Ever wonder what the inside of a record label's building looks like? I can guarantee you that it doesn't look anything like the offices at Síren Call Records.
The lobby to Síren Call Records is sort of intimidating. There are always aspiring artists hanging out, hoping to get a meeting with any one of the CEO's, hoping for a contract, some of them just wishing to be seen. However, once any one of the doors to the surrounding rooms opens, most of the fear goes right out the front door. This level is designed to put people at ease.
I took a stroll around the building with Oliver Urban, stepson of company president Sénia Urban and son of director Richard Urban. He’s been talking about taking over as the company accountant, so that in thirty years or so he can pass the reins to his baby brother and retire. “Mom always calls this the Síren Call Family, we might as well make it a family business.”
He showed me around the 8th floor, where most of the business goes down. These are the offices in which contracts are signed… and ripped up. It’s also where artists are called in to have “the talk”. Taking the World was seated at a table with CEO Jolene O’Malley, also the company physician.
“Uh-oh,” Oliver hurried me past the door.
“What’s going on in there?” I asked.
“That’s ‘The Talk’. That there is one of the bands that hasn’t submitted any music, no recording, nothing. Basically, we just spend money on them and don’t recoup any of it. Right now there are about four or five bands with the same issue. They’ll be coming in over the next few days for a little sit-down.”
“What’s the deal with them? Are they established artists who just stopped pulling their weight, or people with a dollar and a dream?”
“More like a quarter and a dream. Let’s put it this way, for some of them, their friends haven’t even heard them play.”
Snickering, I followed him down to Floor Four, the recording hall. That’s where we found the label’s strongest artist, featuring the company founders, Angels of Hellfire. They’ve been in the studio all week recording new music. Taryn McLoughlin looked up and waved. Sénia followed her gaze and waved as well.
Finally Richard noticed us, gave me a little wave, and his son the bird. Oliver stuck out his tongue and flipped him a double bird in return. I laughed when I saw Richard’s lips moving, noiseless threats behind soundproof glass.
“So what’s the biggest challenge right now for the company?” I asked as we headed toward another set of stairs.
“Just making up for the artists with no real drive. AoH and S-n-L are our flagship bands on the Rock label right now, and on Modern Rock, it’s Blink 81, but they’re in the midst of a line-up change, so things are a little uncertain.”
“Yeah, Blake Ramsay left the band, and he found them a replacement drummer, but then she turned around and quit, so we don’t know what’s gonna happen next with them.”
“What about the other artists on the label?” We had wandered up to the fifth floor, which held the viewing galleries to the recording studios, as well as a small daycare. Oliver’s little sisters and brother were playing with their toys, while their baby brother slept.
“Unfortunately, a lot of them are musicians with a lot of dreams but no real drive. Mom started the label because she and Aunt Taryn couldn’t get signed by any of the big labels. She used almost her entire savings and all the money the band had ever earned, and then later Dad helped her build the company to what it is now. Anyway, the whole point was that Mom wanted to be able to help other bands, ones with no fame, that the labels didn’t want to give a chance, any artist that wanted to get their music out there, just needed someone to give them the break they needed. Luckily, we do have some artists with a lot of potential, they just haven’t taken their act on the road.”
“And what does that mean to the company?”
“No record sales. Well, local sales usually start off alright, but they taper off. We had one band that was planning to tour, nothing huge, just a States tour, but then I don’t know what happened, they just haven’t gone. We’re planning on increasing their marketing a little to see if it helps.”
“That’s rough. So basically you’re completely reliant on the top sellers, like Angels of Hellfire and S-n-L, to keep the business afloat?”
“So what about you? Will we ever see Oliver Urban signed to Síren Call Records?”
“Nah,” he shook his head. “I like to stick to the business end of things. Right now I’m a Business & Finance major. Over the years, I’ve definitely picked up on the drums from Dad, but I don’t think that’s an avenue I want to pursue.”
The final stop on the tour of the building was the third floor, featuring separate mini-studios for practice and rehearsal, and a quick look around the second floor with its instrument store and tour adviser offices.
“A question, Oliver. Why we start we start at the top floor, go down several floors, go back up, and then come down again?”
He shrugged again, “Just tried to show everything in order of excitement level. The building actually has a specific layout. The top floor – eight – is obviously the most important. Mom’s office, Dad’s office, all the major meeting rooms. Not to mention the awesome view of the city it has, which is kind of inspiring, I guess. Plus, it’s a way to give new artists a tour on the way upstairs to get signed. Six and seven are kind of boring, it’s all the other offices; CEO's, band managers, accounting, all that. Four and five, as you saw, studios and the viewing area. Three is all rehearsal. Floor Two is all commercial, and the first floor is for blowing off steam. There’s a gym down there too, but you can’t get to it right from the lobby.”
“All you need is a deli or something and you’re all set.”
“We’re actually in talks with some local cafes about that.”
I chuckled. The Síren Call Family really had their own little piece of heaven here. All they had to do was add an apartment complex and they’d never have to leave. Oliver walked me to the door, and before I left, he told me how to get to the gym. I had to swear not to tell, so you’ll have to find it yourself.
By Juanito Cinco. Written for the city of New York. Article ID 36858