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Local record label does something different in music industry
Often considered the “extra band member who just deals with the business end,” 80/20 Records has represented Arizona local bands for the past eight years.
The local record label does something different than most labels, which is where its namesake comes from. While most labels only give 20 to 50 percent of the earnings to the band it represents, 80/20 Records takes 20 percent of the cut, leaving the bands the remaining 80 percent.
And it’s management style is a bit different too, according to 80/20 it works with bands to find a way to express themselves while lending them guidance.
“I knew what a record label was but I had no idea how one operated,” said 80/20 Records Founder and President Mike Zimmerlich. “I wanted to do something different, but I didn’t want to do something that everyone else was already doing. I wanted to be unique. The 80/20 business rule has been my philosophy since day one.”
Zimmerlich, a musician, has entrepreneurial blood in his veins. Both his mother and father were business people, and at 18 he created his first business. Knowing he wanted to work with entertainment and technology, Zimmerlich’s passions led him to create a record label. That was eight years ago, and since then the label has helped over a dozen bands.
Currently on the roster is Phoenix band Captain Squeegee. Most of the artists are locally based, but there have been a few bands signed from California and New York. While Zimmerlich is open to all varieties of music, the label typically focuses on the indie alternative realm that is popular in Arizona local music.
“A lot of the relationships I have with artists are based on having the right chemistry,” Zimmerlich said. “We have to have mutual respect for each other and a similar vision to work.”
Despite how 80/20 hears about a band, there’s one thing that’s almost guaranteed – they represent what the local music in Phoenix is about. Zimmerlich said one of his favorite aspects of the local scene is the community. He has taken that sense of comadre and implemented it into his own business. Just as important for the interns to get to know the musicians, the artists within the label are encouraged to build a relationship with each other.
“Everyone legitimately wants to see others succeed,” Zimmerlich said. “I feel that that’s something we [at 80/20] try to represent as much as possible is trying to make sure their is collaboration amongst everyone.”
There’s a bad stigma surrounding the music industry. There are horror stories of labels trying to control artists, pushing them to sound a certain way. On one hand, it makes sense because the label is investing in the band. As Zimmerlich explains though, there’s a right way to do it and a wrong way.
“Transparency is the biggest thing,” Zimmerlich said. “I’m a very open and honest person about how I conduct my business with my artists. I make sure they understand fully what I am doing for them and what the challenges are and what the potential is ahead.”
The strategy 80/20 Records has seems to work. Danny Torgersen of Captain Squeegee is quoted on 80/20’s website saying “it kind of feels like we have some sort of mythical god watching over us.” However, what works for one business won’t always work for the next business.
Going into the music industry, Zimmerlich wasn’t too aware of what kind of work was necessary to be successful. He suggests to any others looking into joining the industry to sign up for music business classes which are often offered in community colleges. There were mistakes made and opportunities missed that Zimmerlich said he could have avoided if he sought out the right education and training.
Zimmerlich will be speaking on a panel in January about brand partnerships at the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Convention in Anaheim, and he will be a mentor at next year’s South by Southwest music festival. In the near future 80/20 Records will be looking into helping artists on a larger, national scale.
The label’s next event will be on Dec. 16 to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Captain Squeegee at Crescent Ballroom.