Label head: Jennifer O’Connor
Location: Nyack, New York
the latest installment in our new series on independent labels takes us to Kiam Records in Nyack, NY, where label head Jennifer O’Connor leads a very music-intensive life. Jennifer is a musician who records under her own name and has an ace new album coming out on Nov. 5 called Born at the Disco! She also runs a record-book-clothing store called Main Street Beat with her wife, Amy Bezunartea, who is also a great musician and Kiam artist. Check out the artists on Kiam here. She also talked about running Kiam Records on this podcast recently. Find out more on FBK, Twitter, Insta, etc. Meet Jennifer…
chickfactor: What year did you start a label? Where? Why?
Jennifer O’Connor: 2002. To put out my first album. I was in Florida when I started it technically, but moved back to NYC soon after.
What has been the most fun bit about running a label?
The most fun part has been being involved in helping my friends and other people that I care about get their music out into the world.
What have been the biggest challenges?
I think the hardest part is that I need to be like 10 more people. Ha.
How have things changed over time in terms of marketing and distribution?
I feel like both marketing and distro are constantly in flux. When I first started there were still actual physical publications and that is not really a thing anymore. Magazines and zines and such helped a lot with marketing to people who actually care about music. And even early on in the web… before it was all just about personalities and clicks and social media. We are all so spread thin now that I think it’s harder and harder to reach people. There was no such thing as streaming!! Which I think of as a blessing and a curse. But I also didn’t own a record store when I started, which gives me an actual physical place to sell the label’s releases and has also provided me with a trial by fire education in many things I was not super knowledgeable about before….
What are the top sellers of all time on yr label?
Like physical records? Probably The Martha’s Vineyard Ferries, Mass. Grave. or my album I Want What You Want. Overall sales on all platforms and if you included income from licensing it would definitely be I Want What You Want.
What new stuff are you working on now/soon?
I have a new album coming out on Nov. 5 called Born At The Disco. It’s the first label release since 2019 and my first since 2016.
What other merch do you sell?
For the label we don’t have anything else yet. I’m thinking about getting a tote or coffee mug soon though. The store (Main Street Beat) did a tote this year—our first piece of merch—and it sold out already.
What labels have inspired you?
So many. Kill Rock Stars, Merge, Sub Pop, Stones Throw, Mello Music Group, Orindal, Thrill Jockey. There’s a lot.
How do you find new records (not on your label)?
For me personally to listen to? Mostly at my shop. I listen to a lot of old jazz and hip-hop and disco. But for new music, I listen to Sirius Radio a lot and also to WFUV and WFMU. And then I follow a few people’s playlists too. I’m trying to get better about listening to more new music. The store has helped with that for sure.
What are some great record stores and mail orders still operating?
I love record stores so much. And I love to order from labels directly. I think Bandcamp has been great for keeping online ordering alive, but I think people should order more directly from label websites. It doesn’t have to be Bandcamp Friday to order a record. There are too many great record stores to list. I wouldn’t know where to begin. And they just keep popping up everywhere! Just go to any near you and you will find something good, if you are curious and open.
Can people get your releases outside your country?
Just from us, unfortunately and I know it’s so expensive to ship overseas. Hopefully, we will get that sorted eventually.
What bands/records are you really excited about?
I really love the band Dry Cleaning and their record from this year.
What are you drinking, eating, listening to, reading, watching these days?
This and that. I don’t know!
I May Destroy You and Ted Lasso most recently. I May Destroy did in fact destroy me, but in the best way.
Has the vinyl supply chain bottleneck affected you?
Yes, my own release has been delayed and it affects me daily at the shop. Almost nothing comes out on time. It’s a mess. We pretty much stopped participating in RSD because so much nonsense is getting pressed now and it’s truly fucking up the little guys’ (independent labels) chances at getting their records out in a timely fashion.
Do you have a day job? Are you in a band? Do tell.
Yes, I have several and always have. In addition to the label (Kiam Records) and my career as a musician, I also own and operate a record/clothing/book shop with my wife and label mate Amy Bezunartea.
Hobbies? Interests? Pets? Kids?
Had a sweet pup named Paco who we lost on Leap Day, 2020.
I’m interested in traveling again hopefully soon. I’ve been going on a lot of long walks lately. I need more mental space in my life and I’m interested in doing more things that help me find some.
Anything else you would like to add!?
Thank you for being you.