Reposted from Music Consultant.com.
Jim Olsen is the co-founder of Signature Sounds Recordings, an independent record label that specializes in singer-songwriter, Americana and modern folk music. A lifelong music fan, Jim got his start in the music business working for the radio station at Ithaca College in New York. After graduation, he went on to work at the progressive Triple A station WRSI in Western Massachusetts, where he was the music director and program director from 1984, to 1996. Jim co-founded Signature Sounds Recording with business partner Mark Thayer in 1995 in order to promote talented acoustic artists who were playing in the local scene. Now a full-fledged artist development company, the label has been a launch pad for many successful singer-songwriters including Josh Ritter, Erin McKeown, Mary Gauthier and Lori McKenna.
Jim talked to me about how he has managed to build a thriving indie record label despite major changes in the music industry. He also shared some tips for developing artists who want to build a loyal fan base and a successful music career through touring, recording and more.
Thanks for making some time to chat, Jim. How did you get into the music business, and what brought you to the point where you founded Signature Sounds?
I came into the music business from the radio business. I’ve had a pretty long career that started in the late ‘70s. I grew up in the New York City area and was a huge fan of progressive radio stations that were big at the time: WNEW and WLIR on Long Island. When I went to school at Ithaca College, I initially went to study something unrelated to music, but quickly discovered they were giving out shifts at the radio station. Before I knew it, I had my road into the music industry.
After graduation, I worked at a number of stations before landing at WRSI here in Western Mass., which is a progressive Triple A station. I was the music director and program director there for about a dozen years, from 1984 to 1996.
And what compelled you to start the label?
The music scene in Western Mass. over the past several decades has been pretty impressive, with so many talented artists passing through. And one of the programs on WRSI at the time I was working there was a weekly local music program called Home Grown that would feature live guests and also recordings.
My studio partner Mark Thayer and I put together a few Home Grown compilation albums. While we were working on those, we realized there were a lot of artists that weren’t represented and a lot of talent in our area. This eventually grew into the idea for a regional record label, which became Signature Sounds.