Meet Kristen Anderson, the fun and creative yet camera elusive general manger of Forced Exposure, an independent music distributor in the Greater Boston area. Forced Exposure distributes records from thousands of labels and artists from around the world, representing most genres and especially the genres between the genres.
As General Manager, I do “general things”, which mostly means doing the work that no one else wants to do or can do. It’s my job to put out fires, determine who gets trained to do what, who and when to hire, how we can improve our systems, and how to achieve various objectives that come from my boss’s desk. My hands dig into all aspects of the day-to-day operations of the company. Also important, I organize the daily vegan lunch club that is open to invited outsiders.
When she’s not at work she’s riding bikes, going to yoga or weightlifting. “Nothing beats a clean sweat!” She’s also into local politics, conservation and sustainable energy activism, whole food plant-based cooking.
How did you get into your industry / What motivated you?
Music is the motivation. I started working in clubs when I was a teenager, just so I could get into shows without an ID, I was a terrible cocktail waitress! But the work was worth pursuing because, at the time, there was an agreement between all these Boston clubs like The Rat and TT’s and The Middle East and Green Street Station: if you worked at one club, you could get into all the other small clubs for free. This was the genius of a creative, passionate, and now legendary booking agent that I worked for by the name of Billy Ruane. Goddammit, when I think of all the shows that wouldn’t have happened had it not been for Billy Ruane, I could just cry.
Soon after working at those clubs, I became interested in screen printing and scrapped together a screen printing company out of my basement, making t-shirts, posters, stickers, and covers for cassettes, CDs, and record jackets. This is how I met Jimmy Johnson from Forced Exposure. Jimmy hired me to print a Dim Stars t-shirt with wildly exciting Raymond Pettibon artwork. The Dim Stars were fronted by punk poet Richard Hell and so I was pretty excited about those t-shirts.
After that, Jimmy was coming over to my place all the time to use my graphic arts camera for his various projects. He was starting to do distribution at that time, too. Because I was computer-savy, I was able to make some key early contributions to Forced Exposure back in 1993, like adding a desktop accounting program that kept track of his inventory of Japanese Underground CDs. I also built a database publishing system to publish our catalog. That database now contains over 100,000 titles and all the metadata associated with those releases, including edited descriptions. It’s remarkable!
What is a day in the life like?
Every day is a different degree of excitement, depending on whatever great new records are coming out. I have to know what’s happening in the warehouse and communicate with our awesome warehouse manager and our shipping manager about anticipated workloads, as well as to be aware of what’s happening in our sales department. Fortunately, I share my office with FE’s brilliant sales manager, Clare Nosowitz. When Clare and I are not talking about music sales and marketing, plotting Ladies’ Nite, smashing the patriarchy, and closing our rings.
What has been your favorite / the coolest thing you’ve worked on?
There are many rewarding projects that I’ve worked on over the years, including advising on all software, working up the logistical strategy for moving our warehouse, developing our digital as well as our fulfillment department, adding more vinyl racks in our warehouse, and developing automation systems that are integrated with our websites, accounting system, and catalog publishing system.
I also love working on Poon Village, my small record label. At Poon Village, I do artwork, screen printing and custom package design, marketing, promotion, and tour support for artists that I love and who are willing to put up with me. I’m so lucky to be able to do this!
Another thing I’ve done over the years is advocate for women by hiring them and promoting them. This is a no-brainer: women are naturally better workers because they are generally more organized, less lazy, smarter, and have better instincts than men. This is not meant to be offensive to men; some of my best friends are men! Honestly, I do work with some capable men. But it is a scientific and statistical fact: men don’t live as long as women do because they evolved like cave men, with tendencies towards violence because they lack emotional, intellectual, and spiritual intelligence. Studies have repeatedly shown that women do more work at home and on the job than men do. So, hiring women is almost always the better way to go and I’m very happy to work with The Women of Forced Exposure.
What has been / is the most difficult part of your job?
What advice do you have for someone wanting to get into pursuing what you’re doing?
I’m not qualified to give advice!
Are you a vinyl collector yourself? What drew you to it?
I’ve got 3000 LPs. It’s not a huge collection, but every single one of those records is amazing for one or more reasons. Well, maybe I actually do have ONE mediocre record. But besides that one, they’re all great cuz I don’t have time for shitty records!
What I love about LPs is the ritual of playing them and flipping the sides. I love the attention that you have to pay to the music because of that twenty-minute flipping ritual. I love the fact that the format forces artists to consider every minute that gets pressed into the grooves of an album they’re crafting, and not on just a single track. I love the physicality of it and the romance of it. I love the size of the jackets and the artwork and the weight and the heft of the packaging.
When a label decides to release an artist’s work on vinyl, it’s a commitment of love.
Video of Kristin in the FE warehouse. Film credit to Sales Manager, Clare Nosowitz. There’s a whole mile of records there!
‘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.
I remain concerned about whatever the major labels’ latest attempt is to destroy the independent side of music. This year they’re trying to kill retailers with their impossibly incompetent fulfillment company which is incapable of shipping records. It’s bad enough that, in the past few years, they have tried to wipe out independent labels by hogging the pressing plants! Now they’re going back after retailers and it smells bad.
Tell me more about what you’re listening to right now:
I’m especially interested in things that are psychedelic, bombastic, and avant-garde. Also: Spiritual Jazz and Electronic Gloom & Doom. Carla dal Forno, Mattias Uneback, Daniel Schmidt, Arthur Russell, Sarah Davachi, Hildur Guðnadóttir, and Marcia Bassett.