Unearth vocalist Trevor Phipps isn't just a frontman. He's also a businessman, running Ironclad Recordings in his not-so-spare time. Phipps broke down his basic business tenants for Noisecreep, for those interested in launching labels or even signing to Ironclad!

Tours. "One of the biggest challenges is getting the young bands the proper tours to showcase their live show. I have great distribution through Metal Blade Records. I hire a publicist and send the albums to college and satellite radio. But finding tours is the hardest thing for small labels and young bands. The advantage is that I can pitch my artists on shows and tours with Unearth. It doesn't always work out, but when it does, it's an immense benefit. All bands need is a couple tours in front of good-sized crowds and they will generally know if the people like them, or if they have to go back to the drawing board."

Choosing Bands. "One of the main things I look for in a band is their inner drive to go out and fight for the right shows and tours. Without that desire, agents, labels and bands will always look for the band with that desire. The squeakiest wheel normally gets the grease. I also look for a solid live show. Without that live energy, it's almost a pointless signing, as heavy music almost always sells itself from the live show. The number one thing I look for in a band is my actual love for their songs. If I don't like it, I don't want to stamp my name on it and release it. I don't care if the current trend has a certain hybrid style of whatever flying off the shelves. If I don't want to throw it in my car stereo and get a speeding ticket listening to it, then I won't put it out on Ironclad Recordings."

Survival tips: "Surviving as an independent label in a quickly dwindling market is something that I believe has yet to be figured out. Hell, it might never get figured out. We all just have to keep plugging away and hope that the majority of people will continue to support music and not always steal it. Things I have tried include lowering my prices, adding t-shirt and CD combo deals and running contests around the releases. All this stuff contributes to making the bottom line closer to even than a total loss. With each year that passes, more albums are being downloaded illegally and the people suffering the most are the independent artists and labels."

Artists signed to Ironclad include Starring Janet Leigh, The Destro and Sons of Azrael.

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