Beloved Label Cuneiform Announces Indefinite Hiatus

By Blurt Staff

Rather than put a media-type spin on one of our favorite labels’ announcement this week that it is essentially closing up shop, below please read what the ever-great, ever-forward-looking, ever-experimental Maryland indie label Cuneiform announced this week to the members of the press. It’s written by longtime staffer Joyce, who has been our press contact point for as long as we can remember, and because it is so heartfelt – and true to the very nature of this label, both aesthetically and mission-wise— we felt it should be shared with our readership. We have covered the label steadily over the years (recently: HEREHEREHERE )  and it’s no secret among the Blurt staffers that more than a few of us have admired the label and have eagerly scooped up its music. We trust that our readers feel the same way.

Joyce, Steve, Javi, and Cuneiform extended family — a salute to all of you.

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Dear Friends in Press and Radio,

If you’ve read my eblasts from the last few months, you know that Cuneiform Records is being retooled in 2018. If you missed those announcements, here’s a link to one:

Cuneiform Records’ 2018 New Years Greeting & Announcement of Upcoming Changes

Despite the fact that 2017 was a year packed with accomplishments at Cuneiform Records, after years of struggling to survive within the music industry’s “New Normal”, the record label needs to radically overhaul operations. During the week of February 5th, Cuneiform will close down its in-house Promo Department. By trimming unsustainable costs (the Promo Department), taking a hiatus from new releases, and exploring various new paths, the legendary label founded, curated and led by Steve Feigenbaum looks forward to reshaping itself for the future.

We’re hoping to make these necessary changes with the least amount of disruption for all of you: our colleagues in press and radio, and above all, our artists.

And now for the difficult part of this eblast – which is my saying goodbye to you, the writers, editors, and radio professionals worldwide whom I’ve long been in touch with from my long-time post at Cuneiform.  I founded Cuneiform’s Department of Publicity and Promotion in 1992; before that, Steve handed all label tasks solo. I’ve known a number of you since those very early days, and some of you have become dear friends. Together we watched as digital theft and, more recently, streaming eroded the Music Industry’s financial bedrock – the sale of recorded music in all formats. This directly and indirectly affected not only artists and record labels, but also your own professions: newspapers, music magazines and e-publications, online and broadcast radio, freelance writing… Many of you have had to make radical changes to keep your core business, and yourselves, alive.

Since 1992, with the help of great assistants and hard-working university interns, and the financial support of Steve from Cuneiform’s share of profits from recording sales, we grew the Promo Department’s global reach from a dozen contacts to tens of thousands in traditional media (5,000), social media (20,000), and a fan newsletter. This growth was enabled by ongoing research and by adopting new digital media, the latter pioneered by Javier Diaz, my colleague/assistant for the past decade. But not all media contacts work with digital, a problem that intensified for us as the United States Postal Service doubled the price of mailing promo recordings overseas four times within the past 10 years, thereby impacting our American-based label’s exports. Simultaneously, digital theft and streaming continued to shrink Cuneiform’s profits. Cuneiform’s Promo Department, as currently configured, became unsustainable.

The music world is a small one — especially that spectrum of the music world devoted to avant/ hybrid/ post-genre experimental music – and  I know that we’ll meet again. Both Javi and I look forward to working with you in other capacities in the future. Javi is currently interviewing for a number of positions in Marketing/Social Media, and whatever company takes him on board will be lucky indeed.  I’ve accepted a part-time position with PARMA Recordings, a classical  music production company and family of record labels, and on the side I hope to develop The Music Outpost, a nascent music licensing site for Cuneiform music, as well as doing some free-lance promotion of avant/creative/hybrid/jazz/rock music.

Most importantly, I ask you to continue to support Cuneiform Records and Steve during these transitional times. All of us agree that what is most important is for Steve to rethink and retool his legendary label so that Cuneiform Records can survive in the music world’s harsh new environment.

All of us at Cuneiform – Steve, Cuneiform’s artists, and Javi and I – THANK YOU for all of the support that you’ve given to Cuneiform Records and its artists over these many, many years.  Cuneiform looks forward to your continuing support in the years to come; our hope is that the label we love will emerge from its hiatus with renewed vigor to thrive in the years to come.

It’s been a joy and an honor working with each and every one of you.  It’s also been an absolute BLAST. I cherish the hand-drawn cat cartoons based on themes from each Cuneiform release that one of my Italian contacts has sent me for decades; the humorous poems crafted by a UK press contact who loathes corresponding in prose (a challenge to match!); the get-well music tapes sent by another contact… And I cherish the intelligent and fun correspondence that I’ve had with EACH AND EVERY one of you. The avant music world is filled with smart cookies, and I’ve been so very, very lucky to work with them. Looking forward to seeing you again.

With love, best wishes and thanks from
Joyce
Outgoing Director of Publicity & Promotion
Cuneiform Records

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