15 Years and the End
It seems like an eternity. The passing of time while running one of the most underrated and diy independent music websites known to man (major exaggeration), seems but a glimpse to the naked eye compared to the years spent here on Earth. I have had my fair share of highs and lows while running Indie Vision Music, dating all the way back to the year 2000 when I established that very site. Read on for the full story….
In the beginning, things were quite crazy and if I were to put any spin on it, INSANE! I remember thinking about a name (with the help of a friend) and I came up with “Indie Empire” or “Indie Empire Music” but that didn’t work out so the friend suggested “Indie Vision”. I was like, “heck yeah!” let’s do it. I found after searching the web that there was already another company by the name of “Indie Vision” using up the .com name I wanted so I added in “Music” to the title and the rest is history.
I ended up registering and buying the domain name around May of 2000. I launched the website merely as a online webstore on July 4th 2000. My interest and the reason for starting the site was to share my passions for music and the hope that came from a belief in Jesus Christ as our savior and healer of the world. My Faith in God was the deciding factor in all of this and despite all the shortcomings and trials I’ve experienced over the years, has remained strong and held it’s grip on my soul. Dating back to youth, I would have to say that my Faith was monumental in not only giving me direction but also keeping the insanity to a minimum.
Indie Vision Music started as an online webstore selling independent music from a variety of “Christian” artists/bands and the like. I wanted to share this music through CD format with a world that needed a little pick me up, a little hope and healing from brokenness.
In the beginning, I designed the store front (anyone remember Microsoft Frontpage, yeah you’re glad you don’t) and used some shopping cart program (from a company I can’t recall) that protected everyone’s data and information. I used this secure shopping cart to take in orders from all over the world from people seeking low priced and hard to find albums that stores wouldn’t always carry. This was during the internet boom when I launched the site and everyone was launching websites at the time, trying to take over their piece of the market. For me, I found a niche, my own little corner of the market that hardly anyone else was touching. I was big on “Free Stuff” and made absolute sure I was giving customers more than they asked for in return for continued business and friendly encounters.
That first year all the way up until 9/11, was crazy. I was fulfilling so many orders and staying up all night trying to run the website with little sleep. I’d have to get up the next day at 5-6am and head to work in the machining field (before Aaero Swiss was launched). It was a good time but also a time of headaches and fatigue. I was shipping so much product and buying so much product at the same time that I was barely breaking even. There were many times I was going in the hole but it didn’t matter to me because I was a one man operation and had passion for what I was doing.
You see, I launched the website in 2000 because I had made a lot of money in the stock market at a young age (thank you parents) and with a small little chunk I decided to start this website/store/whatever you want to call it. Of course, I continued to chip away at that stock market earning and when 9/11 hit, lost way more than half of what I had. To be honest, I had put a small portion of what I had earned from a few years of the internet boom taking off and my stocks paying out. Against the wishes of my wife, I decided NOT to cash out most of it and put it in savings. I kept saying, “oh well it’s going to double and we are going to make good money”. Oh how wrong I was. 9/11 hit and as you guessed, I lost most everything. Future savings vanished and some of my IVM funding started to dry up. This folks is an example of when to listen to the advice of your wife. Yeah.
So I pushed on and continued to sell product. I was buying and buying and buying, more than I probably should have. I would sell a lot of it but then other albums I’d have to drop the price on and sell at discounted rate (below what I paid). Some bigger labels like T&N/Solid State/BEC decided to sell me items directly the way a good independent label should. I also got an account with Diamante distribution (which changed it’s name a few times and I forget to what) where it allowed me to buy all the stuff from Rescue Records, Screaming Giant, Bettie Rocket, Metro 1, and others. I was also buying from Pluto Records, Salad Dressing Records, Sofa Records, Blood & Ink, Boot to Head, and many other now defunct labels. Those first few years were ripe with quality independent music.
In late 2002 after compiling the Tooth & Nail compilation “I’m Your Biggest Fan Vol. 2” (see article here), and working with Scott Silletta at Vanishing Point Records, I got the wild idea to launch my own label. I decided against re-naming it something else and just brought it in under the same Indie Vision Music banner. Funding came via stock earnings that were dwindling but still there in a small capacity. Against my wife’s wishes again, I said, “Oh I can run a record label and it won’t cost much” 😦 Yikes, if only that were true.
After meeting with the guys in Dismissed at a Chevy’s (RIP) in Dana Point (early 2003) after hearing their new album “Taking the Good With the Bad“, I decided to launch Indie Vision Music the record label. I released the Dismissed album in March of 2003 to little fanfare due to my inability to really hype the album (I was a one man show with part time hours). I hooked up with a shady distributor middle of that year which agreed to buy up Dismissed albums (original artwork) and sell them to various “Christian” stores around the country. Probably not the wisest decision to trust a little known company and expect an un promoted record (in Christian circles) to just “sell”. Well they did manage to take more than half my Dismissed CDs and I was promised to be paid. I think I got the first check and reinvested it in more product/bands. So I signed Next in Line and Second Chance (later changed their name to In Loving Memory and then Forgotten Arrival).
We recorded the Forgotten Arrival album at Love Juice Labs (Dismissed/Bettie Rocket stuff/etc.) here in So Cal. The band was young and fairly inexperienced but it didn’t phase me. We worked hard in the studio and what was released in late 2003 was an album called “Through Your Eyes“. The band played a few local shows and even a CD release show but then something tragic happened when two founding members quit, soon after the release of Through Your Eyes. Then their drummer quit not long after. It left the band hanging for awhile. I think like two original members remained in late 2003 when Travis (Lead Vocals) decided to reboot the band and record a “new” song titled “Tear Soaked Dreams” that appeared on Hearts Bleed Passion Vol. 1. To be honest, I don’t have the best of memories regarding this whole situation but whatever, time moves on.
The second of the two bands I signed after Dismissed was none other than Next in Line. Sure the name was generic but something otherworldly came from Anthony Catalano (Lead Vocals/Guitar/Songwriting) and his band. He was able to capture the energy of “punk” and mix it with a solid “rock” sound which came out sounding great in my mind. They had kind of that Sugarcult vibe mixed with some of the vocal stylings of No Use for a Name, Smash Mouth and Goldfinger. It’s funny I say this because Anthony actually worked in the studio with John Feldman (Goldfinger) at one point.
Next in Line went up to Masaki’s studio (Five Iron Frenzy/Dime Store Prophets/Blood and Water/a ton of other great bands) and they worked together on the full length that would become what is “Traffic“. Traffic released in late 2003 to crickets and a lot of puzzled faces. The album was totally awesome and had great production (and mastering) but the style of music wasn’t necessarily a huge hit with the “indie” crowd. I struggled to find buyers for this and the other IVM albums mostly due to my lack of promotional funding. I was a one man show and could hardly even afford a magazine ad. I had no budget for radio, TV, print, distribution, etc. so I was relying heavily on my own self promotion through a little website without a lot of traffic (no pun intended). This DIY and I mean total DIY operation really costed me much exposure as well as promotion.
The artwork on the IVM releases (except Dismissed, Josiah and Joey’s Loss) was all done by Web X Design which isn’t around any more. The artwork on the Dismissed re-release I really loved which wasn’t by them but rather Dave Arthur’s brother, Sam. The Forgotten Arrival, Next in Line, Pennylane, and Hearts Bleed Passion artwork was pretty cheesy and not exactly my proudest moment. I think Forgotten Arrival was kinda cool but I didn’t like Next in Line or Pennylane’s artwork. We wont mention the confusing artwork of Hearts Bleed Passion Vol. 1 lol. (Quick and the Dead/HBP 2 & 3 was done by different artists but that’s a later blog post). I think Pennylane could have been something really awesome since they are from Kauai, Hawaii and had beautiful scenery on the island. Instead I was left with a stock photo of what looks like a Caribbean/florida beach haha. Kind of the exact opposite coast. Anyway, it could have been worse right?
After the releases of Dismissed, Next in Line, and Forgotten Arrival, I got this crazy manic idea to release even more albums and go further in the hole. I was taking what little of stocks I had left and pouring them into more IVM releases, which to be honest didn’t bring me any new traffic or interest. So what did i do? I signed more bands that wouldn’t tour like Josiah, Pennylane, and Joey’s Loss. These bands were excellent in my eyes but they just had trouble getting tours booked. Pennylane eventually moved from Portland, OR. back to Kauai, Hawaii where they were island locked for the remainder of the album cycle.
Josiah tried to play shows more often but then their screamer quit (Joshua) and it left the band hanging. Not only that but we received cease and desist letters from a UK rock band that sucked called “Josiah”. That band forced our little metalcore band to change their name right around the time of the Joshua’s departure and the end of the IVM record label. Again, another band losing steam right out the gates. The artwork was cool though and was done by a friend of the band who I paid to do it. We wanted to do a tip of the hat to another well regarded “spirit filled hardcore” band, Focused, by designing the spine of the CD exactly the same as that early Focused album (Bow). Most of you would probably blink and not even notice it.
The last two releases on IVM label before I closed it up (the first time) and decided to shut down IVM (the first time) were by Pennylane and Joey’s Loss. I absolutely loved these two bands and their releases still resonate with me today (along with a few of the other IVM releases). Suprisingly, Pennylane sold out of their 1000 copies fairly quick. I mostly sold them back to the band (after they received their first 100 free copies. I gave every band 100 free copies of their albums with each release). So anyway, this Pennylane album was first a band demo that I heard from a friend who passed it to me at one of my Chain Reaction promoted shows back in 2003. It was a fantastic demo and I loved all 5 of the songs on it. I decided to re-release the “demo” with a new mastering job and 3 “live” tracks to give old fans something new to listen to. We also made it an enhanced CD with a music video and other fun stuff that doesn’t work any more. (The Next in Line release also had an enhanced CD as well). So I released this Pennylane album in late spring/early summer of 2004 and it was a hit with fans of the band as well as other newer fans just discovering them outside of Hawaii and Portland (their temporary home). The album was titled From Paradise to Parking Lots which was pretty self explanatory of their experience moving from Kauai to the state of Oregon. The band had this vibe that reminded me a bit of Acceptance but with more screaming and melodic breakdowns. Not only that but they had songs of an extended length as well. Totally different stuff.
Where do I begin with Joey’s Loss? These guys were a punk band since the late 90’s and released several independent albums leading up to the one right before I signed them. I heard this album “Letters Written Without Ink” and loved the sounds flowing through it. I immediately began talking with them and came up with the idea to have them enter the studio to record a “New” album just a year after their last independent release. So the results were “Unwelcome Travelers and Other Brave Men” released in June/July 2014 and marked the end of IVM as a record label. This band had so much talent and a few of these well seasoned musicians are still making quality music as The Hotshot Freight Train. Their sound was tough to peg down and they escaped most formal genre descriptions. Was it punk? Was it rock n’ roll? Was it indie rock? They pretty much took a cue from a variety of genres and created a sound all their own. I appreciated that aspect and I am still proud of that final album by both the band and label.
So after this last album released on the “label” back in 2004, I was ready to just close up the domain and get rid of it. Something deep in my gut whether it be God or my Bi-Polar thoughts (you’re seeing a pattern now aren’t you?), told me to continue with IVM and to forgo the end of the site. To do something different is what drove me to create a “webzine” and bring the domain back to life (it sat stagnant for the better part of a year back in 04′-early 05′). I connected with a young web designer named David McDonald who introduced me to a forum run webzine, complete with the opportunity to host news, reviews, interviews, and free Hot Downloads. It was a dream to have my very own “zine/blog” to post thoughts from. To talk about passions for music and a zeal for life. We launched the zine in February 2005 and have been running the site ever since.
Briefly, there were two other IVM related releases that was a joint effort between IVM and ChristianPunk.net (no longer around). ChristianPunk.net was run by the same designer who did IVM back in 2005. The site hosted a free download of both Dismissed “Self Titled” ep and Next in Line “One In a Million” ep. These two eps were something I was definitely proud of and I believe was each of the group’s strongest efforts. These two eps are still available for download (along with all the IVM releases) still at this link here on bandcamp. Once IVM made the switch over to webzine and ChristianPunk.net went down, I decided to host these two downloads for free over on IVM under something called “Hot Downloads” a section I came up with to continue my love and fascination for all things “Free” that I felt would lend promotion towards great independent artists.
At sometime back in 2006 we made the switch to a WordPress run blog site and I was introduced to something truly phenomenal that we are still using to this day. IVM went through 4 designers in it’s 15 years of existence. 4 very talented web designers that have each left their mark in the history of that site.
I am so very proud of all the accomplishments of both the diy label and my site as a whole. I couldn’t have even attempted what was then and what is now had it not been for the supporters, the fans, the friends, the community spirit of Indie Vision Music.com. I am so thankful to God for giving me this opportunity to run IVM the past 15 years and as the site will transition now from a full fledged webzine to an active forum atmosphere, I am ready to just put it all behind me. Yes, I still own IVM and the domain name but I am ready to just let the site in it’s current form die, so to say. It’s been rough but also rewarding and I feel we’ve all together, accomplished so much. To know that the site left a mark, a relatively small mark, but a mark nonetheless on the music industry is a sight to truly embrace and be proud of.
Moving forward, I hope to see many IVM friends and readers take part in the forums. It’s a learning process for us right now and we are still trying to perfect the actual forums so that it works correctly and efficiently. The site officially meets its’ end on July 4th just so everyone is clear. Until then, you’ll still see news, reviews, interviews, and social media posts. I will still maintain the Twitter/Facebook/Instagram accounts for IVM and will post occasionally.
As I put the past behind me I want to look forward and I believe my IVM managing editor of the past 9 years, Josh Murphy, will definitely take you all to the next level. He is hoping to design and launch his very own “new” website with a similar focus as IVM although a completely different website. The approach will be new but the feel of it will remain the same. So fear not my friends, once IVM goes to sleep, there will still be sites to read and frequent with high hopes that Josh’s site fulfills that goal.
Thank you all for the love and support over the years. There are so many people to thank even many that didn’t make it into this post on IVM here but just know that you’re appreciated.
Indie Vision Music