Tired of where the music industry is going? Sick of big labels having all the control, manufacturing genres and supporting bands that you think are crap? Perhaps you’re sick of waiting for a label to pick up your own band and sign you to a contract. Maybe you want to take the music industry into your own hands and start your own grassroots label. Well, that’s what Josh Hogan did, and this is the story of Diminished Fifth Records (D5R).
D5R was a label designed to support Josh Hogan‘s local metal scene, that of the East Coast of Canada, and to also provide a platform for his own band, Orchid’s Curse to release its own music to the world, free of big label restrictions and their imposed direction. For the past 12+ years, I’ve known Hogan to be a pillar in the local music scene in Halifax, NS, as well as the overall East Coast scene. He’s mainly known as a metalhead, perhaps mostly due to his time running D5R as well as his role as front-man of Orchid’s Curse, but he’s way more than that. As an ambassador of independent music of all genres, Hogan has made his presence apparent to anyone in the local scene, musician or music fan.
For the purpose of this article, I wanted to chat with him about his experiences, inspirations, success and failures during the life of D5R. Having started a record label from scratch and running it for nearly a decade, I was sure he had an interesting tale to tell, but I’ll let you be the judge of that. Here’s how our conversation went:
“It was a pretty quick turnaround from idea to inception to launch. With little support for metal bands in the east coast, plus the selfishness of wanting to release the first Orchid’s Curse record on an imprint, D5R was initially conceived of necessity and then molded over the years as it grew. I’d say 2-3 months from conception to birth.”
“I’d like to say yes, but honestly, I was just flying blind and learning from my successes and failures along the way.”
“I definitely always had a kinship for independent label’s like Relapse Records, but I decided early on that D5R’s goal would be to showcase East Coast Metal and work specifically with Loud bands from this region.”
“The name just fit. The Devils note. I mean how metal is that? haha. Plus I could use “D5R” for abbreviation which I always enjoyed. It came up in a brainstorming session with Brian Jones (Guitarist from Orchid’s Curse).”
“I honestly don’t know if I ever did fully find the groove. The music industry was so rapidly shifting in the mid to late 2000’s so the label was always in a semi-constant state of change to try and stay relevant. Every time I thought I found my groove, something would change. That was the case for the 9 years D5R existed.”
“There was a mix of reactions. At first I think people didn’t know who I was and what I was doing (and they were likely half right) but after The Music of Artisanship & War compilations started to take shape and after some higher profile releases (Iron Giant, Black Moor, etc…) it seemed that the majority of the community did begin to show more support.”
“It wasn’t an easy decision to shut it down, but it was the right one. It took me probably close to six months to commit to closing the label, yet only two to three to launch it. To be transparent, the label was basically a not-for-profit without the government status. Out of 26 releases I think 3 or 4 turned a profit. Eventually the workload was becoming too much and the return far to little.”
“There were many high points, but to pick one, I’d say hearing songs by Black Moor, Gallactus and Orchid’s Curse on Season 1 of Todd & The Book of Pure Evil was pretty damn cool. Although not our first TV placements, it was definitely the most well fitting.”
“Find a time machine and go back to the 80’s/90’s. Otherwise if you are going to get into, be prepared to invest the time and capital and always make sure you take care of your artists and their fans.”
“There’s still many label’s pushing onward, while many others closed down. I think it’s all about knowing your role in a bands career and development and over the years that role for label’s has drastically changed.”
“1. Make it easy for the label to want to work with you. Ex: Tell them what you are bringing to their roster instead of asking them how they can help your career.2. Build a strong fan base. Numbers don’t lie. Fans are the be all and end all.3. Pound the pavement and tour!”
“Just a thanks for the opportunity to discuss D5R. It’s been a long time since I chatted about my label days and it was genuinely fun to reflect back.”