Ryme C'
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Ryme C'

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Band Hip Hop World

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Music

The best kept secret in music

Press


Do-it-yourself record company owners include rapper, students, store manager
By LAURA STEELE
lsteele@journalsentinel.com
Posted: Feb. 29, 2004

A two-story frame house with white-vinyl siding and frost-green window awnings on a quiet Racine street is home to Equainess Price's Afterlife Records. Inside, the dark basement recording studio shakes to a pounding hip-hop beat. Equainess Price does a sound mix on a computer in his home studio in Racine. Price began his own recording label, Afterlife Records, in January.

The release of the first CD on Equainess Price's Afterlife Records is planned for this month.
Milwaukee Labels
Independent music producers and store owners estimate Milwaukee has about a dozen profitable independent record labels. According to the Web site www.rlabels.com, there are about 23 independent labels in Wisconsin. They include Madison's Killdeer, Milwaukee's Beer City Records and Kenosha's Big As Kelly Records. Genres range from jazz to rap to alternative rock.

Price, a 28-year-old rapper known as Ryme C, is hoping to translate that thumping into a successful record label. After opening for business in January, Price plans to release his own album, "The Last Man Standing," as his label's first CD this month.

"I realized I didn't want to just be an artist anymore, I wanted to run my own label," said Price, who is pursuing two computer degrees at Gateway Technical College in Racine and works two part-time jobs.

In basements, garages and bedrooms, do-it-yourself record companies are being born. With home computers and shoestring budgets, the labels are being started by high school students, department store managers and just about anyone with a love of music.

"We had been rapping for a while, but we just started our label last year," said Rudy Strong, who started The Empire Entertainment with his cousin, Mark Strong.

The 17-year-old Brown Deer High School students are using the Internet and local barbershops to spread the word about their music. They say they have made about $500 off the sale of short-mix CDs and hope to release their first full album this summer.

"We charge $5 and do all the stuff ourselves. We have the skills to print CD covers, burn CDs and make a Web site. We want to take (the business) as far as we can," Rudy Strong said.

Patience is key, says another rapper from Racine. Mark Edwards, 38, started Stresz Out Records seven years ago in his Racine basement.

"We're just now starting to see a profit on it," said the classically trained violinist turned rapper. "It takes a while for people to take you seriously."

Sony and Virgin Records have expressed interest in partnering with Stresz Out and its feature rapper and co-owner, James Stills, said Edwards. The label is expected to release its sixth CD in May.

"You need the financial backing of the majors to do videos and commercials. They are like a bank," said Edwards, who holds a full-time job as a JC Penney department store manager. He advises those wanting to start a label to "stay persistent. If you think it is going to happen overnight, it's not going to happen."

Edwards' label may one day become his full-time career as it did for Wesley Van Linda, founder of Milwaukee's Narada Productions.

In 1983, Van Linda released his first two albums under the Narada label. The company tapped into adult alternative and New Age music niches. Today, the company of 70 employees is owned by EMI, the parent of Virgin Records, and has a global distribution of instrumental and world music.

"It's like every other business, you have to have a good product," Van Linda said. "Distribution is critical. Without distribution, you can't do anything."

About 60,000 independent labels have popped up in the past few years, said Daryll Deanna Schwartz, a New York writer who has written several books on how to run an independent record company. A former teacher, Schwartz ran her own label for five years.

Independent labels are proliferating because of affordable technology, the Web and supportive fan bases, Schwartz said.

Some entrepreneurs find doing it yourself can actually eliminate some of the headaches of running a business.

After delays with the first shipment of his CDs, Price has decided to produce everything entirely in-house.

"It's a lot easier than I thought to produce your own CDs. All it requires is (a computer), a high-quality laser printer, some blank CDs and some time," Price said.

Gateway students are helping Price cut production costs of Afterlife's first CD. Marketing students at the college will receive extra credit for producing his promotional posters. Gateway's graphic-design students will compose Afterlife's Web site.

Afterlife CDs will be sold through Itunes, Emusic, Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble under an agreement with New York distributor The Orchard, Price said.

The rapper said he started his business with about $5,000 of start-up capital from his person - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


Discography

Last Man Standing (National CD Release).

There are 3 more CD's due out this summer.

I do not have streaming audio or radio airplay at this time; however, I do have downloadable content on our company web site.

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

The music I do is what I like to call Hood Hop. It's Gangster rap, Club bangers, and love songs all rolled into one. There is no one style of music in my set.

Some of my influences were Big Daddy Kane, 2Pac, Dr. Dre, Will Smith, Jay Z, and many more.

What set me apart is the fact I am not afraid to say and do what I feel. People seem to respect that. I may rap about the street life but that is because I have been there, but I always try to put a positive spin on whatever I do.