If you don’t know him or his company, Olivier is the guitarist of the french hardcore metal band ALEA JACTA EST, he has co-founded USELESS PRIDE RECORDS and is mainly known for his printing merch company USELESS PRIDE MERCH. He distributes his label’s catalog with iMusician and we also recently teamed up with him to offer merchandise with a special opening deal for our community. We figured that there’s a lot to learn from the former “kid” who runs a successful company for 15+ years. Here’s his story.
Can you tell us about how everything started?
I always reply that I don’t remember well how everything started, but to be honest, I remember some parts:
I was playing in a metalcore band in 2005-2006 and I really wanted to play in a more rough band, at that time we called this kind of music: “brutal hardcore”. The idea was a mix of brutal parts with big sing alongs, a lot of live energy, this was the exact definition of the musical rage we felt when we went to hardcore shows. I talked of this project to some guys at the concerts I was going to and 2 of them were okay to start a band, Pierre (bass) and our former guitar player, Julien. They quickly added Mathieu (former drummer) and Vincent (vocals). In June 2006, the line up was complete and we began practicing together. That’s how we started ALEA JACTA EST.
We played our first show in October 2006 and shortly after Mathieu left the band. Subsequently Eric joined us in December 2006. I won’t tell you everything here or everyone will stop reading the interview if it’s too long! (smile). We released a demo in 2007, a split CD in 2008, our first album in 2010. That same year, Julien left the band and Laurent arrived a few months later. The 2021 line up is still the same since 2010 and since that time, we played hundreds of shows in many countries, released 2 other albums and here we are, old and tired !
Regarding Useless Pride Records, we were looking for a partner in order to release our split CD in 2008, we had 3 partners and one was missing to finalize the deal…
“I chose this name because I learned to swallow my pride and some must learn to in order to make their lives easier, and maybe others’ lives too”
I decided to create my own label and co-edit this split CD because we were finding that no one else wanted to invest some euros in the project. This was the first step of the Useless Pride journey! We have released some albums since 2008. We are not a big maker as we often release only 1 or 2 albums a year, but in 2010 I met Beni (ComeDancing Records) and we decided to merge our 2 labels and do it in a professional way. Useless Pride Records became a real company at the end of this year.
I was already providing merch for some bands since maybe 2009 (I don’t remember exactly) and I added this service to UPR in 2011. We rented an office and a workshop, which was not an easy thing (it’s still not easy ahah) but I’ll save that for another interview as I’ve already reached the 666 lines of writing.
I try to make it short but it’s not easy to manage! 15 years of life in 1 answer.
So here we are, we also print merch today and I chose this name because I learned to swallow my pride and some must learn to in order to make their lives easier, and maybe others’ lives too ahah! That just says “okay this time I won’t reply to this person because it will make things worse” ; “Okay this time I won’t enter this arena for honor because yes I’m going to show him who has guts but I know that I will also take some punches”.
I was 20 years old and the scene was occupied by people of 30 to 40 years old. I was treated like a kid. I was certainly a kid but not in a negative way. It’s not smart to make the others sink with us if we are sinking at the moment and the others aren’t. Some call it “pride”, some “ego”, some “honor”. Sometimes the honor is to shut up our fuc**** pride because it wants to show the muscles for some ego reason.
“Just wait, do your thing and the bad guys won’t go anywhere. Years after, I am still here doing my thing and they are not.”
You co-founded a record label (for mainly metal and hardcore bands). What’s important for a record label? How do you work with the bands?
I think you have to be honest and bands must trust you. I have no memory of something going bad with the bands we’re working with, we never stole the money and we never block them for any stupid reason, I often hear that labels and bands are fighting each other but I don’t have that kind of trouble at UPR.
In the metal hardcore scene, we are between the DIY punk scene and the more professionnal metal scene, so to make it short, we are a strategic mixing of these 2 scenes (ahah)! And like many kinds of music, the merch and the streaming are the main sources of income. CDs still sell well and vinyl too but average bands make 1000 CDs and 500 vinyls, this is not a high score.
What is your advice for a metal or hardcore record label manager who wants to start?
I have no particular tips to give as all the stories are different and unique.
- Be yourself: don’t try to be someone you are not.
- Don’t try to be the hardest: the hardest are often the dumbest.
Metal & Hardcore Fans
So, if you’re honest and your bands trust you, it’s easy going but are there still bands asking for a contract or something more legal document-wise? How do you deal with that? Do you have a contract template or a legal person you contact for such situations?
Most of our deals were contracted only by email, we both agreed on the conditions and then we sent an email with all the details of the deal, the band agreed by replying back that they are ok with all the conditions of the deal.
However, now we are more into contracts, as some bands are bigger. We work with different partners and need to write everything in a more serious document than a simple email.
Anyway if the band is honest and the label too, there is no reason to get into trouble. A simple email agreed by both parties is a good place to start and you just have to think about the main topics. Then another email can be written later if you forgot some points and if both parties agree, it negates the former one.
The experience taught me that a simple and clear email agreed by both parties is well better than a bad written contract. Every year I see bands in trouble with their label because a deal was unclear.
And if both parties are cool guys, s*** can happen, but the band and the label can understand that there was no intention to harm and you just have to re-write the deal with the new condition that was missing or unclear. If you are a dickhead in life, you are a dickhead as an artist or as a label, that does not change you (smile).
And you are doing merch for a lot of bands around the world. What is it like? Does it help for your label or for your band? What is the merch that sells the most, the color, the type, the design?
“Black is the new black!”
I have no idea if it helps, I don’t say that I play in a band and I don’t promote the label to my clients. Some know we are a label, some know I’m playing in a band, but I think that the majority of them don’t give a s*** (ahah)!
What color? Black is the new black! Black T-Shirt is the big winner.
And we promote and sell many many kinds of organic cotton so to be exact I would say that the winner is the organic black Tee.
How has digital music distribution helped you or what are your thoughts about all these streaming platforms taking a bigger place in the music industry now compared to CDs or vinyl?
To be honest, and you know it, we didn’t count on nor promote the digital distribution much. So right now it helps because it exists and it’s growing without effort but we have a lot of things to do with this. This is an easy income for the artists and labels, we must adapt our strategies to the modern way of music listening and it’s pretty interesting.
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