Hypnotic Dirge Records - A Manifesto
-A public declaration of principles, policies, and intentions
[An update will be written in 2017]
1.2 Open-source and unlimited access
1.3 Profit sharing
2.2 Solitude Productions
2.3 Compilation Albums
3.1 Distribution - Wholesale and Trades
3.3 Submitting a Demo
3.4 Newsletter/Mailing List
SECTION 1.1 : OVERVIEW
Hypnotic Dirge Records is an independent non-profit record label and webshop based in Saskatoon, Canada. Our intention and raison d'être is to release quality expressive and eclectic art through aural manifestations. We care not about strict definitions based on genre classifications, but many of our album releases so far could probably fall within the Black Metal and Doom Metal classification though with significant experimental deviations throughout including elements of post-rock, progressive metal, acoustic music, jazz, and trip-hop. As long as the music is genuine, visceral, and has strong musicianship (not necessarily technical proficiency) by real artists then the associated genre is irrelevant.
Though we are based in Saskatoon, our approach is completely international in scope and we have never limited ourselves to any particular geographical area. We have worked with bands and artists across four continents (Just missing South America, Africa, and Antarctica at this point - if any penguins have demos, send ‘em in!) and will continue to do so. We do have some ties to Saskatoon by virtue of living here and there are indeed some great local bands in the area, however there are also great unsigned bands from all over the world and it makes no sense to us to restrict ourselves unnecessarily because of geographical location. In the era that we live in with instant communication to all corners of the planet, there are no major logistic issues with working with bands from anywhere in the world!
All of our releases are given thorough promotion and distribution and we strive to make all our releases easy to access in both physical and digital formats. This is why almost all of our releases are available for $0.00 minimum download on our bandcamp page on top of the easily accessible physical copies which are always available on the Hypnotic Dirge webshop and through our distributors around the world. With the abundance of underground metal bands and labels, it makes absolutely no sense to revel in an exaggerated anonymity. This will only cause our releases to be forgotten within six months which is something we want to avoid. We want our releases to stand the test of time so unnecessarily restricting our albums in any way is basically self-defeating.
Through mid-2014 we have released thirty-eight albums, twenty-four of which are legitimate Pro-CD’s, as our early releases were on CD-r format. However, since Mid-2010 all of our releases have been on professional format and all will continue to be released in this way thereafter! We have continuously evolved and plan to keep evolving in the coming years, not for the simple sake of evolving, but simply because it happens naturally and it’s very difficult to predict what goals, ideas, and aspirations will surface in the future. This acceptance of evolution is the only way to avoid stagnation and mundanity in any life endeavor so it goes without saying that over the years, we intend to learn from past experiences and hopefully continue to refine our vision and presentation.
Having said all this, it is very important to us that we operate under some core principles and ideas. One of the most important is to conduct ourselves with artistic integrity and placing art for the sake of art as our highest ideal (on a motherfucking pedestal) be it auditory, visual, textual, etc. and never losing sight of the fact that our highest aspiration is simply to share music worth sharing!
Another important principle for us is to treat the bands under our banner as partners, and in reality, of much more importance than us. They are the art, the vision, and the aura of the label. They are the reason why we exist and the reason why anyone has even heard of Hypnotic Dirge Records. They are the creators, we simply exist to share their creations! In light of these truths, we aim to do all we reasonably can to adhere to our bands’ requests and visions, including acting in a collaborative effort with them and allowing total autonomy, independence, artistic control, as well as taking absolutely no proprietary control of their creations.
We strive to be a source for quality visceral art and to release albums that we - first and foremost - really enjoy ourselves, and that we believe will be appreciated by like-minded listeners. We believe there ought to be no boundaries in extreme metal, and will release anything that we enjoy and which we can remain interested and passionate in promoting and distributing for months on end, as will undoubtedly be the case.
It is really easy to spend many hours of work when you feel strongly in what you are sharing with others, and especially when there is a positive feedback loop and an album is well received and you get a sense that listeners appreciate you bringing quality music to their attention. We are of course limited in the amount of albums that we are able to release so there is a restriction in that sense and we surely cannot work with every band that we like, but hopefully when all is said and done, and the label closes its doors forever, that we will have contributed in some minor way to the music sharing experience. These are our humble aspirations. Hopefully people will remember and recognize some of these bands and albums in the moderately-distant future!
SECTION 1.2 : OPEN-SOURCE AND UNLIMITED ACCESS
Hypnotic Dirge Records releases are available on bandcamp for streaming and unrestricted digital download for free / by-donation because our philosophy is rooted in the principle of open-source and unlimited access.
We leave the choice to you whether to donate or not. If you can, even $1 or $2 helps and all donations either go towards new releases or are split 50/50 with the band depending on whether that particular album has recovered its initial (manufacturing, promotion, and distribution) costs or not. (A more detailed explanation of this profit sharing is outlined in the next section.) That being said, if you cannot or simply do not want to donate, that is completely acceptable. These releases are free for people to enjoy because art in the digital age should not be treated as a commodity, especially when it comes to digital copies which cost nothing to duplicate. We appreciate this approach because we feel that it leaves the choice whether to donate or not to the listener instead of forcing a payment.
Intuitively, it does not make any sense at all to restrict the ability for the music to be heard, and it is a fact that since we made this switch and made all of our albums available for free download, the number of downloads have significantly increased since previously we weren't allowing people to download the album unless they paid $5 for it. It simply wasn’t an optimal system, especially if your primary goal is to have the music heard, because we were forcing that on people and there was no mechanism that allowed people to offer $1 or $2 or $3 for the album rather than a strict and enforced $5. It was inherently restrictive basically. Not only have our downloads drastically increased but the amount of funds made through the Bandcamp page also actually increased with a donation-based system in comparison to a forced payment system. The sheer volume of $1 or $2 donations surpassed the occasional $5 people were willing to pay in the past.
All of this points to the fact that this is better for everyone involved. There is a tenfold increase in the amount of people downloading the album when it is unrestricted, and that is ultimately what both the label and the bands want. If you depend on your Bandcamp page for sustaining your operations (and HDR certainly does), a free / voluntary donation-based system will still earn you the same amount of money, if not more, simply because the sheer amount of small donations can outweigh the larger forced ones.
Another really important point not to forget in this regard is that this system is easily the best for the listener. A lot of people initially want to stream/download music to test out new bands. Most albums can be found on various blogsites online but sometimes the process can be lengthy and quite annoying. People also sometimes argue that allowing free streaming is enough to enable people to preview new music, but is is unnecessarily restrictive and forces people to stay near their computer to hear the music. Why not just let people download the album as well and listen to it at the time of their choosing, and if they like it they very well may choose to send a donation. Having an official source that has a full discography worth of free downloads can be really helpful and handy and as a listener myself, I feel a certain amount of respect and gratitude when a band has free downloads enabled on their Bandcamp page and will often donate, sometimes upon first download, and other times after having listened to it for weeks already. Most significantly, personally I listen a vast amount of my music on headphones while at work or walking so it just makes things so much simpler when I can preview music for free and listen to them without restrictions before I decide whether to buy the CD version or not.
There is no point in restricting access to music anymore. (Truthfully, there never was) The internet is meant to be free. Files are meant to be shared. Open-source is the future. Mutual respect and voluntary support is the best way to forge non-coercive values. There is nothing more stifling than dismissing and disavowing technology in order to preserve certain parameters of business and self-preservation. This is why the traditional label is so often untrusted and hated.
We implore those who have still unfamiliar with our Bandcamp page to download a few albums. Grab them all for free if you feel so inclined. We also encourage other bands and labels to go this direction. It feels so much better to not worry about fighting a losing battle with technology as well as being able to increase the amount of downloads substantially and be on the right side of history in the larger discussion about open-source software and a non-hierarchical principles.
Here are a few points from the book "Music in the Digital Age" by Andrew Dubber which you can read/download here:
1. The rules assigned to the music industry by the Internet are quite different from those relevant in the previous period, the age of television and major labels. It is useless to try making time go backwards (e.g. forcing people to buy your CDs by suing hosting services).
2. Digital data cannot have any objective value, because it is, unlike printed stuff, perfectly replicable. Physical copies require resources to be produced and are always limited in number. Digital data, on the other hand, can be copied to infinity for free. It is therefore clear, that you cannot set a price for digital stuff the same way that you do in case of printed material.
3. Quoting Dubber, ‘You don’t have the right to make money from your music – only the opportunity.’ And ‘people aren’t giving you money for your music, but because of it (and because of everything that goes along with it that gives it richer and deeper meaning)’.
Also, here is a quote from one of the bands on Hypnotic Dirge:
"We respect the listener’s rights as much as the author’s. We are listeners ourselves. That’s why we give you choice. Support the band and/or our labels, if you can (be it half a buck). And if you can’t, please spread the word and share the album with your friends."
-Vin de Mia Trix
SECTION 1.3 : PROFIT SHARING
Since we operate Hypnotic Dirge Records as a non-profit and non-commercial endeavour, we are not motivated by the pursuit of profit. The only thing we strive for is to break even on individual releases. In the case that profit is made from any individual album, we split that profit with the band 50/50. Profit is defined as any money made through CD sales and digital donations after the cost of financing the album is recouped. This does not happen immediately after release, and in most cases it does not happen at all and a loss is taken by the label. The positive thing for bands is that the label takes on all of the risk. If an album costs $1800 to finance (manufacturing, promotion, etc.) and only $800 in sales and donations are ever made, the label will deal with the $1000 loss. However, should your album become “profitable”, we’ll share all of the profit with you 50/50. Usually we make payments to bands every 6 months but advances are possible if you need it depending on the label’s finances and upcoming release plans. As mentioned, some albums do make a profit, but we must stress that overall, we do not make money from our activities - in fact we do not even come that close to breaking even.
As a customer of Hypnotic Dirge, you know that any and all profit ever gained from an album will be shared with the bands responsible for the creation of the music you enjoy enough to support! We want to make the concept of a record label as fair as possible and in too many cases, the label gets all of the gains from a band’s hard work. This is something that we consider deplorable so we chose to take a more egalitarian path! This profit sharing also applies to donations through Bandcamp.
SECTION 2.1 : WEBSHOP
The source for all Hypnotic Dirge Records releases and hundreds of distributed albums is in our official webshop! The store interface is extremely easy to use, prices are low, and we can ship anywhere in the world! We make it a priority to keep everything accurate and updated so you can be sure that items listed as available in the shop actually are available, and your order is guaranteed to be shipped within 2 days and via airmail. Though we cannot guarantee shipping time as this is in the hands of the postal system, in 95% of cases orders arrive within 1-3 weeks. It is also possible to create an account to keep track of all your past orders and create a list of favourites in order to organize future orders for yourself, though this is not necessary!
New additions to the webshop are added at the beginning of each month!
SECTION 2.2 : SOLITUDE PRODUCTIONS
Hypnotic Dirge Records is the official North American distributor of the prominent Russian Doom Label Solitude Productions. All of the available (ie. not sold out) Solitude Productions releases as well their releases under the banner of BadMoodMan Music (focused more on Death-doom, Gothic Doom, and Depressive Black Metal) and Slow Burn Records (focused on post-rock , post-metal, and sludge) are available through Hypnotic Dirge, including all upcoming releases!
Solitude Productions is a Russian Label which is quite known around the world as an extremely prolific and consistent purveyor of Doom Metal in its many subgenres ranging from Death-Doom, Funeral Doom, Stoner Doom, Gothic Doom, Sludge, etc. as well as the occasional foray into other metal genres.
Solitude's releases include a large amount of eastern-European and Russian Doom bands and browsing through their catalog is an excellent start in discovering the most prominent Doom bands from that part of the world. However, they do release bands from other parts of the world as well. Some of the bands who have had material released through Solitude Productions including Evoken, Comatose Vigil, Abstract Spirit, When Nothing Remains, Raventale, Wine From Tears, Ea, The Howling Void, Kauan, The Morningside, (Echo), Mournful Gust, and many others!
As of this writing, Hypnotic Dirge remains the only store in North America to carry all of the available Solitude Productions releases, so it is ideal for people from this region to order their titles directly from us, as the shipping time will be significantly shorter. Besides this, by ordering Solitude Prod. titles directly from us, you are supporting both labels as we buy our stock from them at wholesale price, and of course once titles sell out, we place additional orders.
SECTION 2.3 : COMPILATION ALBUMS
Annually, around November, we release a commemorative digital compilation album which also marks each “birthday” of Hypnotic Dirge Records. These compilation albums are released digitally only and are available on our Bandcamp and Youtube pages.
The annual compilation albums serve as an important artistic project for Hypnotic Dirge! Featured on the compilation are, of course, tracks from recent and upcoming HDR releases. However some bands prefer to release exclusive material for the compilation (including covers) and we also have guest artists from outside of the label featured on the compilations which is great as it allows us to work with and promote bands that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to, due to the time and money restrictions we have on regular releases. Some of the bands not on the label but included in past compilation albums include Dråpsnatt, The Howling Void, Wine From Tears, Negative Voice, As Autumn Calls, Psychotic Gardening, Zgard, and Melankolia among others.
The compilations are meant to be comprehensive, meaning that we don’t just quickly and haphazardly choose songs to throw up on Bandcamp. Great attention to detail is taken when it comes to song order and the flow of atmosphere across the album, as well as album artwork and other facets. The compilations also include a brief text from each artist about their contribution to the album, and also sometimes featured additional videos, visual art, and text.
The first three compilations were mostly the work of the label only but starting with the fourth compilation the albums are now treated as a collaborative effort between all of the participating bands and artists where decisions on a title, album art, theme, and contents are decided with everyone's input.
SECTION 3.1 : DISTRIBUTION - WHOLESALE AND TRADES
Hypnotic Dirge is always looking to expand its physical webshop and have more quality music available for our listeners. As such, we do regularly trade with labels and shops, as well as independent bands, from around the world! Those looking to set up a trade with us should get in contact with us!
It is not possible to agree to a trade with everyone who expresses interest, and sometimes we do need to be quite selective about trades due to Canada Post’s notoriously high prices, as well as maintaining a certain degree of “quality standards” in our shop. The reasons why we decline a trade can be both of the above stated reasons, or just one. Do not assume that we don’t appreciate your work just because we don’t agree to a trade. It can be quite tricky to keep this whole operation afloat and it would be destined to failure if we just agreed to every request. With that said, the general trend is that we are always looking to expand the variety of albums in our webshop, so definitely get in touch and let us know what you have available for trade!
As far as wholesale goes, it is very rare that we will place a wholesale order from a band or label. We simply can’t afford to do so except in really rare occasions. Therefore trading is our first preference. We do offer our releases at quite cheap wholesale prices for other labels and shops, but in our experience other labels and shops have the same problem as us and simply can’t afford to buy wholesale so this happens rather infrequently. If you are a new label just starting out and only have a couple of releases available for trade and would like a larger number of HDR releases in return, we can offer a combined trade/wholesale deal.
SECTION 3.2 : PUBLICATIONS
Publications looking to interview our bands, review our releases, or wanting access to Hypnotic Dirge updates should get in contact with us!
In the case of interviews, provided the band itself is interested and you show signs of your activity and competence, we will send you the band’s contact information and be able to accommodate any requests for further information, photos, etc. A good place to do preliminary research on any band on the label is by checking out the “Bands” section.
In the case of reviews, we send both digital and physical promos depending on the circumstance. Due to the ever increasing costs of postage costs through Canada Post (Profound Lore Records alleges they are the most expensive in the world, and I reckon they are sadly, probably correct), we have to be pretty selective when it comes to whether or not we can send you a physical promo pack, especially overseas. Please bear this in mind when asking. However, physical magazines who prove their existence are guaranteed a physical promo pack. For webzines and blogs, the default is digital promos, but we sometimes make exceptions if we really like your work and quality of journalism. If we have already been in contact for a long time and we've sent you physical promos in the past, we can continue this arrangement! We also believe that the free downloads on Bandcamp are sufficient as digital promos as they are virtually identical to what we upload to Mediafire, and in fact even better since you have the option to download the album(s) in any file format as opposed to just mp3’s uploaded to our Mediafire account but if some reason you just don’t like the idea of downloading from Bandcamp for promo, we can also send you the Mediafire links.
If you publish news on your website and would like regular updates on Hypnotic Dirge activities, just send us an email notifying us of this and we’ll add your email address to a press contact list!
SECTION 3.3 : SUBMITTING A DEMO
CURRENT DEMO STATUS:
As of September 2016, we are once again accepting demos for releases in 2017.
We have extremely limited slots available for 2017, and many of our current bands will also have material ready in the next few months, so we have to be very selective due to time and money limitations. Everything that is sent our way is listened to, but due to our heavy workload and the overwhelming amount of submissions, a response is not guaranteed.
We are trying to work with more Canadian bands in 2017 and beyond so Canadian bands will be given preference.
However, we welcome quality stuff from all around the world.
If you wish to send an album for possible release on Hypnotic Dirge, you can contact us by sending an email with all the relevant information. Please keep it relatively short and to the point. Most importantly make sure to include a link to download the album you want to be released. (Mediafire, Dropbox, 4shared, Uploaded, etc. are all fine) Send us the full album, not single tracks and do not send emails ahead of time saying "my band is recording a new album in 3 months and we're looking for a label." We are only interested in hearing completed works. There is no point in exchanging emails if we have not heard the music you are proposing to us. Recorded music that is not mixed or mastered is fine but don't send demo-related emails about future music that isn't even recorded yet.
Other than that, feel free to include Bandcamp/Soundcloud/Youtube links (Bandcamp preferred) as well as some biographical and historical information on your band and some info about the album you are sending to us. Band photos, album cover (if it's ready) and press sheets (if you do that sort of thing) are all fine and can be included in the ZIP folder that you send the music in. It's always the most convenient when we can download everything from one link.
Emails that are paragraphs upon paragraphs in length will not be read in full anyway so don't waste your time and our time. For example, do not bother a mass block of text in your email including interview excerpts and review clippings. If we like your music, we will do the proper research and find that on our own.
Physical promos are unnecessary and our preference is digital but if you feel that you can present your music better in a physical demo package, we'll also accept them. Please don't send them unsolicited though. Just send a short email stating your intention to send your demo through physical mail.
As for musical preference and what we are looking to release, I believe it is fairly obvious to anyone who bothers doing just the most rudimentary research on Hypnotic Dirge. If you are going to be asking a label to release your music, you should know a bit that label's output since the label (fairly or unfairly) will be a representation on your band. Generally, we are pretty open-minded when it comes to genres and such but our previous releases tend to have fallen under the umbrellas of Black and Doom Metal with various sub-genre influences and some eclectic and experimental tendencies. This is more of a guideline than a rule though. If you feel that we would be interested in your music, by all means send it!
Due to the sheer number of demos we receive, responses are not guaranteed but we do listen to everything we receive.
If we don't respond don't take it as us not liking your music (though that 'may' be the case) we might have enjoyed it quite a lot but simply not had the time to respond. However, an effort is certainly made to at least reach out to those who sent something we enjoy even if we can't release it. And at the end of the day, we're just fans and listeners of music - our validation is not synonymous with your music being worthy and good.
SECTION 3.4 : NEWSLETTER / MAILING LIST
We send out email newsletters periodically with news about new album releases, band signings, sales and offers, new additions to the webstore and things of that sort. Usually they are sent every 2-4 weeks.
If you would like to be added to our regular mailing list, please send an email to: email@example.com with the subject line "Subscribe to Newsletter" or use the Contact Form for this purpose in the “Contact” section
SECTION 4.1 : STAFF
Hypnotic Dirge was founded by Nicolas Skog in late 2008.
Recently, some others have gotten involved in the project which was quite helpful given the increasing responsibilities.
Active in HDR: 2008 - Present
HDR duties include:
Release Plans and Coordination
Webshop Maintenance and Order shipments
Account and Social Media Admin
Emails and Inquiries
Promotion (Reviews and Interviews)
Nicolas was involved in the following
Our Diabolical Embrace
A Dark Fantasy
Active in HDR: 2013 - Present
HDR duties include:
Release Plans and Coordination
Nicholas was involved in the following