About
The Helen Scarsdale Agency was founded in 2003 dedicated to a particular thread of post-industrial research, surrealist collage, refined minimalism, caustic electro-acoustics, sublimated dream-pop, obfuscated field recordings, recombinant noise, existential vacancy, and then some.

Unsolicited submissions are currently not being accepted at this time.


aynn


The following text was published in Comfort Club, 2021 as an open letter pertaining to our demo policy, written by the Agency's sole occupant:


At the end of October, 2020, I posted a statement to Facebook and Instagram, commenting on the lack of etiquette I had noticed when it came to artists submitting demos to my label. For close to two decades now, I have run The Helen Scarsdale Agency, an imprint that began perhaps like many as a vehicle to publish my own work. It is a modest operation, and I had encountered many if not all of the artists I worked with through my lengthy tenure at Aquarius Records (and later for the manager for Stranded Records, after aQ was sold to new owners who did not want to keep the original name). The artists I work with include Steven Stapleton (Nurse With Wound), BJ Nilsen & Stilluppsteypa, Omit, Ekin Fil, Robert Millis (Climax Golden Twins / Sublime Frequencies), Fossil Aerosol Mining Project, Francisco Meirino, and many others.

Production numbers for the label have gotten smaller and smaller over the years. There are numerous reasons for this, with most pointing to the proliferation of digital streaming services as the preferred means of listening to the detriment of the individual artist, who previously could rely upon royalties from record sales to augment an income from touring, or in the case of those committed artists to decidedly uncommercial music, an actual day job. That's the reality we live in, and I chose to accept that reality for what it is. I work with those parameters to the best of my ability, and promote the work I publish as best I can.

In this labor of love running Helen Scarsdale, I will never complain about the number of orders i get during a week: small, none, or otherwise. However, back in October, 2020, I was compelled to comment on the ratio of orders to record submissions I've gotten that week. Ten record submissions to two physical orders. There was a time when I responded to each and every demo submission that I received. I wrote these responses out of the profound experience I had when I submitted an album for publication to Giancarlo Toniutti back in 2005 or so. He took great pains to detail the successes and failures of that album, providing direction and instruction for improvement. And he was right. The album I made out of that communication was considerably better. Toniutti ended up having to scrap his involvement in publishing the work due to other financial burdens, and I released it myself. That album was Telegraphy By The Sea.

Those days of responding to each and every demo submission are long gone, especially after so many artists with thin skins had their egos irreparably bruised from my rejection letters. If you are an artist and you are not collecting rejection letters, you are not doing a good job of promoting yourself. I learned that long time ago, but I also learned that doing research, making connections, and establishing relationships is the best course of action.

So, here are some pointers on contacting The Helen Scarsdale Agency. First of all, know that I am officially not accepting demos at this time. Let me be repeat this in a very blunt manner: do not submit demos to me.

I am constantly scouring the internet for new material, anyway. If you are making work that is amazing and appropriate for the label, it will find me and I will reach out. You may be saying to yourself, "But I'm an undiscovered artist, and how can I be discovered without reaching out to you?" This conundrum is, has, and will be the problem for every single artist at the beginning of their career. I will reiterate what I stated earlier: do your research, make connections, establish relationships. Through this, you should get the opportunities to play shows (currently as I write this in the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in California, playing a gig is sadly not an option), you might find that somebody may be interested in writing about your work, you could pursue getting your work on a radio show, podcast, DJ set, etc. Ask yourself how do you discover new music? Pursue those leads and others that should discover along the way. All of this takes effort, persistence, and patience.

Okay, if you feel that you really have made the next Kill The King or La Mutazione or The Drought, then I'll offer some pointers for you. If you don't know what those records are, then I would reprise my request in kindly asking that you do not send me a demo. If you STILL persist, and want to know how to approach me (and probably every label out there), it is imperative that you know your audience (in this case, me). What records have I released that you also like and possibly own? What records / movies / art / literature / etc. do we share an affinity for? How do you see what you have produced addressing a common aesthetic thread with what I have published? Articulating those ideas in an intentional manner will go a long way to getting my attention.

What not to do: do not send me material that you have blindly sent to every single Bandcamp contact that has been tagged as "experimental," "industrial," or "avant-garde." Do not send me improv records. While I can appreciate the spontaneity and serendipity of a sonic experience in a live context, I do not listen to much (if any) strictly improvised music in my free time. It just doesn't interest me. This is not a criticism of the form, just a personal taste. Similarly, do not send me collaborative projects between two people who can't be bothered to come up with a project / band name. I do not care for one-off projects between two artists who met at a festival and decided to exchange some files and call it an album. Do not send me bland ambient recordings with field recordings of birds on it. If you read this and say "Wait a minute, there were bird calls on the On Corrosion box!' My response will be, "Thank you for actually listening, but those birds are ravens which are undeniably an omen of something horrible happening, and the context of that was created by Relay For Death - and the twins can do no wrong.' And lastly, do not begin your letter with "Hey!" or "Dude!" or "Dear Sir or Madam" or even "Dear Ms. Scarsdale" — anything that shows that you can't be bothered to figure out my name. Seriously, that will get you nowhere.

I should note that when I originally posted these comments on social media, I received a handful of demo submissions as a direct response to my request not to send me anything. The context was very clear. Do not send me anything. I could only speculate that these submissions arrived out of an overstated self-importance that rejected my concerns as invalid. I will note that there was one particularly inept submission that was taking the an incredibly passive/aggressive tact laden with self-pity. I stated then and I will state again: bullshit such as that is no way to get me to listen.

Please do not take this as a discouragement against any upcoming artist out there. I am one person running one record label with very limited financial resources. I could go on, but perhaps I've said enough already.