Q & A with Lowell Brams, Director of Asthmatic Kitty Records
I had the good fortune to get to know Lowell Brams and his son Sufjan in the mid 90s when…
I was booking bands for a little music venue in Grand Rapids Michigan. Lowell’s son was playing in a popular local band called Marzuki at that time. Lowell came to the shows and we would sometimes fall into conversation. As fate and a lot of hard work would have it his son would grow into the mega indie star Sufjan Stevens with a current net worth of four million dollars and the Asthmatic Kitty record label with a stable of 33 bands and solo artists making some of the most creative forward thinking music out there.I recently reached out to Lowell asking him what it’s been like, this adventure of growing a record label from a little side project hobby into a full fledged record label in a post-record label, free music era. And this is what he said:
1. If you were to start over, would there be anything at all that you might do differently?
Not much, except establishing stricter budgets for artist’s projects.
2. Are there times (and I’m guessing there are) when you wanna just chuck the whole thing and do something else and if so what keeps you slugging away?
I’m retiring, for the reasons most people retire, but as long as I had the energy, I wanted to keep going.
3. At what point in your journey with Asthmatic Kitty did you realize it was turning into something really big?
That was when Pitchfork magazine ran a second review of Sufjan Steven’s “Michigan,” and sales, along with interest, really started to pick up. That was the third Sufjan album we released, and the first two had received only limited attention.
4. Lots of people complain about the difficulty of making a living being a working musician in a world where so much free music is readily available. What are your thoughts regarding this issue?
I’m afraid that many artists will have to make music just as a hobby.
6. Lowell, what would you say (if anything) in your life, pre-music biz, prepared you for the role you now have with AK?
Previous work in retails and, especially, wholesale bookselling taught me how do work with customers and anticipate future sales (not that I didn’t make mistakes). Also, my father started and ran a business manufacturing and selling his own products, and I learned some things from that.
7. What would be an example of a something really cool that has resulted from your work with AK, something that you could bring to mind for example to help pull you through the tedium of daily responsibilities when you might begin to tumble into doubt?
Receiving our first copies of new releases was always exciting.
Let me know what music you have been listening to that you love lately. Have you ever considered starting a record label or a band? We wanna hear from you.