Co-founded by international man of exquisitely tailored suits, Matthew Dear, Ghostly International is an independent label based in Ann Arbor, MI. Since its inception in 1999, the company has grown its roster to exemplify some of the most boundless talent churning around in what the label calls the category of “avant-pop.” Along with electronic master Dear, Ghostly has played host to the music of Phantogram, School Of Seven Bells, Dabrye, Gold Panda and Com Truise, whose commonality is brought together less by sound than it is vision.
Day-to-day Ghostly main man Jeff Owens spoke to CMJ about the label’s outlook on music, tips on how to become a Ghostly artist and haikus (no, really).
(Note: Owens was going to submit a photo of himself to run alongside the story, but as he says, “I do model, but I have a contract stating no model shots for music websites. Damn contracts.”)
What’s your involvement with Ghostly?
My “title” is label manager. This can range from being involved with A&R, pseudo-management, physical/digital distribution, publicity, radio promotion, marketing, social media and more. In a nutshell, I am the mother chip in the computer that spits out all the information relating to label projects to the proper authorities. It would not be possible without the artists, Ghostly staff, interns, designers and companies we work with on a daily basis.
What is the ethos of your label?
We believe in providing what we deem works of high quality, integrity and individuality. The art is equally as important as the music. We try to build a culture around the label. We want it to be more than simply releasing an album.
From an independent label’s point of view, what have been the most significant changes in the music industry over the last three years, and what actions has Ghostly taken to respond to these?
Transparency. I feel the fan is now in control more than ever to make choices and that there is no magic key or amount of money that will sell more records from an indie perspective. As the label, focus on the curation and let the people decide. I think we have been responding with more creative ways at presenting projects and the label (Matthew Dear’s Black City totem and the Ghostly Discovery app are examples). Ghostly has always seen itself as more than a label in the traditional sense. We feel we are an art gallery of sorts presenting musicians, producers, DJs, designers and are interested in working with technology as opposed to fighting it. The medium in how music is consumed constantly changes at a faster pace daily, and people want choices. We all consume differently, so let’s offer the ability to have our artists heard on as many platforms as possible.
Your approach to artists is to be “genre-less.” With that in mind, what is your methodology in choosing the ones that you sign vs. the ones that you decline?
There is no four-step process. We like to trust our guts. Somehow, it’s always about if it feels right. We work in a wide range of genres. We like to think we work some of the best within those genres. Ghostly is an eclectic group of people that have a wide range of tastes.
Best way to catch Ghostly’s attention?
Don’t try to catch our eye. We’ll come to you.
Worst way to catch Ghostly’s attention?
At a merch table with a demo in hand. No, really.
Please write a haiku about Ghostly.
Art and Artifice
Cheese is to pizza as Ghostly is to:
Who is Brian Peters, and can you tell us a bit about him?
We found him at a bar in Ann Arbor, MI, kicking people out when they got too rowdy. We needed some muscle to keep the “knock on the the door, here is my demo hand-off artist” from infiltrating the office. Nothing but tumbleweeds since then. He works merch tables for extra loot on the side should anyone be looking.
Best piece of advice to impart to Ghostly hopefuls?
I highly suggest you create what you want, not what you think Ghostly or any label would want you to create. Come on, everyone knows this, right?