Music over money
Like many musicians, Portland's Cat Hoch just wants an opportunity.
She wants a chance to play music for people, and make and sell a record with a label's help.
The opportunity has arrived in a unique form. Hoch was the first artist signed by fledgling Amplus Records, a Portland nonprofit label with its 501(c)(3) status pending. It's been started by Kevin Sells, president and founder, with the help of volunteers and a board of directors.
"I know a lot of people who have record deals, and they're with labels and make diddly-squat," said the indie multi-instrumental artist. "They're helping me print vinyls, which is extremely expensive, and in my eyes that's a good deal. I'm down for that.
"Everybody wants money (as a label). This seems the opposite of that."
Hoch played a show in late July as Amplus Records officially launched, and she'll play an album release party for "Temptations" on Tuesday, Oct. 1, at Mississippi Studios. A couple days earlier, she'll play at Music Millennium.
The label also has signed the band Fringe Class, and Sells said one other act could be signed soon. That's a start, he said, as Amplus doesn't want to rush into things.
Sells said the label can do fundraising, receive contributions and apply for arts-based grants as a nonprofit — not to mention its tax benefits — and Amplus Records promises Hoch and other acts that the artist will get the majority of revenues.
"The music industry can be evil," said Hoch, who has opened for Portugal. The Man, among others, and played at Pickathon. "Whereas, signing to a big label would be awesome and dreamy, it's not as glamorous as you think. People get caught up in signing with labels and they don't really get anything. This was an intimate family type of thing. It'll be exciting to see how we help each other. It's a learning process for both of us."
Sells, who's from California and lives in Portland, admits that it's a label in its infancy. By his research, he doesn't know of any other nonprofit labels in the Portland area. He said he knows of three nonprofit record labels in the world.
He said Amplus Records has been building "infrastructure" for the past year before opening for business in June. He and others have not taken a salary, yet, but he does envision operating funds in the future; Sells said he works a couple other jobs. It's very much in its infancy.
"We want to change the script of how people think about record labels," Sells said. "You hear horror stories of loans and recruiting and shelving artists. For any artist we know of who has had success with a label, there are thousands who haven't.
"We're more of a support group than a record label — artist-forward, and with all contracts instead of them just making some royalty points, they're making the majority of royalty points. We come in to lend support, and help with recording and distribution and more. ... We can't compete with the resources of Capitol, Universal and Atlantic. We'll never have those resources, but we hope we can help make music to make enough noise to gain their attention, and the artist can make a living."
Indeed, it'll be a goal of Amplus Records for artists to move on to bigger labels.
"We do have contracts with artists ... but we want them to work with us and not feel trapped," Sells added. "We want to mentor and support and help them grow to the best of their abilities."
The label has high hopes for Hoch.
"She's amazing. Her music is a part of her," Sells said. "We owe a lot to Cat. I'm from California and moved to Oregon with this crazy idea, and Cat took a chance on us."
Hoch, whose style has been described as dreamy, jazzy and psychedelic pop, had been working on the album for about four years. It addresses themes of grief, death, breaking up and addiction "that I sort of started to write about as therapy. It's a weird album."
But, it's going to be produced and distributed on good ol' vinyl. It's quite a thrill for Hoch, whose first single, "Say U Love Me," can be viewed as a video on YouTube.
What's next? "Portland's my favorite place and my home base, but I'm ready to get out of Portland and tour," she said.
Cat Hoch plays an album release party for "Temptations" at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 1, at Mississippi Studios, 3939 N. Mississippi Ave. Tickets: $10, $12 at door, www.mississippistudios.com. She'll also play at 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 29, at Music Millennium, 3158 E. Burnside St.
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