Mighty Speck Records: BC’s Community Music Label Has A Grand Purpose
Written by Johnny Papan
“In probably 2013 I wrote a poem called the Mightiest Speck of Dust. The first line was: ‘The mightiest speck of dust, that’s us.’ I started thinking about something small having a grander purpose and being able to achieve big things. It reminded me of the Margaret Mead quote: ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.’ That’s the quote that essentially, to me, captures the whole meaning behind Mighty Speck.”
Mighty Speck Records is an independent music label run by James Kasper in Victoria, British Columbia. Kasper has been in the music industry for over 25 years, releasing his first self-produced cassette-tape, Twilight, in 1993. In 1998, Kasper opened for legendary pianist Ray Charles at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver for the BCTV Variety Club Show of Hearts as part of the folk-duo Kasper Veil. Not long after, he took on more of a behind-the-scenes role by producing the Vancouver Island Music Awards over the span of 11 years. Now, as the head of Mighty Speck Records, Kasper hopes to evolve the artist-label dynamic.
“The standard major record label has a model wherein the label essentially fronts a budget for a record and then the artist pays back that loan through record sales,” Kasper explains. “These days, music sales are almost non-existent on the independent level. They’ve plummeted because of free streaming, the music industry has changed a lot. Essentially, what we do with Mighty Speck Records is we kind of bypass the financial aspect and we focus on raising profile and networking.”
Kasper describes Mighty Speck as a “community label,” a term generally unfamiliar to the music industry. As a community label; money, creative rights, and most major-label complications are waived and replaced with artist cross-promotion. Artists who sign with Mighty Speck retain 100% of the rights to sell and distribute their creative materials as they wish, their only obligation is providing the label with pre-recorded tracks to feature on promotional compilation albums.
“Some of the things we do is distribute roster albums which include a single from every artist. We send that to radio all across Canada and also into the United States. We also put on an annual roster tour where many of the artists do a series of shows together. This is something that’s rarely done these days with labels.”
Mighty Speck and it’s roster also puts a focus on charity involvement and raising awareness. On the Mighty Speck website, every artist’s page contains a link to a charity they feel passionate about.
“Community involvement and charity work are important things that artists should be socially conscious and socially responsible for. Artists are essentially public figures. Anytime you’re a public figure on any level you should set an example for the rest of the community.”
The label throws multiple fundraisers per year for charitable purposes. In December 2017, Mighty Speck celebrated their fifth anniversary by doing a Gord Downie tribute show, honoring the Tragically Hip frontman who sadly passed away in October that same year. Mighty Speck artists did live covers of groovy Hip tunes, raising $2,300 dollars for the Victoria Kool-Aid Society, which aims to shelter the homeless, as well as the BC Cancer Society.
Mighty Speck Records has well-incorporated social media as a way to spread word on the label and its artists. Kasper has turned his Victoria home into Mighty Speck HQ, where seven label-artists from all over BC recently gathered to do their first Facebook Live showcase.
Aside from live streaming, Kasper has started a stripped-down online show called In the Blue Frame where artists unleash an acoustic performance of one of their songs in front of a frame wrapped in blue light. All of the videos can be found on Facebook and some can also be found on YouTube.
“There used to be something called the Green Couch Sessions that was filmed in Vancouver, if I’m not mistaken. It’s a cool idea to have a series that has a specific feel, a specific vibe to it, a specific look to it that is consistent across the board but the performers rotate. You’re getting a different kind of sound and different kind of style each time but you still have that same vibe and look.” Kasper continues: “That’s kind of what we wanted to do with In the Blue Frame. It’s a very intimate performance with a little ambience in terms of the look and the sound.”
Mighty Speck Records currently has 17 artists signed from all over BC. Many of the performers fall under blues, roots, country, folk, indie and acoustic genres, though Kasper confirms he is open to signing groups or solo-acts of any style as long as they have a quality sound and fit well with the label’s community mission. One of Mighty Speck’s groups, the hard rock women’s collective White Hot Jet, just released their debut EP: YYJ , and will playing a show at the 38th Annual Brentwood Regatta in Brentwood Bay on April 27.
When it comes to the future of Mighty Speck Records, Kasper concludes: “In terms of being a BC record label that focuses on community and raises awareness of awesome emerging artists in the province, that goal is already being fulfilled on an ongoing basis. In terms of the bigger picture, I would love to have a space in Victoria that could be the most buzzing, happening music business space in the whole city. Somewhere where we can have our artists rehearsing, writing, recording, doing marketing sessions. It can be open to musicians of the public and be presumably government funded. Just a happening music scene. Beyond that it would be nice to expand that into another city as well.”
Mighty Speck Records 2018 roster:
Amesi Grove (Victoria, BC,) Angela Bertrand (Victoria, BC,) Cody Rueger (Victoria, BC) Dear Father (Langley, BC,) Delaney Rose (Vancouver, BC,) Dirty Dominion (Courtenay, BC,) Ella Swan (Victoria, BC,) Greg Gomola (Nanoose Bay, BC,) Hallam Highwater (Salt Spring Island, BC,) James Kasper (Victoria, BC) Joshua Wood (Vancouver, BC,) Luki Fero (Vancouver, BC) Terry Boyle (Ladysmith, BC,) The Burn Ins (Elkford, BC) The Lost Talkers (Victoria, BC) Wayne Montgomery (Cobble Hill, BC) White Hot Jet (Victoria, BC)