This weekend I get the opportunity to introduce you to Nele Buys co-founder of Consouling Sounds: a record label, store, and promotional platform for indie artists; she came highly recommended by a few followers of the blog and had been on my radar for a feature. The record label focuses on the niche of doom, drone, sludge, post-metal, experimental, electronic and all kinds of music with a dark aesthetic.
We love music that’s not genre specific but which seeks and breaks conventions and boundaries.
The focus is on the physical release, and they work in close relationship with each artist, who remains the owner of the music and the project. They also have a flagship store in Ghent, Belgium, where they sell a wide range of music on vinyl and cds.
When she’s not running a label or store Nele loves cooking, hiking in the woods and teaching her two daughters about the world, and being taught by them. “Kids make you look at life in a totally new way”.
How did you get into your industry / What motivated you?
In 2007 my husband Mike Keirsbilck wanted to start a record label and so he did. It was very small in the beginning, but the intention to let it grow was present from day one. And so we started looking for distribution straight away. This was a very good move because by 2010, we had distribution in most parts of Europe, the US and Canada. Somewhat later we had the honour to help with several releases of Amenra. This is an amazing band we still work for regularly and which has helped us develop in ways we could not have imagined back then.
In 2014 my husband wanted to take it one step further and open a store. At the time I helped him write the business plan and set up the store, but professionally I was still doing something else entirely. However, the label kept growing and my help was needed more and more, so one day I found myself placing orders for LPs and doing promotion. Today, almost 5 years later, I am overseeing production, distribution, online sales, customer service and strategic development. When I look back now, so much has happened in the past 5 years, it’s almost incredible. The weirdest thing of it all is, it feels like we never had any big plans. Everything we have done was based largely on gut feeling. But it always turned out to be the right path to take.
Don’t be fooled though: ours is still a relatively small label. But it’s not because you’re small that you can’t choose a professional take. We work with three people and we have some fixed freelance partners. We are simply lucky to have developed an extensive network of partners all over the world. This is what makes it work and keeps it going, and what makes it possible to have a wide reach.
I am very aware that without the support of our artists who believe in us, or the fans that find new music through us, we would not exist. But we would also have no reason to exist. And that’s what keeps me motivated: the thought that we exist because people value this form of art.
See, you can call it niche and underground. It certainly isn’t mainstream music, and it proves to be difficult to get recognition from traditional media platforms or governmental institutions, certain venues or companies. But there’s a whole other world out there, and it thrives on its own. Beautiful.
What is a day in the life like?
I get up, together with my husband we get our children ready, and I ride my bike with them to school. After returning home I go to my office, which can be the kitchen table, a table in our store, or the desk in our actual office and start working. Most of what I do for Consouling Sounds is organization. This involves overseeing the production at the pressing plants, getting all the files in from musicians and designers. You wouldn’t think it, but a lot of time goes into this.
Next to this I also prepare the communication towards the distributors and follow up what they order. I oversee their orders and also online orders made by customers directly. I do a lot of evaluation of how we run things and I am constantly evaluating our production partners, partners for shipment, partners concerning IT-support, partners for distribution… and our own processes of organizing ourselves. I constantly look for venues, organizations, festivals that would be interested to work with us. All this may seem boring, but to me it’s like I am forever laying foundations for new extensions of the house that is Consouling Sounds. So yes, a lot of what I do involves strategic planning, investigation, … dreaming, basically.
In the afternoon I go get my kids and we spend some time together, eat together, connect. After they are off to bed, I start working again. I don’t often get to attend live shows, for the simple reason that my days are packed. So when I finally do end up in a venue, you can bet I enjoy that very much.
What has been your favorite / the coolest thing you’ve worked on?
The coolest thing we ever did was to make a vinyl in only 1 week, from recording to pressing to presenting it. We did this during the Dutch festival Incubate in Tilburg. Sadly, this festival doesn’t exist anymore. But in 2014 we had a pop-up there and made this feat happen with the aid of Record Industry, the Dutch record pressing plant. Since then we also have done other cool projects thanks to them, like a UV-printed vinyl, one of the first that were ever made. Record Industry is a top notch company always experimenting with new ideas making unique LPs. I’m grateful we get to work with them the way we do.
What has been / is the most difficult part of your job?
Getting the Amenra Mass VI LP ready on time for the release, in the fall of 2017. We suffered major production problems with this release because of technical difficulties at the pressing plant involved. Part of the LPs got delivered just in time but part could only arrive with a huge delay. It had been out of my hands, because we had been working on it for almost a year in advance, and even though I knew I wasn’t to blame, it was frustrating that I did not have the leverage to get the solution we needed. In the end, we just went with the flow and solved what we could, but the stakes were high and the stress level was excruciating. I lost ten years of my life over that one! But Colin (of Amenra) giving me a hug afterwards and thanking me for all I did, made it all worth wile.
What advice do you have for someone wanting to get into pursuing what you’re doing?
As I explained, I got here by coincidence. It turned out to be the best coincidence ever. As we regularly have interns I do encounter a lot of young people who actively decide they specifically want to work in the music bizz. If they would ask me for advice I would tell them to never accept things the way they are. It’s a continuously changing business, so you have to be ready to get shaken around a bit. You have to be in it for the long run.
Also, nobody gets where they want to be on merit alone. I don’t trust people who claim they do. When you succeed in attaining a goal, it’s because you worked for it, but also because of context. Meeting the right people at the right time. So be grateful for opportunities handed to you and grab them. Don’t sit around waiting for things to happen, just go out and try to make it happen.
Show up. Be there. But give it time. Stay humble, share with others, don’t keep your ideas to yourself. Stay as far away as you can from negative people. But mostly: just be yourself. Focus. You’ll get where you need to be.
Are you a vinyl collector yourself? What drew you to it?
Yes! I collect second hand jazz albums. This is because the first ever LP I bought, was a second hand box with music by Billie Holiday. I bought it in Chicago on a trip I made with my dad. My father is not really a collector of music, but he wanted to show me Chicago and decided record stores were part of the vibe of the trip. This was my first ever LP and I still like to go trough crates to find tattered old sleeves and give those LPs a second life. I don’t buy on discogs, or no, just once, for an LP by Jack Sels. I just like crate digging I guess.
What types of things are happening in your industry / with vinyl that you’re excited or worried about? i.e. innovation, or trends you’re seeing.
Well, I am not really worried about anything concerning Consouling Sounds and its position in the music scene. Worries are not productive and don’t get you anywhere. When I hear other people in the business complain about how hard it has all become, I think to myself: If you can’t enjoy what you’re doing, then why bother? Of course it’s hard: the music industry has undergone tremendous change in the last 30 years. If you stick to old ways of doing things, of course you will suffer. But times of change always create opportunity for those who are prepared to think differently. These times you need to adapt faster and quicker than ever, and you need to want to think ahead all the time. No, as far as I’m concerned, these times are very exciting.
The Internet has made it possible for advanced music lovers to look for music all over the world; social media has given them a way to unite and form a community. Vinyl still plays an important role in this. A vinyl collection is proof of a passionate dedication to music. Collectors cherish the music they choose to obtain by buying the LP and placing it on their shelves. Of course there are always challenges: when you work on a global scale, political evolutions can harm you. Since we have a good distributor in the UK impending Brexit might have serious implications. But then again, there’s China. So like I said: every challenge brings about new opportunity.
Anything else you want to share?
First, I am amazed about how young children discover new music. It’s through YouTube channels and through online gaming. Interesting! Never shy away from what interests 9 year olds. They will be 25 before you know it and will determine the world.
Second, for those interested: we have a subscription series. Every year in January, you can subscribe to all of our releases of the coming year. You don’t know what you’re gonna get, but you will get them at a discount, you will always have the limited edition, and you get some extra goodies. We have subscribers from all over the world. Contact us if you’re interested or check the website!