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more about Believe in Punk

What is Believe In Punk:

SPHC Records is a punk endeavor.

Because it’s a “punk” operation, I have a conscious and strict vision of how it should be run. Distribution through trading. Keeping prices as low as possible without creating hardship on myself. Focus on creating community, introducing people to each other, making connections. Cooperation not competition, inclusion not exclusion. But also doing it myself, keeping things “in the family”. Moving beyond the fashion and the trends and the business to make my own vision of what I think is important about punk: the power of building communities across boundaries and creating a network of friends in a world where institutions and social structure are always scheming to keep us separated and alone. The power of building your own future on your own terms with your own hands, beyond the dystopia that institutions and social structures try to force upon us. I still believe in that, even now, at the most cynical and jaded I’ve ever been. And I believe I still live up to this vision, by building connections between my various friend groups and trying to help everyone tour and accomplish their own dreams and visions, supporting all my friends in the ways I’m capable of.

Because it’s a “punk” operation, and I have a conscious and strict vision of how it should be run, I also feel there’s a lot of things I should NOT do, because it’s not punk as I see it. There’s a lot of current punk culture that I don’t like and have kinda tried to avoid as best I can. I don’t really do “brand merchandising”. Fests are a weird sticking point for me, if anybody remembers my crazy ranting against ‘Fest culture’ in Hluboka Orba zine. And years after my column in Maximum Rock’n’Roll, I still feel strongly about corporate involvement with DIY punk, which makes social media another weird sticking point for me.

SPHC is a label with over 10 years and 100 releases under its belt but still going as strong as ever, with a consistent year-to-year release schedule and organizing and promoting tours every year. Of my peer labels in the USA, I think I’m the only one that has never once used social media. Because I feel strongly that social media is not punk, and as a “punk” operation, I don’t want to do something that is not punk.

Social media mixing with punk makes me very uncomfortable on three basic dynamics.

First, social media is corporate bullshit, period. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc, all this stuff is big corporations that have gone beyond shaping reality and into dictating it. They’re mining data and selling it, creating profiles for targeted ads and surveillance, controlling our access to information, influencing our thoughts, creating echo chambers, Russian and Chinese bots generating propaganda cloaked as real news and legitimate opinions, it’s all a nefarious dystopian capitalist plot to brainwash us and divide us for shareholder profits and government control. I know that sounds like some hysterical conspiracy theory bullshit when I write it down but I truly believe this, and I do not see any way that punk should play into this kind of corporate control. Once again, it’s an overarching system that we DO NOT need, scraping profits off our culture and expression, controlling us as we stand complicit and content. They can’t exist without us but we can exist without them, so why make the choice to support them?

Second, social media is a consolidation of culture that I am extremely wary of. Everything is a Facebook event or an Instagram post, every gig is a YouTube video, everything continues to coalesce around the latest platforms that we have no say in, no control over, that can be altered or eliminated altogether without our involvement. Feasibly a server crash could damn near wipe out the entire last 10 years of our culture. How much is lost as webpages and message boards continue to ghost away into oblivion in the dregs of the internet? Memories and knowledge, artifacts…I dunno, people have been making this argument against the digitization of culture ever since the advent of computers, and while I acknowledge that computers are cool and, you know, I am not a total luddite, I do think that punk’s dive into culture consolidation is a bit awkward and unsightly.

Third, and this really has little to do with “punk”, but social media is really unhealthy. It’s an unhealthy and degenerative way of interacting with the world around you. It’s not a substitute for a good phone call or a nice visit. Alex Ratcharge wrote a great column for Maximum Rock’n’Roll addressing this idea and that sparked a good conversation with Hafiz (Sial) about this topic. Ironically, on Facebook. At that time, I weighed Alex’s words differently, but as time has gone on and I’ve grown older, I agree with him more and more, that social media is not “community”. And beyond that, yes social media is bad for your brain, there are dozens of scientific studies proving this so I don’t really need to go into detail.

I had a personal Facebook from college into adulthood. At the time I got it, Facebook was a new and exciting platform, and I also think the internet in general was drastically different. Corporations and culture-consolidation hadn’t totally choked the life out of the internet, it was still a wild frontier of culture without many rules or norms, and it was really exciting to be a part of. But as time went on, and these platforms continued to expand, and people started raking in millions and billions of dollars from them…the internet changed in a negative way, in my opinion. And I think if you have an interest on this topic, I highly recommend this video:

Well, anyway, I had a Facebook for many years. And I enjoyed it, I liked chatting with my friends and posting about gigs and such. But I tried to enjoy it like I enjoy eating dessert…a little bit of it is nice but if that was your whole diet, you’d be gaining weight and falling apart. And then when my dad handed me down his old iPhone in 2017, I deleted my Facebook. Because now, I spend my idle time spamming Reddit memes to all my friends and playing Hearthstone with my ex-bandmate, and that’s enough. I don’t need both an iPhone and Facebook to consume my time and attention. I don’t want both of these things putting weight on my soul.

For SPHC, after a few years of operation I made a SoundCloud, because as time went on I realized that I really ought to be allowing people to at least sample my releases if I have that capability, and SoundCloud seemed like a reasonable choice since the company is an independent one. A few years after that, as I shifted the way I thought about streaming and promoting and whatnot, I switched over to BandCamp. And now I’m even selling digital downloads (feel free to call me a sell-out). To me, these are varying degrees of compromises I’ve made between my vision of punk compared to the realities of a modern day internet-based punk, between my sense of purity compared to my sense of business, but trying to err on the side of purity.

And it’s these degrees of compromises, this erring on sides, that bring me to today. I spent a lot of 2018 and 2019 wondering whether my strong beliefs are actually holding me back or doing a disservice to my friends I’m trying to support. Can I really tell everybody “I’m working as hard as I can for you” if I’m not keeping pace with everyone around me? Utilizing all the various tools I have at my disposal? How can I reconcile that? Where’s the compromise here?

And that’s when Believe in Punk started to take shape in my mind.
Because it’s not a punk endeavor. And that’s the compromise.

SPHC Records is a punk endeavor and that’s how I release records, in a punk way.
But Believe in Punk is not really a “punk thing” to me and as such I don’t subject it to the same ideological purity as I do SPHC Records. Believe in Punk is me trying to come to terms with how I can expand my mailorder operation while still maintaining that which is important to me: that SPHC Records is “punk” as I see it and will not compromise that. Believe in Punk is a much looser idea, taking the convenient and conventional path for better or worse, having a more relaxed sense of how it can be fun and fulfilling to just sell some fuckin nice records and not worry about it. It’s not “punk” as I see it, it’s just fun, in its own way.

SPHC Records will continue to be punk and help all my friends continue on their paths in a punk way.
Believe in Punk will be a couple of friends, each with our own individual opinions and beliefs, trying the best we can to sell records and enjoy ourselves.

It might make me a hypocrite but all I can say is, for better or for worse, this is the path that makes the most sense to me. I hope everyone that was buying records off the SPHC BigCartel for so long will follow us to and continue to find what they’re looking for. Thank you for your continued support.

(PS: I already know I’m a fucking freak for thinking so hard for multiple years on the heavy topic of “should I make an instagram page to sell more records”, if I sound like I care too much, it’s because I do and this is exactly why I do it all myself hahaha.)