Sean Patrick Rhorer, Director of A & R at Blood & Ink Records

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How do you usually find bands you might want to sign?

It’s been different each time… sometimes we see a band (most often at some event like Cornerstone).  Sometimes one of us will stumble across a band online, check out the tunes, and really be interested in what we hear.  We get a lot of demos sent our way, but I can only really think of one band we signed from that (although we love hearing what people are creating, so keep ‘em coming).

What makes a band Blood & Ink material?

First and foremost, we work exclusively with Christians.  That isn’t to say every band needs to be overtly preaching The Gospel in every song, but it at least needs to be at the core of what they’re doing as a group of musicians.  Beyond that, we look for a work ethic that will coincide with our own devotion to the label… touring (this is by far the most definite sign to us that a band wants to work hard), having a clear vision and making it happen, etc.  Ultimately, it comes down to whether or not we think a band sees eye-to-eye with us and fits our overarching ideas about where Blood & Ink is headed.

What can you share about the kind of details are in a standard Blood & Ink contract?

I can’t… not because I don’t want to, but because there really isn’t a “standard” contract.  We custom tailor each relationship to the band in question, figuring out what works best for them, what feels right for us, and what we can afford to do.  There are definitely common threads throughout all our contracts, but each one is unique.  Bottom line though, we try really hard to make each deal fair and go to lengths to make sure the band members understand exactly what they’re signing.

What types of artist promotion and development does Blood & Ink give a band?  What is Blood & Ink’s philosophy on band development?  Is it the same type of philosophy of development for every artist or does it depend on the artist?

By “artist development” I’m going to assume you mean helping them launch a career that will more than likely see them leave our label for greener pastures… if I’m correct in that, we engage in this from time to time without a doubt.  Look at Burden Of A Day and With Blood Comes Cleansing, who both left the label under great terms and we all were happy with the results.  It’s definitely a band-to-band thing, as some bands just don’t want to go that route and others don’t make sense anywhere but Blood & Ink Records.  When a band is interested in this sort of game plan, we work together to formulate goals and then all give it our best shot… sometimes it pans out and sometimes it doesn’t.

In regards to “promotion,” my background is in publicity (I ran a PR firm for a couple of years that did projects for Deathwish, Ferret, Hydra Head, etc.) so we’ve done most of the press promotions internally, although we’ve started to look outside our label for help in that department recently.  As a label, we also see a lot of potential in the internet, so we do a lot of our advertising in that arena.

Have you ever had a bidding war with another label over a band?

We haven’t really.  There have been a couple of times where we’ve offered a band a deal and they decided to take something else, but we’ve never gotten into any sort of “bidding war” over it.  At the end of the day, we want bands to go with whatever they feel will work out the best and, maybe to our credit, it’s more often than not us.

It’s also worth noting that Blood & Ink falls into a weird in-between when you look at the landscape of labels right now… we’re bigger than a lot of the labels out their run as a hobby or just getting started, but not nearly as prominent as the bigger labels everyone knows.  I often find myself stumped to think of any other label right around the same level as us, which is kind of sad to be honest.

What advice do you give a band when they are going into the studio?

A good friend of the label is an engineer who has recorded a good number of our releases over the years.  We were having a conversation with him just the other day about how the age of home recordings has totally changed the world of music.  That said, it takes some very experienced people (and their trained ears) out of the equation, which I fear leads to some problems a good bit of the time.

So, my advice would be this: if you can pay a little bit more and get someone with a little more experience to do the recording, do it.  In the long run, a few extra bucks vs. a recording you’re unhappy is pretty much a no-brainer.  Also, make sure the person recording your music understands what you’re doing.  You can go to the nicest, most expensive studio in town and have a Grammy winner engineer your record, but if they’ve only ever done country records and you’re a hardcore band, I’ll guess it’s probably not going to be as awesome as spending half as much with the dude a few towns over who loves hardcore.

Does Blood & Ink have certain producers that they work with or is it up to the band?

We definitely have studios/engineers we’ve worked with that have done a great job, so we keep bringing them projects.  A few of these folks that come to mind are Troy & Joel Otte at Studiotte in Michigan, Chris Dowhan here in Richmond, and mastering engineer Kim Rosen.  If a band has a solid person in mind, we’ll always consider it, but I trust my own experiences more.

With the boom in digital music is the CD going to go away or will it always be around?

I wish I knew definitively the answer to that question.  It’s interesting that a whole new generation of music lovers are coming up without an attachment to the physical product.  If you think about it that puts more emphasis on the music being good because there’s no artwork or other non-musical elements to influence how someone feels about it.  On the flip side though, I love holding something in my hands, looking through the layout, reading the lyrics and liner notes, etc.  Maybe I’m just getting old and out-of-date…

What non-Blood & Ink bands are you listening to now?

Hmm… that’s a hard one ‘cause I listen to so much stuff that changes week to week.  Right now I’ve really been enjoying The Avett Brothers and Dixie Chicks albums Rick Rubin produced.  That dude is kind of a genius and brings the best out of bands.  The new Bane EPs have been reigniting my love for them.  This melodic punk/hardcore band from Massachusetts called Make Do And Mend released an EP last year called “Bodies Of Water” that just can’t be beat.  I’ve also been really stirred and challenged by David Bazan’s “Curse Your Branches” and forced to examine my own feelings about the fall of man.  And in the Christian realm, the new Living Sacrifice is surprisingly pummeling.


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