Milkboy rejects record contracts

With UnLabel, artists don’t need to sign a contract with a record label to enjoy promotion, studio time or an album release. But they do have to cough up $25,000.

Sleeping Naked is far from the average band. Its MySpace page boasts more than 50,000 plays from its second album, and its brand of energetic, guitar-driven rock with family-friendly lyrics are a definitive presence on music Web sites like CD Baby, Facebook, iTunes and PureVolume.

But since founders Craig Tallent and Holden Seguso began collaborating, they can count their number of live performances on one hand.

Their responsibilities as full-time students and athletes make touring impossible. Tallent plays scholastic golf and studies at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, and Seguso attends school at the University of California at Los Angeles.

Sleeping Naked, a rock band that boasts more than 50,000 plays on MySpace, has used UnLabel for promotion. Thankfully, their parents helped them foot the bill (Rachel Playe/TTN).

Still, the music thrives.

Sleeping Naked is one of the more astounding success stories due to UnLabel, a new method of promoting artists.

UnLabel is the brainchild of Jamie Lokoff, owner of MilkBoy Recording in Ardmore, Pa., and marketing director Tom Laskas.

Their new model addresses how digital media is rapidly transforming the way music is bought, listened to and promoted. Rather than forcing artists to sign a contract, UnLabel asks them to invest in themselves by paying an initial fee to Lokoff and Laskas.

In return, UnLabel provides artists with studio space, launches three-month promotional campaigns and offers other support depending on the size of the investment and artists’ ultimate goals – all without contractually-bound obligations.

Lokoff cited the Delaware-based group Feeling December as one of the stronger local acts benefiting from the model. Still, Sleeping Naked remains an UnLabel success story.

“Sleeping Naked [is] a band that has a strong belief in their product, but their challenge was these are two kids that really excel at what they do scholastically and athletically,” Laskas said. “[They have] no ability and time to perform right now, so we get their music out there – using the Internet to build their fan base.”

The lack of contractual obligations to a label grants the members of Sleeping Naked greater freedom to focus on their education and sports.

“I have more time to pay attention to my schoolwork and my golf, since MilkBoy is doing most of the promotional work for us,” Tallent said.

UnLabel comes at a time when popular record labels, whose once-prosperous methods of promoting artists, are now useless against iTunes, MySpace and discount department stores.

“Artists like Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, Madonna [and] the Eagles are selling their music only through Wal-Mart, and they don’t need a record label,” Lokoff said. “They can cut the deal directly with the third party on their own. The promoting arm [of companies like Wal-Mart] is stronger than any record label that’s out there.”

UnLabel’s method is different than the old industry standard, in which record labels forced new bands to buy their own equipment, fund their own tours and promote themselves. Conversely, UnLabel does these services for bands.

The combined cost of Sleeping Naked’s investment, which funded promotion, recording space and the album release, cost about $25,000. Tallent admitted his and Seguso’s parents helped shoulder the cost, but the feedback has been worth it.

A reporter from Blender magazine credited the band for saving her marriage.

“I don’t see record sales going up because it’s not convenient. I heard a song [one] morning and downloaded it in class – that’s how easy it is,” Tallent said. “We’re still building the fan base, but the people who hear our stuff dig it and ask when we’re going on tour or if we’re famous. It’s very positive. I haven’t heard much of ‘you guys suck.’”

Jimmy Viola can be reached at

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