A legend of hardcore punk and metal once told me that D.I.Y. is just a slogan. A catchphrase for t-shirts worn by non-punks. Meaningless words without action. More to the point, it’s what you actually do that matters, and it’s not about getting props, credit, or bragging rights when it comes to the music scene. However, some people just find satisfaction is helping other people achieve their dreams, on bit at a time. Russell Orcutt is one of those people. Between his venue All About Records, which also includes a record label, merch company, and other artists services he provides, Russell is helping punk and metal bands of all walks tour and support themselves. Earlier this year, All About Records secured their new, current location, and continue to soldier on, with little hope of a big payday. That’s not why he does it anyway. We thank him for clearing some time from his jam-packed schedule to let us pick his brain.
What’s new with All About Records this summer?
We just released an amazing 7 inch with the band Dynamite Dynamite from the UK and The Hideout from Boston. Our next releases will be 2 LPs, Northernmosts s/t and War Games acoustic LP.
It must be a 24/7 commitment to run a venue like this in a small community and make it a success.
It is a huge commitment that requires a ridiculous amount of sacrifice, I have given up so many things to keep the space going. I no longer have a car or cell phone, but its worth it to be able to help artists have a place to showcase their talents.
What were the challenges in securing a new venue? Did you need to get the cooperation of the town?
Well the 1st we had to find a place that would allow us to have live music, that took about 6 months of calls and meetings and looking at various spaces. After that the permit process began, which ended up taking about 6 more months and by the end we had invest around 12k in rent deposits and permits. All before opening the doors. A lot of people were afraid of the idea of kids in bands playing loud “punk” music and I actually had a probationary period on one of the permits due to their fears. Neighbors actually came to council meetings to express their concerns about noise and loitering, in a downtown area.
I see you have shows with not just local acts, but national touring bands as well. What can you offer the national touring act that most people don’t often associate with your type of performance space?
Yea we have booked bands from all over the world since opening the new space. All we can offer them is a place that cares about the music more than profits. A lot of promoters are concerned with making money and using small bands to cover costs of touring bands, I have no interest in what band is cool or not, I just wanna help bands when they need it.
In addition to running the space you have run a boutique label for many years. Tell us about your success with you annual Summer Download Cards?
This whole thing started with the label, I’ll probably always put out records. The download cards are just a good way to help bands get some promo, we pass them out at our booth when we do warped tour and try to give small stacks to touring bands so they get distributed all over the place.
What about you business model allows the merch arm of your brand to be so competitive, when many other companies charge 2 times what you do?
Everyone involved with AAR is a volunteer, myself included. I have never profited off the label or anything I’ve done musically. I have always had other jobs or sources of income. This allows me to do merch orders at low cost, our profits go directly into the space. Their business models are to make money, ours is to help bands.
Do you do all the design work yourself for your original AAR merch? You have a lot of clever designs.
I’ve come up with some of them, friends, volunteers, etc have helped a ton. I have a hard time coming up with designs for myself, so a lot of time I put out a call for help and see what comes from it.
You have toured both the US and UK with bands in various capacities. Can you think of 3 Do’s and 3 Don’t to offer as advice to bands just starting to tour?
Don’t tour before you are ready, wait at least 6 months before doing a long tour, build up a base for that tour by doing weekends.
Don’t tour without merch. Merch helps fund your tour, and helps people remember your band.
Don’t tour without money. Your van will break down, tolls add up, and gas isn’t cheap. I tell bands to save $100 for each day of tour for an emergency fund. Also get a Paypal debit card, Paypal is quicker than normal banks for money transfers.
Do’s 1. Plan, Plan, Plan, start working at least 3 months before you plan on touring. Use FB, send messages to people in the towns you will be playing, try to create street teams, etc.
2. Make sure your van can handle tour, it’s gonna break down, but you should still make sure its in decent shape before leaving.
3. Talk to people, always have a CD or download card in your pocket. Give those things out! Tours are meant to promote your band, not act as a vacation.
Any parting words about AAR for our audience?
You may have never heard about AAR before, but if you look at us as a company or label you’ll see an amazing history of working with some people and bands that have gone on to do amazing things. It isn’t always about money or being famous, sometimes its about memories and experiences and that’s why we keep going and will always be around in some way or another.
All About Records Official Website
All About Records on Facebook