A slightly different aspect of the record industry gets the In Profile treatment this month. I've personally subscribed to the Too Pure Singles Club for the last four or five years so it seemed a good idea to put a few questions to Paul Riddlesworth there and find out how it continues to be excellent value for money and a leading champion of fledgling bands.
MG: The club has it’s 100th release coming out in April which, by my shoddy maths, means it’s been in existence for eight years now. Before we get down to talking about it’s current form though can you fill us in on the history behind it? I remember buying releases by Seefeel and others on Too Pure back in the Nineties – how then did the label become the Singles Club?
PR: Back in 2008 both the Beggars Banquet label and Too Pure were streamlined into 4AD at the time. We somehow wanted to keep the ethos of Too Pure alive without putting out long players so we decided to start up the TPSC. Most of our labels (under the Beggars umbrella) focus mainly on American artists so we wanted to be a label whose primary goal was to find mainly awesome UK bands. That said we have put out DZ Deathrays, Jeff The Brotherhood and Bear Hands. But hey, mainly UK, especially Leeds ... I've put out a LOT by Leeds bands.
MG: Describe for us the selection process for the bands involved. For that matter who decides on the 7” artwork and indeed the colour of vinyl any particular release is going to be on?
PR: Its a lot of gig going, recommendations from other bands and keeping in touch with the indie shops up and down the country as no one knows better than them about good local artists.
Every single release is down to the artists themselves. they have total creative control - from choosing which songs to release to artwork to vinyl colour. Its essentially their release and, to quote Annie Lennox, "Who am I to Disagree?"
MG: Other similar clubs pop up but never remain constant – Polyvinyl Records had one for the last couple of years but seem to not in 2016, Matador have periodically operated one, whilst Fortuna Pop! have one currently that’s rather more ad hoc in its release schedule than Too Pure etc. Do you put that down to deadlines being a chore to maintain – having to have one release per month without fail for possibly less return than on regular releases? Do you work up a slight backlog so that if one act can’t for whatever reason have a tune recorded in time there’s at least one in the can which can be pressed up?
PR: One of the main issues is trying to maintain the quality of the releases, which i think throughout the eight years I've managed to do. Some may disagree but no one's going to like everything we do, that would be spooky. I also like to have the releases sorted as up front as possible. This year we're up to November already which is going to be a bloody cracker even if i do say so myself ...
MG: Sticking with the cost of things you’ve consistently, over the five years or so that I’ve personally kept signing up, pegged the cost of membership at a very good price, averaging (I think) around only just over £3 for each disc including postage in the UK. If it’s not a trade secret how has that been possible, given the cost of the production of discs and in comparison to the £4 and upwards you’d expect to pay via bandcamp or at gigs or in stores?
PR: If i'm honest we probably should charge a bit more, as we just about break even but as a label we're not primarily about making money we're more bothered about supporting up and coming bands and hopefully giving them a starting chance.
MG: Do you have a regular core of returnees year on year? And how many copies of each disc are ever made? Given the numbers on ones I’ve had over the years my guess has always been 500 per release. (As an aside to this – what eventually happens with any leftovers?).
PR: We do get a lot coming back for more, some years are better than others. We make up 500 of each release, 50 go to the band and we also send 100 to the indies. Even though we're primarily a subscription label its important to look after the indies, we have some fantastic shops up and down the country.
MG: The club had its first LP out for Record Store Day 2016, a ‘Greatest Hits’ to date if you like. How did you pick the tracks to include on it? Taking Record Store Day itself do you think it still serves the purpose it was intended for? I remember last year Steven from Bis being a bit of a dissenting voice and reckoning the major labels had now hijacked the whole affair with reissues of old rock albums.
PR: I'm so excited about this. Its called Pay No Attention and its on magenta coloured vinyl. It was an absolute ball ache choosing, however each year I do an end of year poll to subscribers to see who they liked and hated so that helped a little. There are definitely some I regret not putting on. Maybe there will be a follow up next year if this goes ok ...
RSD is both a blessing and a curse. It's a curse as major labels clog up our pressing plants to reissue utter dross that you can find in any charity shop up and down the country for a fraction of the price and there are way too many releases for it. Some more dubious than others. Its a blessing though as it does still get people into record shops, it's been said many, many, many times before record shops are for life not just for RSD.
MG: Finally - what is the club’s 100th release set to be and what other acts can we look forward to discs by in the coming months?