Tanglewood Productions finds growth with recording label
The music industry is going through massive changes as a business that once was dominated by the few has become a field wide open to everyone.
That’s creating opportunity for Michael Eardley, who with his wife Catherine owns Reno’s Tanglewood Productions.
“The Internet happened,” Eardley says. “It’s affected every business and it’s rewriting all the rules for everybody. There’s never been a time in history when an individual artist can create a track in their bedroom and have it instantly accessible to the entire world. Now the trick there is that everybody can get it available to the entire world. How do you cut through to make yourself known? There is an unlimited supply of product.”
Tanglewood’s answer, driven both by the seismic changes in the recording industry as well as the challenges of the financial crisis: Creation of a recording label, A.W. Tonegold Records. It focuses on three genres: jazz, contemporary and classical music
“The concept of actually doing the record label came out of this slowdown in northern Nevada,” Eardley says. “We had much more studio time available than we could sell. And I just felt like, ‘Let’s not let that go to waste, let’s invest in our own package.’”
His pitch to artists: A better financial deal when they record with A.W.Tonegold. Once the costs of production are realized, the label enters into a partnership with an artist and they split the revenue equally.
“It’s not only that we were brave enough to do it but all of a sudden we’ve got this new entity on our hands that’s showing a life of its own,” Eardley says.
The couple’s biggest goal, and one of their challenges, comes in their effort to get into the iTunes Store.
They tell this story: Tanglewood records the Nevada Chamber Music Festival held annually in Reno. A couple of years ago the festival brought in soloist Bella Hristova.
Eardley was so impressed he offered to record her next CD. She accepted.
“But when it came time to get Bella on iTunes I got stonewalled. They said, ‘Sorry, we don’t deal with classical music at all.’ We were pretty frustrated by that,” he says. (The music can be downloaded from the company’s Web site at awtonegold.com.)
Then the head of the Reno Chamber Orchestra, the festival’s host, pointed Eardley in the direction of Naxos.
“Naxos Digital Distribution is the largest classical distributor in the world. They have thousands of albums on their catalogue,” he explains. “But the chances of this young record label out of northern Nevada even showing up on their radar screen was pretty nil.”.
Although Naxos wasn’t accepting submissions, Eardley found they would look at available products. He sent Hristova’s CD to their office in Hong Kong.
Two weeks later an e-mail arrived, introducing Eardley to a Naxos lawyer in Nashville.
“I immediately called this guy and he said, ‘We’re very interested in your product and we hope we can strike a partnership with you.’ I just about fell over,” Eardley says.
Adds his wife, ”It took two days to kind of process the information. He just kept on going back to the e-mail and reading it, talking about it. It was really kind of funny.”
Eardley credits Hristova for opening this door and now they’ve submitted her CD for consideration in next year’s Grammy awards program. He’s board member for the San Francisco Chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the organization behind the Grammy Awards.
“Bella is a huge hope for us,” he says. “It’s always been my impression that good stuff will find it’s way but we’re a real long shot at getting the recognition this album deserves.”
As the Eardleys gear up for all the accounting needed to handle international distribution they’re searching for the next artist to work with. It’s an ongoing process but they know their label is showing promise in a challenging business climate.
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