I spend a lot of time thinking about ways we can improve the music ecosystem. We don’t currently work/live in a very sustainable industry. Between burnout, the expectation of free labour, allegations of misconduct, the general stress of mass amounts of content vs. short attention spans… there are a billion things affecting how we exist within the music scene right now. But luckily, there are companies like Share It Music bringing some much needed goodness to the scene, partnering with bands like Spirit Award to make it happen.
So let’s dive into exactly what’s happening here. Share It Music is a charitable nonprofit record label run by Cayle Sharratt. Part of the proceeds from each of their releases goes back into local charities in the Washington area. Their latest release is Spirit Award‘s Currency 7″, which will see 25% of the proceeds going towards Mary’s Place in Seattle. They’re an organization that offers “safe, inclusive shelter and services for women, children and families on their journey out of homelessness.”
So much of the industry revolves around making the highest profit possible, cutting costs and making it hard for the artists themselves to survive. Seeing a label & band come together to purposefully put their profits towards something good… first off, it just sounds like a fever dream I had once. It doesn’t sound like a real possibility in our current timeline. But here they are, truly putting in the work to make a difference.
I got to chat with both Cayle at Share It Music & Daniel of Spirit Award about everything that went into this project. Read more below, and be sure to pick up the 7″!
Daniel Lyon of Spirit Award
Fresh off the release of your new album Muted Crowd in October, you’re now releasing this 7” with Share It Music to support Mary’s Place. How did that opportunity come about?
We had worked on the songs before Muted Crowd was released, but weren’t sure what to do with them. We were introduced to Cayle and his project Share It Music around the end of last year and we just really appreciated his outlook on the industry and the importance of giving back. These days there’s a lot of pressure to constantly be releasing new music and it felt like a really great opportunity to work together. And we’re really happy about it.
The overarching theme on these songs revolves around the idea of wealth & greed, while your motivations through this release are the polar opposite. Did you write these songs specifically for this release, or did these tracks just end up fitting in with the project?
Yeah in my mind I think if you are a independent musician you are going to be on the opposite spectrum of wealth and greed. The songs kinda just fit together. We were originally going to do “Mountain” and a song called “Lily”, but when we got into the studio I was playing a piano song (“Is It Enough”) I had wrote, and Gary Reynolds (Producer) said to me “That’s the song! That’s the fucking song!” So we wrote out the rest of the parts for “Is It Enough?” in the studio and recorded both songs live. It was a little different and more vulnerable than stuff I’ve usually done, but it felt like it was the right time for this song.
Did you choose Mary’s Place as the nonprofit to be supported by this release for any particular reasons?
We played a show in Seattle where I became familiar with them, and was so excited about the work they are doing. There is so much that needs to be done as far as homelessness in Seattle, and while we all want to help, I don’t think any of us know where to start. I’m thankful that there are people like them, and Share It Music who care deeply about the people in our community. I’ve often contemplated that in anytime during my music career I could have been homeless. The truth is, I have $20,000 of credit card debt from the last 10 years as a musician (insurance payments, van, gear, medical bills, $3,000 worth of stuff stolen from a craiglist roommate, and living expenses at time), and if it weren’t for that crutch at times, I would be homeless or not making music. I’ve been lucky to also have friends who have let me stay in their home or offered up a cheap room when I was touring a lot or out of work.
What other moves do you think the music industry could make to be more socially conscious or beneficial to others (in the way that this release is)?
Most of the time when you see non-profits or benefits as part of an event or project, it’s clearly tied to the project’s success or monetary gain as a whole. That’s not the point of helping people or causes. And the music industry has a long way to go in helping communities, especially its own artists.
I also believe that cities need to recognize more of the culture, appeal and economic development value that music (and artists) bring to a city. It seems like there’s a lot cities can do for artists like offer artist/low-income housing, grants for musicians, well paying gigs and other incentives. I’m obviously all about supporting these community causes, but I do believe at a certain point, we’re a cause in our own way and we need to hold the industry and our communities accountable to take care of the artists as well.
What does 2019 have in store for Spirit Award? What else should we be looking forward to?
As a band, 2019 is bringing lots of changes. We’ve put out two full lengths and a 7″ in about 18 months and just wrapped up a month in Europe with a stop in Morrocco. We’ve just been non-stop. We’re doing a west coast tour next month and just touring as much as we can. I’m excited to get back into the studio to start working on a new record this summer.
Cayle Sharratt of Share It Music
First off, can you tell us more about Share It Music and how it all works?
Sure thing! Share It Music is a 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit organization, but otherwise operates as a record label. The rules and regulations governing the label require that directors receive no income from the organization. So I don’t personally receive any income from the label. Instead, the work that I put into the label is considered a volunteer contribution. Of course, the bands and their community organizations of choice will be paid. And although there aren’t any label employees, I’ve had a lot of help from friends and co-workers at Sub Pop Records each offering their time and resources. Also, Share It Music releases are distributed by Sub Pop Records.
From starting as an intern at Sub Pop Records to starting your own nonprofit, community-based label, it’s clear you’ve had a journey in the music industry! What are some of the things you’ve done between Point A & B that got you to exactly where you are now?
Yeah, I started as intern at Sub Pop in the sales department way way back in 2007! Pretty much immediately I loved the atmosphere, and the culture, and the people, and the work too. From there, I made it a point to try to find a way to make it my career. So I did a bit of part-time and temporary work projects at Sub Pop until I started a full-time position at PlayNetwork, an in-store music service and programming company based in Redmond, Washington.
Around that time, I was also applying to law schools in the hopes of getting into entertainment law. I spent one year in Chicago while on a law school waitlist, where I didn’t end up being admitted, but did work for a brief time at Thrill Jockey Records and volunteered at The Merit School of Music. The following year I reapplied to Seattle University School of Law and was accepted! Once back in Seattle, I kept in contact with friends and colleagues at Sub Pop and was invited to intern in the licensing department and then the business affairs (legal) department. After I graduated from Seattle U in 2013, I was offered a full time job as part of the business affairs team.
When I was applying to law schools, most often, my personal statement letters included a discussion of my dream of starting up a nonprofit record label that merged music and social causes. A few years into my Sub Pop tenure I brought the idea to the top bosses and asked if Sub Pop would be willing to make a donation to get Share It Music up and running. They said yes, and now it’s a reality!
In an industry as greedy as music, what was it like starting Share It Music? How was it finding other people to take part?
My experiences in the industry have been mostly pleasant so far, but I certainly hear what you’re saying and know that not everyone has the same perspective based on their own experiences. The launch of the label has been exciting, challenging, and rewarding, among a bunch of other feelings. It’s exciting to be able to achieve a goal with the support of others. It’s been challenging to learn the aspects of operating a label that I was otherwise unfamiliar with (for example, publicity and production issues), as well as working with small budgets and grand visions. And it’s been rewarding because I feel fortunate to work with great artists and other people that share the same passion for supporting and recognizing social causes.
It hasn’t been difficult to find and collaborate with people to take part. I think both the mission and financial structure of Share It Music make it appealing to artists and organizations because it levels the playing field, or at least attempts to do so. The artist and label are both incentivized to keep costs under control so that not only does the artist maximize their earnings, but the donations to the community organization of the artist’s choice are also maximized. I think people appreciate and connect with the authenticity and originality of the structure.
What sort of “pipe dream” goals do you have for Share It Music as it grows?
Before we launched, I dreamed of Share It Music as a chapter-based operation. For example, there’d be a Share It Music – Pacific Northwest chapter, a Share It Music – Nashville region, a Share It Music – NYC, even Share It Music international locations, and so on, and so on. But the very first band we started working with is from Sydney, Australia, so the regional, chapter-based approach maybe isn’t all that necessary. Otherwise, I’m all for other people replicating the nonprofit organizational structure and starting their own labels. In fact, my inspiration for this model came from Sub City Records, an offshoot of Hopeless Records. Sub City is a nonprofit label as well and has been operating since 1999.
How can artists get involved in Share It Music? Are there ways for music fans or industry members to get involved as well?
Artist involvement, as far as Share It Music as their would-be record label, is tricky only because we work with such small budgets. Of course, there’s so much interesting and unique music out there that it’s beyond our capability to work with every artist we want to work with because we literally can’t afford to do so. On the other hand, we’re always interested in hearing what artists are working on, so we wouldn’t wanna suggest that we’re not interested in hearing from them if they’d like to get in touch. I think the most logical way for fans and industry members to be involved is to support the artists and the community organizations they’ve highlighted. You can support our artists by going to their shows, purchasing merch or music, telling friends, family, co-workers about them, really just sharing your excitement about the artist with others. And you can support those community organizations by looking into them, learning about the services they provide and populations they serve.
What’s the best way we can help support?
Support Share It Music? By supporting the artists and their music! If you like the music, please buy a copy or two (available online via Bandcamp and at the Sub Pop Mega Mart). If you’re on Spotify or Apple Music, then stream the songs and follow the artists. Tell your friends and family about the artists, the community organizations, and Share It Music if you’d like. Word of mouth and recommendations are always appreciated! Of course, we’re on the web, Instagram, and Twitter too. Finally, if you’re still looking for more good karma, because Share It Music is a 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit organization, any donations are tax-deductible. So if you’re looking for a tax benefit, we can do that too!