Peter Slavid writes:
Sad news from America with the announcement that Cuneiform Records, one of the most innovative of record labels is to stop releasing new CDs for 2018.
Today’s press release states:
“For 2018, Steve (Feigenbaum, the brains behind Cuneiform, in charge of A&R, [..] overseeing all business and legal matters, including sales, distribution, manufacture, licensing for media and more) will take a year sabbatical to determine what direction the label could or should take to be viable again in the future.
Because sales of recorded music in every format – digital, cd, lps – have dramatically declined for everyone in the music industry, it is no longer feasible for us to run a record label in the same manner as we have for the past 35 years. For Cuneiform, 2018 will be a year to rethink, retool and evolve the label. During his sabbatical, Steve will continue to maintain Cuneiform’s catalogue, oversee digital and physical album sales, pay twice-yearly artist royalties, oversee licensing and other legal matters, and keep Cuneiform Record’s official website updated, including updating the Tour page for concerts. But, while Cuneiform released an average of 15 albums a year for more than three decades, no new releases are currently scheduled.”
Cuneiform has been one of the very few labels to treat European Jazz seriously with 2017 seeing new CDs from artists including the excellent bands Schnellertollermeir and Raoul Björkenheim.
From the USA 2017 also saw their first-ever Downbeat Album of the Year Award for Wadada Leo Smith’s America’s National Parks. Cuneiform had also released his epic Ten Freedom Summers.
For nearly 35 years Cuneiform have survived as an independent small business in the shadow of Washington DC, paying proper royalties, a fair hourly wage and health insurance to its employees, taxes to local and federal government, and rent to its landlord, all while commercially releasing, distributing and selling avant-garde art music internationally.
But as we all know, sales of recorded music in every format have dramatically declined for everyone in the music industry, and they have sadly concluded that it is no longer feasible for them to continue in the same fashion.
Cuneiform’s catalogue includes lots of recent and archival gems, many of them of particular interest to UK readers including recordings by Empirical, Led Bib, Soft Machine, Nucleus, Chris McGregor’s Brotherhood of Breath, John Surman, Michael Gibbs, Mujician, Elton Dean, and Paul Dunmall.
Lets hope that they can come up with a formula and a business model that allows them to restart the business and to start issuing new music again.
Peter Slavid produces a programme of innovative European Jazz on mixcloud.com/ukjazz and thejazz.co.uk