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From Setting Up An Office In A Bathroom To An ARIA Nom: Clowns On The Creation Of Their Own Label

10 June 2021 | 3:29 pm | Jake Laderman

"I really can’t imagine doing anything else."

More Clowns More Clowns

CLOWNS reckon to run a label you need hands-on experience - or just "fake it 'til you make it." Here Jake Laderman takes inside the belly of the beast during the conception of their label, Damaged Records.


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Running a label is something that I don’t think can really be taught. 

In my opinion, the way you really learn the ins and outs of it is by just diving in and doing it yourself... DIY or die baby. It’s what we’ve built the core foundation of Damaged on and a practice I totally swear by. Excuse the motivational speaking, but I think a lot of people underestimate the value of simply believing that you can achieve a goal by trying, even if you have no idea what the fuck you’re doing. When Damaged Record Co started back in 2018, we didn’t know what we were doing at all. But you learn pretty quickly if you’re thrown in the deep end, then you pretty much just gotta fake it 'til you make it. We really owe those ethos to the many years we’ve spent playing/touring in Clowns. 

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Damaged Record Co started like a lot of labels do. We were a band that’d spent just shy of a decade in activity and we’d released heaps of music via different labels all over the world. If you’re an active, travelling band, then you’ll learn some lessons really quickly. Firstly, money can be tight. No world tour ever came cheap. Secondly, not all record labels are good guys. One minute a label loves your band and wants to release your album, next minute you never see a cent of it or hear from them again. And thirdly, you will get out what you put into your music community and being one of the good guys is the BEST.

We put these pieces together, it was obvious that starting a label to release our own music was the logical step to take for Clowns, but also a huge step into a new venture, one that would soon give me equal parts of immense satisfaction and stress at the same time!

In 2019, we made our record label debut and set out to work on DRC-001, the forth full-length Clowns album Nature/Nurture.

If you’ve worked on a few album campaigns before, then you’ll know how important it is to set goals for yourself, as well as the steps you’re going to take to achieve them. What is it that you want to achieve from the record? You should NEVER be afraid to dream too big on an album campaign, because some amazing results can come from a bit of elbow grease. Here I am with the motivational speaking again lol.

Damaged Record Co may have been a new label at the time, but Clowns certainly were not and the goals were clear; ARIA Charts and an ARIA nomination. Two completely foreign areas to anything I’d ever worked on. The main thing I remember about this release is that everything felt new to me, working with distributors, working with set budgets, learning about the ARIA charting system... It was overwhelming, but a huge learning experience, ending with amazing results.

For the music world, 2020 was disastrous. Though, with touring on the shelf for the foreseeable future, it allowed us a unique opportunity to put more work into the label. And as fate would have it, we had just signed Private Function for their second LP Whose Line Is It Anyway?

When I think about 2020, I think mostly about sitting at my desk all day every day for months on end working on this release with the band and their management. Those who know Private Function, know they are always still on top, and in this case, extremely on top of their ideas. If this record has served me any lessons in life, it’s that no idea is too dumb. Like, pressing vinyl records with bags of speed inside them. Who cares what it costs? It’s a priceless idea. This was an incredibly defining album for Private Function and I had an amazing time working with the band/management (and generally just working with a band that wasn’t my own!)

Oh, and this record debuted at #9 in the ARIA Charts. HAHA. PF Still On Top.

2020 was indeed a busy year for the label, but MAN I got sick of waking up in my bedroom, crawling to my desk to work all day, while storing 1,000 records in my share house hallway. Think my housemates got sick of it too... I knew it was time to get an office, packing room or just any workspace/storage that wasn’t my house.

In passing I had mentioned this to my mum, who mentioned she had a small unused bathroom at her place of work that we could use if we wanted to fix it up. Small, desperate for a clean/paint and literally a bathroom, but actually all we really needed, all for the cost of paying the utilities. We painted it, got carpet, replaced sinks with desks, showers with shelves and now you can almost not tell it’s a bathroom, haha. Gotta start somewhere right? It scrubbed up pretty alright TBH! Though I’m sure when I’m writing a piece like this in around 20 years time, this will be something I laugh at (it’s already funny).

 
When I think about Damaged as a whole, Stevie and Jarrod who run it with me, the artists we’ve had the pleasure to work with and the music we’ve brought to life, I honestly just feel extremely privileged to have had the opportunity. I’m super proud of our little label so far and I just want to do so much more. There’s some incredible, creative people that I get to connect and work with on a day-to-day basis and I really can’t imagine doing anything else. Yeah, it can definitely be an exhausting industry from time-to-time, but a great sense of satisfaction to be able to contribute to a music community that’s thriving outweighs that plenty. I do it because I love it.