Chuck Livid Says, "People Simply Do Not Support Independent Artists Nowadays"

Livid Records releases final record.

With the death of Boca label Livid Records, South Florida mourns the loss of a significant appendage in our local music scene. If Churchill's is the heart, then Livid's like a foot or something, a foot that's wearing brightly colored Converse lo-top, if you will (see above).

Founder Chuck Livid has toiled for the past six years, pressing vinyl, promoting bands, going to shows, and dishing out a lot of his own cash. For him, the time has come to release Livid's final album. In our conversation with the entrepreneur, it seems he is heartbroken about the state of affairs in South Florida's creative scene. We can't disagree with him that more support would keep all of us better afloat and, possibly one day, thriving. So, consider his words as you read on. Learn what happened to Livid Records and what Chuck'll be doing next.

New Times: After you wrap up all your projects with Livid Records, what are you going to focus your time on next?
Chuck Livid: I'm going to do a solo noise project that I've been putting to the side for a while now. I've also been considering writing a book about my experiences juggling two personas: A professional at a day job and an entrepreneur by night. But first, I'm going to take a trip to either Portland or San Diego and clear my mind.

Can you tell me a little about the music you yourself will be making?
I want to make a noise record with some friends. It's going to borrow heavily from Glenn Branca and really early Sonic Youth. This has been a dream of mine for years. Just waves of noise and hypnotic drums. I'd like to follow that record with a very personal solo album. I feel like I have to cleanse my mind from a lot of stuff. It makes sense to do it first sonically and then lyrically.

What were the main like three reasons you decided to stop doing Livid?
Support! Support! Support! People simply do not support independent artists nowadays. They can say they do all day long, but I'll stick to facts; I know, because I've seen our sales dwindle for almost 6 years straight. I talk to other labels and it's all the same. We live in a very "throw away" society. Everything's dispensable. I'm not going to blame things like illegal downloads, because that's just an easy target. At the end of the day, people can make a choice and do the right thing. So a digital file isn't the cause of lack of support. It's simply flaky people.

It's really a simple equation: Studio time plus gas to play your city plus production -- vinyl, DL cards, CDs, etc. -- plus advertising plus mailing copies to the media for reviews. It equals money. If the idea of creative people making a living doing what they love appeals to you, then buy their music. Tweeting or sharing something on Facebook is cute, but it alone doesn't pay the bills. People have to be pro-active. A well-studied and much written about topic that highlights my point was the Kony 2012 experience from earlier this year. Sure, millions of people now know who Kony is and what he's done, but at the end of the day it changed absolutely nothing.

Was there anything that could have kept you guys going? Anything that could have changed in the universe to keep Livid alive?
It falls back to support. I feel I could've done this until the day I died. Lately I've been really bummed out about how much people don't care. So, if Livid Records has to be a martyr to bring light to how bad the independent music scene is doing, then so be it.

I do want to make another quick point here. I'm told a lot that record labels are irrelevant today. I disagree wholeheartedly. You have to work so much harder today than ever before to get noticed. Just the fact that anyone -- and I do mean ANYONE-- can release a record makes it that much harder for a band to clear the pile of e-mails and stuffed envelopes at a music blog or magazine for review. There's a lot to be said about having a record label's name on the return address of that envelope or as the sender in that e-mail. It tells a journalist right off the bat, "Okay, well somebody's thrown money into this. I guess I'll listen to it," and at worst it betters your odds. Doing all this is literally the equivalent of having a full-time job. And if you're serious about your music, then focus on that, not on having to worry about obtaining a marketing degree to sell ten records.

What will you miss the most and the least about working on Livid Records?
The two things I'll miss most are listening to a CD or an MP3 or going to a show and thinking to myself, "People need to hear this. I have to put this out." And the other would be holding the final record in my hands.

I won't miss stuffing orders and press copies.

Is there any hope for the South Florida music scene?
I'm an optimist, but shit's getting really bad for bands and those who produce them. Before all this, bands could evolve musically, because they had wiggle room due to being able to make a living doing what they love. Now, they have to spend endless amounts of energy trying just to get you to buy their record or go to their show. This is bigger than just music. It's happening in journalism. It's happening in art. It's happening in non-profits. Our current society is to blame. You, reader, can change this trend and keep the things you love alive.

You're closing out with Bulletproof Tiger, can you tell us why?
Kris Huesby (singer/bassist) of Bulletproof Tiger was the drummer of the first punk band I played in called The Slops back in 1997-98. So having his current band be the final release on Livid Records brings everything full circle. The new Bulletproof Tiger 7" can be streamed online.

Personally, I couldn't have asked for a better conclusion.

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I stand corrected - people are really trying to get this tape things going - But as a long term business model, I would not recommend it. Let's be honest: tapes sound like shit and only get worse with repeated plays. Plus there are not many avenues to listen to tapes any longer (and the ones that are available are slowly disappearing). Now VHS tapes. That's the future. 


could you please elaborate on " tape labels with downloadability  and trade amongst each other." Like a record label that produces cassettes but not for money but rather to trade/barter? How does that resolve the revenue issue raised by Mr. Livid? And do you propose cassettes over CDs to make it harder to put online for free? Guessing not since you also propose a downloading component (i assume its for a modest fee because otherwise we have the same revenue issue I referenced before. Of course selling a cassette in 2012 is about as good of an idea as selling asbestos in 2012. No one but the insane want it.


I encourage anyone bummed about this to make a  sweet noise project.


Hate to see this label go, but I understand the reasoning behind the decision.

Philip Bloom
Philip Bloom

I love you, Chuck. I know that whatever projects you pursue in the future will be quality.

Matt Murphy
Matt Murphy

Florida just lost a punk music beacon, but gained a sweet noise project to come. The disposability point is unfortunately dead on. I encourage anyone really bummed about this to make tape labels with downloadability and trade amongst each other.

Matt Murphy
Matt Murphy

Ha ha ha, oh my, I would not propose to have any solution for the revenue problem raised by my good friend Chuck. I'm not sure he was asking for it to be solved, and I'm not nearly that clever. That's a cataclysmic paradigm with massive historical chaos driving it that it may not even really be solvable to the degree that everyone would want. That may be a tide against which few in the music selling business can really stand intact. On that note, since I don't have any solutions to the massive and silly "problem" of not being able to successfully tell music fans to buy music in some form (and that's also kind of a problem I don't care about) I'll mention that I'm really only responding to this because I think Chuck wanted me to. So I don't actually care if anyone else reads this novel, but you can if you want. In fact, since I know Chuck is my friend and I can count him to love me no matter how my silly opinions might differ from his on some points... I actually think there should be less labels. Sorry. At least, the way we think of labels should be changed. Chuck and his label are/were totally sweet, which is why I'm sad that it may be folding. Saying that, I haven't had enough conversations with him lately to know if his label falls under the guillotine I have in mind. Lets assume that I'm taking Livid off the table as the object of discussion. Labels (smaller or larger) are a business at the end of the day. They generally show that they are either good or bad at providing a good that people will buy, and I'm generally (but not always) not interested in that. The internet sandbags that problem, and not just because everything can be easily downloaded. That level of disposability is actually kind of cool and useful in an "indestructable library of alexandria way", but its disposable in a different way, which I will exlpain. Unlike Chuck, I will call more attention to the downloads issue, but only as a part of the larger online distribution of music issue. There is way too much of it. Yes, I just said there is too much music available. There is a hyper-surplus of highly disposable musical "experiences" streaming and posting to the internet that are all way too impersonally easy to find, and that is really pretty goddamn boring and noisy. I don't care. I actually hate most of the music I'm exposed to, and I don't feel the constant need to expose to others the music I manage to enjoy, who may or may not also hate my tastes. It is actually a problem for me that a band or their output is reduced to this orphaned information of images and mp3 tracks and disembodied "bios" and silly narratives that I feel nothing about, and that might even annoy me, and not just because I'm curmudgeonly and sometimes even misanthropic as a human being in general. The solution for me is ignoring it, in most cases. And, to be totally fair, that problem was merely exacerbated by the internet. The twentieth century had some fairly dismal surplus of its own terrible pop music garbage before the internet felt helpful about spreading the content like a well-soiled diaper. Let me tell you what I do like: ephemera, special irreplaceable objects, unreproducable experiences. That's what (to me) has made the most interesting musical experiences of my life. I want something that I can't Google. I have probably never had fun in a large venue watching a band that was well funded by a label-driven record release or tour support or whatever. If I have, I don't remember. Maybe Beck and the Cardigans when I was in eigth grade in the nineties. So, I can't Google that either, but even that's not necessarily what I have in mind, since its almost equally impersonal and interchangeable. I have most valued the experience of discovering difficult to find, cryptic, subtle music ephemera (records, tapes, CD's, zines with CD-R's hand colored, etc). I can't Google most of the stuff I care most about, minus some important exceptions (Fugazi, etc). Most of them were obtained as an extension of a rare live show of some kind, typically in smaller venues (or even houses) with crowded attendance. I got to talk to all the bands as human beings, and they often even got to stay at my house. My absolute best memories lie in that cross-section of factors. My favorite labels were small labels who might not have even made enough money to keep their enterprise afloat, but did it anyway because they loved it. Once they didn't have the time, money, or energy, they called it quits, and that's fine. If I were in their shoes, I would not go in with anything other than a recognition of the mortality of what I was doing. Failure is built in as a "when", not an "if", and that's not going to stop the awesomest folks from contributing what they can when they can. Even when those folks' business folds, they can spend all day promoting their favorite band's live shows or helping them hand-silkscreen a vinyl (or even CD-R case) that they made themselves. Lets remember that this whole hyper-commodified musical product business model is a very new thing, which is not really entitled to exist. Touring Jazz bands, for example, toured before record support was reliable, and even afterward, it didn't necessarily guarantee success. If they were badass enough, they went out with or without reliable management or record support and put sweat equity into what they were doing. What they did is woven into our history permanently, and it was without all that extra bullshit. Admittedly, I'm not really sure if its as feasible now with the information overload of the internet, because people can just play mp3s at home and masturbate. Who cares, let them. The tape label thing is actually just an example of making a special object, which becomes even more of a special thing because its less easily reproduced. Its not as easily commodified. The equipment is about as expensive as any other significant hobbyist purchase might make for their bizarre interests (train sets? custom rifles? I don't know, everyone is secretly a psychopath consumer in some way in our era). The download code part is an optional bonus. I know a couple people doing the tape label thing, and from my perspective (and some others who value it), its totally magical. People who don't care about it don't care about it, and that's fine. I just think any label who didn't go in with the "when you're falling, dive" attitude infused into this - because its something they love - is probably going into it with the wrong attitude. They wanted to make money off of music, in addition to anything else that might be noble about it. That game has changed. The nearly century-long goldrush is probably over for most of the long-tail label folks (their long-tail was much shorter anyway, at the very beginning and end of the music industry boom). The big labels will survive with tightened belts because they make Moby Dick-scaled Lady Gaga concerts or whatever, and that's fine. That might actually be a fun (but expensive, and impersonal) thing to go to, I don't know. So, I applaud your acumen on at least one point, faceless anonymous internet text: I am certainly, by consumerist consensus standards "insane" on this point, and so is probably anyone else who is interested and interesting enough to try things like the tape trade. I don't even do it myself, but I buy them. You're invited to take part, up until you call us insane, at which point the invitation to go home and masturbate to mp3s instead is back on the table. Bands will do it because they love it, or not. They'll figure the rest out, and often do. Same goes for labels, if they feel like sticking around and adapting their roles and expectations for the immovable historical forces closing in on them. Chuck did some serious contribution, and decided he reached his limit, and that's sad, but also totally ok and to be expected. It would be cool if other people also made the same sacrifice, but it is a sacrifice. In conclusion, my head is a dinosaur. Your argument is invalid.

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