The beauty and simplicity of being transparent with your fans

There used to be a belief in music that part of rock and roll’s allure was its mystery. Artists like Led Zeppelin and The Beatles were seen as being above the average human, somehow existing among us without being one of us, but those days have long since passed. Now that virtually everyone is connect through the internet there are very few elite celebrities or brands that can get away with not engaging their following on a near constant basis. Some see this as being problematic because it has made it necessary for artists and brands to focus more time than ever before on marketing, but others, including us, see the it as an opportunity to established a deeper connection with consumers that can be sustained for years, if not decades or longer.

Bad Timing Records is no stranger to mentions on our blog, and today they proved yet again why they are setting the standard for how young indie label engage with consumers in the modern day. With a busy fall slate on the horizon, the nearly three year old label has turned to fans and consumers to ask for help, and they’ve done so with a sale unlike any we have seen as of late. Here’s what the company’s co-founder, Thomas Nassiff, wrote on the official sale page:

Since we launched Bad Timing Records, Zack and I have made a conscious effort to keep ourselves honest, transparent and straightforward when communicating to our customers. We tell you guys when we’re experiencing delays at the pressing plant; we answer questions on Twitter and message boards about why a certain record costs a certain price, or why our shipping rates change, things like that. We’re a small business, so we don’t have too much to share – but I like to think that if there’s something you want to know about BTR, and you ask us, we’ll probably tell you unless it’s a little too confidential in terms of keeping a level head when working with art and artists.

We’re not launching this sale because we’re celebrating spring or because we do big seasonal sales all the time. Historically, we’ve really only ever done one big sale (a 40% off weekend-long thing a few months back), and that was out of character for us. We’re launching this sale because we need some cash flow to pay for two big releases that we’ll be putting out this fall. One of them is a really, really,really impressive sophomore full-length album and the other is a secret.

When you run a record label that makes most of its living off selling physical products, and when you run a record label that makes an effort to seek out and release music by bands that we believe in and love but won’t necessarily make our bank account overflow, you go through highs and lows in your revenue streams. When we launch a big pre-order or announce a big vinyl release, we get a high amount of income. And as soon as we make back the money we spent on the release, we give at least half of all the profits to the artists we’re working with. We’re very proud to say that, to date, Bad Timing Records has never been late or faulty on delivering a royalty payment to any of its artists, and we’ve never been late on paying any of the independent artists, publicists, videographers, photographers, etc., that we’ve been fortunate enough to hire.

This modest business model leads to lulls in revenue when we don’t have a lot of releases. Recently, we’ve wrapped up an ambitious, year-long project releasing six 7" splits with Kevin Devine and a cast of friends and fellow songwriters; we’ve released the debut full-length from a young New Jersey angry-pop band named ROMP; and we’ve continued to promote full-length releases from Pentimento, Mansions, Lydia and Kevin Devine, and represses of 12" EPs from Knuckle Puck. Last year, we put out big EPs from Head North and All Get Out, and we’re happy to see our small family of bands continue to grow and be happy in the art they’re making.

We want to keep doing this – every dollar we’ve ever made as a label has been put back into another release, and Zack and I have never paid ourselves a buck for doing this – but at the moment, we’re asking you for a little bit of help. We’re not out here begging or anything; the label isn’t about to close its doors if we don’t sell X-hundred albums during this sale. We’re not going to do a Kickstarter or a Go-Fund-Me or anything like that, either. We didn’t do that to start our label, and we won’t do it now. All we’re saying is – if there’s a Bad Timing release you’ve considered picking up in the past but for some reason have held off on it, chances are that you’ll find it with a pretty significant discount on this page. Consider adding it to that IKEA shelf you keep your records on. You can check out the full details of what’s available on this page in the “Pressing Information” section below.

You can also head over to our Bandcamp profile if you’re less of a touchy-feely person and more into digital stuff, where everything is currently available for pay-what-you-want.

Bad Timing Records is going to turn three years old this July. Zack and I have already seen the label grow into something larger than we anticipated, and we hope to continue growing it and putting out releases by bands we really like. We’ve been astounded by the support we receive regular from fans of the label and fans of our bands, and we hope you guys will all dig what we’re putting out through the rest of 2016.

Click here to view the sale and read about the various bundles being offered.

No one would have questioned Bad Timing’s motives if they had chosen to use a crowdfunding platform to ease their financial burdens, but by taking a far more traditional and direct approach to engaging the audience they’ve found a genuine way to make fans feel as if the fate of the company is in their hands. In many ways, it really is.

When you’re faced with the decision of how to tackle the challenges that stand between you and where you wish to be or what you hope to do remember that there is no better approach than honesty. Go to your fans, and tell them what is you need, as well as why you need it. The fact you have any career at all is due to the fact they care, and they likely want to see you continue to do whatever it is you do. By asking fans to help you create an opportunity for engagement and collaboration with your audience that can be rewarding in many ways. Don’t resort to third party services unless you have to, and even then  – stay transparent.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.