Vol. 1, No. 1


An introduction to the journal publication and record label, how publishing with us works, our business model, and our goals and aspirations.

Dear Reader,

Welcome to Empty Stage, a journal and record label based in Chicago, Illinois. Through this journal and label, it is my hope to give space to investigate the social, economic, and aesthetic predicament of independent, iconoclastic music making, and to release music by an eclectic array of artists who contribute something distinct to the cultural milieu in which they work.

The years since the pandemic shutdowns have posed many challenges to musicians—from the increasing cost of rent in urban environments, the decreasing amount of grant funding for artists, the increasing competition to access remunerative opportunities and gigs for musicians, to the increasing saturation of attention and investment in a small pool of musical microcelebrities. As the American economy finds itself amidst levels of inflation not seen since the 1970’s, the downstream effects of the market are being felt more and more in the spaces of improvised and experimental musics.

While struggling mid-sized organizations, labels, non-profits, and venues are doubling down on tactics to survive potential economic fallout, Empty Stage will be staying small, but resilient, with the hope of weathering any economic downturns that may come, without compromising on its commitments and ideals. While other labels waste money and energy trying to capture an audience through shallow and dishonest hype campaigns, Empty Stage will provide real context and information about the interesting people who make iconoclastic music today through the Empty Stage Journal. While other labels build insular and cliquish rosters, Empty Stage will bring together musicians who might have nothing to do with each other in real life, come from a variety of backgrounds, but are united in sharing something special and unique in the musical culture they work within. While other labels waste precious funds on printing fetish objects like vinyl records or cassettes for hipsters and audiophiles, Empty Stage will only release music on compact discs, which pair high-fidelity, affordability, and environmental conscientiousness together into a physical, yet accessible format. We are dedicated to creating a platform that maximizes the listening experience and builds a rich contextual background for our artists, but minimizes the bullshit and commercialism that increasingly pervaids “underground,” “alternative,” and “experimental” music spaces.

Each release on Empty Stage Records will be printed in a series of fifty CDs, which at current prices in Spring 2024 will cost one-hundred and thirty dollars to produce. The label can front the cost of production, but will retain proceeds until the cost of production and a small amount of remuneration for my labor is made back, where then the artist will receive all further proceeds. If the artist would like to front the cost of production, then all proceeds will be given to the artist. Any arrangement in between can be met to suit the artist's needs. CDs will be the only physical format released on this label, which will be placed in recyclable paper jackets. Each CD jacket and album cover will utilize the same design, with some limited information printed on the rear jacket. Every release will be accompanied by an interview with the artist to help build context and richness to each album. These will be released regularly in the Empty Stage Journal. The label will occasionally allow for open submissions, but depending on the release schedule, the label will keep submissions closed intermittently. The journal will always be open for writing pitches if you would like a space to publish your writing on music, politics, and the space between.

As is the case for so many independent labels, journals, and other small cultural formations, I was driven to create Empty Stage to help give a context to my own work and to provide a context and community for the work of my peers—those who I have met and those who I have yet to meet. We live in a time where it is easier than ever to share your music with people publicly due to the ubiquity of social media, increased accessibility of recording technology, and the increasing affordability of mass-produced musical instruments. As individuals, it has become easier and more affordable to put together a home recording, upload it to a streaming website or online music marketplace, and establish ourselves as professional musicians—complete with musical commodities for an audience to purchase and consume. Yet, what gives music its significance beyond sensation is that it resonates within social formations which are larger than mere individuals. Each musical expression of an individual emerges from an antecedent culture, then flows into the current communities to which the musician is connected. However, the format of most online musical spaces—be it Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Instagram, or other platforms—do not build community in the ways that allows for the full context of a musician to be made evident. One can tag their album as existing within a genre, indicating their scene or locale, or showing that a recording was made with other individuals, yet this does not reveal the true social and cultural richness that music often holds within.

It is my hope that Empty Stage Journal & Records will build a community of musicians, writers, listeners, and readers to engage with iconoclastic, dissenting, challenging, and imaginative musical expressions. All musicians need a community, and amidst the growing imperative to allow market forces and petty careerism to dictate how we relate to each other, I hope to facilitate a more egalitarian community that is based on an intrinsic motivation to create interesting music. The thesis of Empty Stage is that, without true commitments to one another in a musical community, we will hear silence fall upon the spaces where we formerly made sound together. A single record label cannot fix every problem that plagues a music scene, but we will be unapologetic in attempting to create a space where iconoclastic music making can happen to the fullest degree, fostering the necessary social support to ensure musicians can continue creating amidst a sustainable community of supporters.

Thank you for your attention and support. We hope you feel welcome here.

With gratitude,
-Jack Langdon, editor

℗ & © 2024 
Empty Stage Journal & Records
Chicago, Illinois