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Interview: Future Archive Recordings Label Co-Founder Chris Richards On How They Create A Fair Platform For Artists

Find out more about one of electronica's coolest new artist-run labels created for today's music industry & stream their compilation album.

A group of talented artists recently joined forces to create Future Archive Recordings, a label celebrating independent electronic artists. Future Archive Recordings was born out of a shared need for artistic autonomy, collaborative work, and the desire to subvert the traditional record label model. Their debut compilation features artists such as label founders Little People, Sun Glitters, CNJR, Arms and Sleepers as well as Ninja Tune alumni Blockhead and Yppah. The compilation also features up and coming artists such as Plantrae, Marley Carroll, drab, & NOTME. The album explores a range of subtleties, genres, and styles within electronic music, reflecting the diverse nature of artists supported by Future Archive. We recently had a chance to catch up with label founder Chris Richards AKA CNJR to find out more about Future Archive Recordings and how they do business.

SB: How did you come up with the concept behind Future Archive Recordings?

CR: Future Archive Recordings is the result of an increasingly common conversation among independent artists. A frustration with certain aspects of traditional labels coupled with the stress associated with designing and launching a strategic and impactful self-release campaign. We've noticed that a shift in the way listeners are engaged in finding music is minimizing the reach and relevancy of PR and marketing campaigns. 

We are finding a shared understanding that losing 50% of your revenue to a label doesn't make sense for every act out there, but also not every act has the capacity, resources, or know how to be their own label manager. No one came up with the concept behind Future Archive Recordings, as much as a bunch of independent artists chattering away behind the scenes engaged in brainstorming how to mutually create a better model for their particular needs. It's the natural progression we found for supporting ourselves and our friends.

SB: What is Future Archive Recordings' mission? How has this affected the way that the label is set up to do business?

CR: I'd say that we have a few overlapping missions. One is having an effective platform for our own projects (everyone who started and runs Future Archive is a musician themselves, we are exclusively artist-run). Another is to extend that platform as a form of support to other artists who inspire us and that we care about. Creating a scenario where artists benefit from the cross-pollination of their fanbase's is another goal. The primary way this has impacted the label set up is that we are not prioritizing profit. It’s a labor trade, with a small amount of trickle income rolling into the label to put back into marketing or creative projects. 

The four founding artists share all of the labor associated with releasing music and running the label, and 10% of their revenue goes back to the label from their releases. Periphery artists who don't cover labor but release with us only lose 25% of their revenue rather than the traditional 50%. Our structure is meant to provide artists with a group of people to collaboratively release their music with, not so much designed to be a company that invests in a product they hope to profit off of.

SB: How does technology affect today's music industry? How does Future Archive Recordings use technology to its advantage? 

CR: One area we all have our eye on is the emergence of Spotify and the impact that editorial playlists are having on artist revenue streams. We all know that the last many years have seen some dramatic shifts in the way listeners access music, and the current trend that we are engaged with is playlist placements and building relationships with curators. Curators across numerous platforms like Soundcloud, Spotify, YouTube, have emerged as quite a unique and accessible force in getting music out there to fans. Where press and publications once dominated a massive space in marketing music, that space is now shared with curators developing playlists that listeners can easily stream without the hassle of finding new music on their own. 

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SB: Can you please tell our readers a little bit more about your new music project CNJR? What personally inspired you to create this project?

CR: I've always been a musician first. I was in several bands as a teenager and moved in electronic production as the producer behind Etheric Double Soundsystem, Resident Anti-Hero, and Remember Me Feral years ago. However, as my 'career' in the music industry grew, the time and space and support needed to be a creative artist dwindled. After I founded Autonomous Music, a now-defunct booking agency and management firm that represented acts like Emancipator, Polish Ambassador, Ott, Wax Tailor, Quantic, Blockhead, Papadosio, and countless other artists, my time became dominated focused on booking tours and running a business. That coupled with the awkwardness of self-promoting my project alongside other clients I represented caused me to drop out of making music entirely. 

Fast forward several years and I closed the firm to make space for other goals in my life. Bought a small farm, grew a lot of flowers and perennial plants, hung out with some goats and an alpaca, and continue working with a small select list of clients that I’ve known for years. When I accomplished feeling refreshed and ready to figure out what my next phase in music would be, I knew I needed to include being creative again.

CNJR (pronounced CONJURE) is what came out of me when I sat down in front of some instruments. The project is largely inspired by retro synth soundtracks like Stranger Things, the latest Tron movie, Blade Runner, etc. I wanted to create moody, cinematic music that takes people on a journey, and that pushes me towards eventually taking on some soundtrack work.

SB: Why do you personally wake up every day and work in the music industry?

CR: Being creative and participating in the creativity of other people has been the reoccurring grounding theme in my life. Working in the industry is certainly a roller coaster, and its stressful, overwhelming, all the things that all jobs are, but the joy and calm I experience in those moments where we get to focus purely on the creative development of a song, or album, or stage production, or whatever it may be, is a great source of fulfillment for me.

SB: What do you think is the biggest challenge affecting artists today? How do you personally confront this challenge?

CR: I suspect this is a hugely subjective range of things that cannot be minimized into one thing that is true to all artists. Artists have different goals, different motivations, and different passions. For myself, a great challenge being an artist is balancing the desire to be purely creative and create art with the pressures of conforming it to something that will be 'successful' in the industry. I confront this by stress eating.

SB: What can fans expect from Future Archive Recordings for the rest of 2018, the next five years, and as far as ten years into the future?

CR: Coming up shortly we have numerous releases that we are super excited about. Just announced is a new single from Sun Glitters, which is from an upcoming full-length LP. We just announced an amazing collaborative remix EP between Blockhead, Yppah, and Arms and Sleepers. The three of them are also hitting a 30+ show tour across North America starting next month to support the release. My project, CNJR has a single coming up with remixes by Yppah and Sun Glitters, followed by a four track EP. And I'll just say there is more where all of that came from that I cannot announce yet. Look to our debut compilation Future Archive: Volume 1 for some insights on what might be trickling down the line soon. 

As for five years, and ten years... well, all I can say at this point is that we hope to be happily co-creating some magical experiences for people, with music releases as well as with tours, art projects, installations, and more. The potential is endless, only time will tell. Welcome to the future, archived now.

                                             Future Archive Recordings Compilation Album Artwork

                                             Future Archive Recordings Compilation Album Artwork

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