Cut is a record label releasing music from mostly underground and emerging talent.
Curated by Stillhead, we release a range of genres, but tend to cover the deep end of the electronic music spectrum.
I had just dragged myself, knees aching, off the snowy mountain slopes to our cosy cabin in the French Alps.
It was January 2011, and I was spending a week “away from work” with some friends.
Feet up, with a warm beverage I had taken the afternoon off sliding down hills on a metre and a half of laminated fibreglass.
I was spending the afternoon in front of my screen, preparing myself for a monumental plate of tartiflette.
That afternoon the Cut logo was designed.
I didn’t design it with anything in mind at the time. I was just playing with the idea, but after it was done, I felt it needed a home.
Already having a label for “regular” digital releases, I decided I wanted to try something new.
I could see a relatively big gap in the market, between properly packaged digital releases and free tracks that producers would throw out there without any consideration.
That seemed like a gap that could be filled.
Why not catch the producer before they waste their time sticking something on a free host, badly named, tagged and with no artwork or consideration? Why not help them properly package the tracks they would have given away for free?
It almost seems counter-intuitive to want to add value to something someone was going to just give away for free, but regardless, I felt a pull.
So with that manifesto in mind, Cut was born.
After releasing our first various artists compilation (Cut Volume 1) in April 2011, over the next 3 years I slowly built a catalogue of 18 free releases.
Cut helped bring artists like Essáy, Rain Dog, Thefft, Great Skies, Mekha and loads more to a new audience.
Each release was offered as a “pay what you want” on Bandcamp, or for “free with a Tweet” through our site.
I even managed to host a small showcase event in Edinburgh complete with custom visuals (supporting Sepalcure on one of their UK dates).
With every release, the audience grew. Cut got around 600-1000 new downloaders with every release, until by the time I got to Steve Foulds’ Polar EP (our 18th release) I had in the region of 14,000 people on our email list, all waiting for me to tell them about new releases.
Emailing that many people at once (with the methods available at the time) was proving rather costly, and the money Cut was getting from those kind enough to spend a little money on the releases was not enough to cover both mastering costs, and the cost of emailing the list.
Something had to change.
After trying a few sponsorship avenues without much luck, I decided to try something new.
A friend suggested that if even a few hundred people were to pay a tiny amount each month, that would likely be more than enough to fund the cost of releasing on a small scale.
I introduced a new model for the label. Cut records would become subscription based.
This meant that all of our releases would now only be available to those who paid a tiny monthly fee for access.
In addition to that, the extra income would allow me to invest in getting new releases every month.
Initially just a couple of hundred people signed up to the subscription model. It would seem paying for music is not high on people’s agenda.
That said, it was enough to continue the label, so we pressed onwards and started releasing something new every month.
As we approached our 40th release, it felt like a good time to consider a physical release to celebrate.
I started a crowdfunding project and successfully funded a compilation, containing a single track from all of our first 40 releases. It was called “The First Forty” and was released as a limited edition of 100 box-sets, each containing 4 vinyl-style CDs, in miniature vinyls sleeves, complete with inner-sleeves, and a Cut branded green cloth (a lens-cloth, but for those with some imagination it was a vinyl cloth for their “vinyls”!).
At the 40-mark, We managed to boast around 400 subscribers, and Cut had a unique offering for subscribers and artists.
They got to easily support and discover a range of new and emerging artists for the price of a chocolate bar each month.
They got an up-front payment for their music, professional mastering, artwork, packaging and a guaranteed audience for their release.
After another 10 releases, it started to become clear to me that Cut was struggling to grow. Subscriber numbers were fluctuating, but not going above the 400 mark, and it was becoming increasingly difficult to dedicate time to sourcing high-quality releases every month, as promised in the subscription offer.
I felt that not being able to dedicate enough time to curating releases each month would mean the quality would suffer, and I was not willing to compromise on the integrity of the catalogue and what I have built with Cut.
An announcement at the start of November 2016 signalled a switch from subscription to regular label status. The subscriptions have been cancelled now, and our content is available in the same way a regular label operates, in an attempt to relieve the pressure of regular releases.
Right now, I want to continue to release great music from new and emerging artists, and just ease back on the regularity of the releases. It won’t be one every month, but hopefully we will see a handful of great releases each year.