The Story Behind “Why Bother Records”

Why Bother Records 1Cassette tapes are making a comeback with Why Bother Records, an independent record label that specializes in releasing local music in a retro format. Since its inception in March of 2014, the label has released punk and indie hits from bands such as On Your Marks, Have A Good Season, and most recently, Halogen. The guys of Why Bother Records fulfill all responsibilities of a full-service label in house, recording music with an antique tape recorder before carrying out all the promotions, PR work, and graphic design necessary for a release—all while being full time students.

Behind the operation are John Bazley, a junior English and secondary education student at the University, and Christian Granier, a junior computer science/math science student at NJIT. Bazley and Granier have worked towards building a network over the last two years and aim to expand their label by working with more well-known artists as well as breaking new bands into the business.

Bazley explained that releasing these records has already been a fulfilling experience. “Nothing has been more rewarding than seeing our first release in person,” he said. “We made tapes and CDs for On Your Marks’ Movements In Loss EP and seeing the artwork, holding it in my hands, and hearing it play from my car stereo was just something else. A lot of time, money and effort went into that first release and to see it exist like that was incredibly rewarding.”

While their operation has been successful, Granier noted that the process isn’t without its challenges. “Every release has been a learning experience for us as something major almost always goes very wrong at the last minute, like a printing error or a few broken cassettes,” Granier explained. “Luckily, we’re able to recover and use whatever went wrong as a learning experience for the next release. At this point, I think we’ve pretty much gotten it down to a science.”

Why Bother Records 2Bazley added, “When we started out, we had no idea how to make cassettes, we had limited knowledge of PR and way fewer connections than we have now, and I don’t think either of us understood how much work goes into a single release. We spent way more money than we should have on our first release which we never profited on, which definitely set us back a bit. Since then, through research and experience, we’ve been able to make higher quality products for a fraction of the price, and we’ve gotten better press coverage as Why Bother has become more a trusted label in the local community.”

Their process goes something like this: Bazley and Granier custom order colored, blank cassettes and cases, professionally print out labels and case inserts, and spend a weekend recording the full run of tapes at Bazley’s house. Granier described the routine as “entirely DIY, and honestly a lot of fun. We usually pregame with some coffee and bagels, then spend the day in John’s room listening to the album 20 or 30 times in a row as it records to each tape, putting together label and insert art on our computers in the meantime. Assembling all the products and holding the final product in your hands is incredibly rewarding.”

Halogens’ self-titled debut album was a product of one of these weekends, and George Saives, drummer for the band, reflected favorably upon his experience. “John, Christian, and WBR exceeded my expectations in every way possible. John is so knowledgeable about the music industry and taught me so much about how to conduct your band as professionally as possible and I think that really shows in how positively our EP was received. Not to mention that John and Christian printed 25 gorgeous cassettes for us and did it all by hand. I’m very confident that the outcome of my band’s EP release would have been very different if we didn’t end up working together,” Saives said.

As for why they prefer releasing material in the cassette format, Bazley explained, “Aside from the trendy, vintage aspect of cassettes, I like tape as a format because it’s so typically overlooked. [...] There’s this special feeling of holding a tape that’s just hard to describe. It’s more personal and less consequential—perfect for the type of bands we’re working with that play intimate basement shows to small crowds of enthusiastic people.”

Granier added, “I think with the music being super digitally focused these days, what with music streaming and digital sales, it’s really nice to be able to hold a physical item from the band you’re supporting, especially if it’s pretty cheap price-wise. And maybe it’s just me, but cassettes are more fun than CDs.”

So what’s next for Why Bother Records? “We’re hoping to move into the licensed releases by the end of 2016, make bigger tape runs for bigger bands, and hope to move into vinyl sometime thereafter,” Bazley said. Both guys agreed that they’d like to keep the label going after graduating, and Bazley added that their biggest priority is to “help out bands we think are deserving of the support, and continue that as new bands are sprouting up in the community.”

For now, both Bazley and Granier will continue to balance school work while gaining valuable experience in the music industry. Of his experience so far, Bazley said, “I’ve learned a lot about making tapes and cold calling publications for press coverage, but I think more than anything else, I’ve learned that anything is possible. The record label was a dream we had in our dorm rooms in 2014, and the only reason it exists is because we were willing to put up the time and effort into making something special out of it. I think a lot of people are afraid to follow through on dreams like that because they’re worried it won’t turn out exactly right, or they don’t want to look silly if it doesn’t go as planned, but our logo is basically an emoji and we’ve found moderate success, so everything is definitely possible if you work hard enough at it.”

Granier shares the sentiment, adding that if you want to follow in the footsteps of Why Bother Records, “Don’t do it for the money, because there won’t be any. Not for a long time, anyway. Do it because you’re passionate about being involved in music, or because you truly believe in the bands that you’re working with and want to help them succeed. And above all, be genuine.”

If you are interested in working with Why Bother Records, add them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter @whybotherrecs.

images courtesy of John Bazley