a messed up individual.”
The label coalesced when Cole played with Soul/Funk outfit Soundscape — which featured Detroit MC Rideout — while he was attending grad school at Miami University in 2008. Rideout schooled him to the practice of crafting beats and working on songs via e-mail, which ultimately resulted in a Jazz/Funk recording titled The City. Cole felt the release was marketable so he created packaging designed to infer professional involvement.
“I taught myself to use Photoshop and made some half-assed album artwork and got 500 CDs pressed,” says Cole. “We wanted to make it seem legit, so I’m like, ‘Let’s make up a record label and stick it on the back. When people see it, they’ll be like, ‘Wow, Terry and Louis got signed!’ Three months after we released it, I got a message on MySpace from P-Vine Records in Japan saying, ‘We like your The City, we would very much like to license it.’ I was like, ‘This is some bullshit hoax. Japan? They want to give us money?’ But it was real. That was the first time I thought, ‘Holy shit, maybe I could actually have a legit label and release music I like and not lose money.’ ”
Clearly there are challenges in maintaining a label in today’s economic climate, all complicated by Cole’s schedule. In addition to running Colemine, Cole is a first year high school biology teacher in Middletown and is the bassist for The Jive Turkeys, who recorded Colemine’s first 45 (“Four white guys playing the grittiest Funk we could muster,” Cole says). Although Cole gets a little functional assistance from his wife Kim in Colemine matters, he is essentially a one-man show.
“It’s time,” he says of his greatest pitfall.
“Balancing being a first year teacher, trying to communicate with the artists, taking care of the mixing/mastering, doing the artwork, talking to the stores and radio stations … I do everything. And then I have to make my wife happy. She’s quite amazing, actually.”
There are also advantages to being a microlabel, and Cole recognizes the mobility afforded him because of Colemine’s diminutive stature.
“The whole goal of this label is I can do whatever I want,” he says. “If a Gospel group approached me, I don’t have to worry about fitting it into some kind of mold.”
Cole has a lot of plans for Colemine this year and they all concern growth and heightened exposure. The Jive Turkeys’ full-length is out next month (shows will be limited as guitarist Andrew DeRoberts is currently on tour with American Idol champ Kris Allen) as will full lengths from Othello and DJ Vajra and Ikebe Shakedown. Seven-inches in 2010 will include sides by Dojo Cuts, the Turkeys and a split “battle” record between the Turkeys and Ikebe Shakedown. And like any good label honcho, Cole’s always on the lookout for new talent to record, especially if it’s homegrown.
“I’d love to work with more local artists that fit what we’re doing and dig what we’re doing,” says Cole. “People tell me, ‘Hey, Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s got Soul.’ Well, maybe, but it’s not my kind of Soul. I love ’60s Funk, I love Northern Soul. You can sing anything and as long as it’s got badass harmonies, I’ll be like, ‘Shit, man, that’s awesome.’ I’ll record any kind of music, as long as it has that commonality of Soul.”
FOR MORE ON COLEMINE RECORDS’ RELEASES, go to www.myspace.com/coleminemusic