R.I.P. Not Lame Recordings

The mark of quality

This is a very sad day for music lovers everywhere.

After more than fifteen years of bringing the best pop music bands from around the globe to the doorstep of pop music lovers, Bruce Brodeen has announced that he will close the doors, both real and virtual, at Not Lame Recordings. Both a label and a distributor, Not Lame was synonymous with powerpop music and its related archetypes, and the shop for any serious powerpop fan.

Video: Bruce’s closing message

I was first turned on to Not Lame by Gail McGear of The Poptarts who I knew from my Syracuse days. She was over the moon about discovering a company that seemed to have been designed just for her, featuring a treasure trove of powerpop bands both familiar and obscure. I quickly found that she was not exaggerating one bit, and like her, I told others that shared the same passion for music. What made it special was that the guy who ran it was as big of a pop geek as I was. His enthusiastic blurbs about the various bands communicated that same joy that their music did. The phrase extremely highly recommended became a permanent part of the lexicon.

I first met Bruce in person over a decade ago during a business trip to Colorado. We had a casual online relationship from emailing back and forth a few times, and getting together for a beer turned into a lengthy conversation about music and an invitation to tour Not Lame headquarters (translation – hanging out at his house for a little bit). If the wall to wall stacks of CDs didn’t tip you off, his energy and enthusiasm made it clear that here was a man who found the perfect situation. And for a long time, despite the hard work it was never work to Bruce – I knew he felt blessed to be in the position he was in.

From that day forward, Bruce and I were simpatico.

What started out as a simple paper catalogue morphed into a magazine-sized brochure and eventually a fully functional website with bios, sound clips and recommendations. I would have to type all night to list the bands I discovered through Bruce’s company, and I have had several musicians tell me over the years that the exposure they got from distributing through Not Lame not only made them more money but helped build a fanbase that enabled them to continue to tour and record. Not Lame released brand new music on its own label but also issued lost archives from classic regional bands and coordinated the cream of the powerpop stable for brilliant tribute albums. Their box sets were first-rate productions that rivalled the output from the major labels. Not Lame, although small in size, was a player.

Read about Not Lame’s history.

But as anyone who has a pulse knows, the music industry all but collapsed over the past decade, impacting small businesses even harder than the big conglomerates. Over the years there were many times where others would have pulled the plug and walked away. Piracy through high-speed disc copying and illegal downloads became both commonplace and easy to do. Tough economic times kept money in wallets – if there was any money to keep – and events that would bring attention to these bands scaled down. Competition arose, of course, and the ability for bands to host and facilitate their own transactions through social media and technological advances caused many to not see a need for a vendor in the relationship. All of these things led to dwindling sales and less frequent purchases. (I know this firsthand, as my own orders trickled to once, maybe twice, each year.)

But Bruce felt a loyalty to both his customers and the bands that were counting on him. A good businessman, Bruce is also a true die-hard fan of the music, and that emotional investment probably kept him in the game a lot longer than had he been a CEO reading a balance sheet with antipathy. So he made adjustments, moving away from expensive and risky label projects and focusing on distribution and community cultivation. But even through his best efforts, there just wasn’t enough of a consistent, dependable market to maintain the business, let alone grow it.

So now it is time to move on. Not Lame will close, but Bruce will channel his passion and business smarts into a new project. He’s already helped lauch the Rock and Roll Tribe, and you can click here to sign up for information about Pop Geek Heaven, and get ready to start that brand new journey in 2011. And as long as Bruce is involved, I know it will be a worthwhile adventure.

I’m all in.

Still time to place some final Not Lame orders

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8 Comments

Filed under Editorials, Music

8 responses to “R.I.P. Not Lame Recordings

  1. I bought the Jellyfish Box Set on Not Lame a few years ago and love it. Sad to see them go.

  2. I’m gonna miss you NotLame. 😦

  3. As someone who works with Bruce every day on rockandrolltribe.com (we’re co-founders) and who’s privy to the details of Pop Geek Heaven, I can tell you that this isn’t a time to be sad. Far from it.

    Bruce’s new projects will allow him to touch more lives, help more artists and do more to bring music fans together than ever before. Rather than thinking of this an end, think of this as a metamorphosis into something really, really cool.

  4. drbristol

    What’s the old saying…”when the pop gods close a door, they open a window“.

  5. Great installment, Dr Bristol.

    Bruce and NOT LAME not only carried music by the big guns in the music world, but welcomed and helped the little guys as well.
    Thank you Bruce!

    and best wishes for the future! See you at
    Pop Geek Heaven!!

  6. Bob

    I’m still coming to terms with his announcement. I promised myself that I wouldn’t cry at the news–and I haven’t. But it’s just heartbreaking to think of a world without Not Lame Records. What will us old-timers, who love the CD and LP formats, do now for our obscure music fix?

  7. drbristol

    There are other online vendors out there – Kool Kat for one – and many artists sell via CD Baby. Plus I have a feeling that Bruce’s 2011 endeavor is going to incorporate information on where to continue to obtain great music.

    As for vinyl, that wasn’t really NL’s forte, but the Coalition of Independent Record Stores is a good place to start. I’m blessed to have a couple of great stores in my town like Record Archive and The Bop Shop. I also know a great vinyl vendor who’s been at it for decades – Jack Wolak’s Rare Necessities. There are many great stores out there, you just need to do a little digging.

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