Business-savvy labels might get to bring independent music to a wider audience, but it's up to small-scale labels to support emerging artists and build up their scenes. "Good dudes gravitate towards each other," says Livingston. He's speaking from experience — TDB Records focuses on metal/hardcore, but when Livingston (who drums in Ramming Speed) was trying to throw his first show, Dan Shea, Boston DIY champion and founder of the garage/psych-leaning non-profit live-music presenter Bodies of Water, was the first to offer up his house as a space. "It doesn't have to do with what genre or what clique you hang out with," Livingston says; what's important are "people who share information about things like venues and pressing plants."

As labels learn from each other and forge local and national ties, certain tropes fall into place until, even within the supposed badlands of the digital DIY frontier, there's a certain infrastructure. In the long run, figuring out how to run a label is a lot like curating the artists you sign — try new things out, follow through, trust your instincts, and hope you make a name for yourself based on quality.

"Often times it's not a profitable venture, but I think those are the labels you hear about far into the future, who make an impact," says Lee, referring to both emerging and mid-level labels that stay faithful to an artistic vision. "If all you're worried about is whether it's red or black on the balance sheet, then why are you even doing this? Start a carpet business." ^

For individual profiles on TDB + POLK RECORDS+ KASSETTE KLUB + YDLMIER TAPES, go to thePhoenix.com/onthedownload.

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