By day, you can find Michael Gilligan at WeWork Grand Central, working on software for RSG Media. By night, since he was 18, Gilligan has been running his own indie record label, Fake Chapter Records. The label has put out some 50 releases over the last 20 years.
We caught up with him to learn more about how he built his label and where he finds the artists he features.
What inspired you to start Fake Chapter Records?
I was 18 and that was 21 years ago, so it’s hard to remember. It was at a time in the 1990s when I was coming of age, music was all around, and it was a time when everyone wanted to be a part of music somehow — whether it was starting a band or going to shows or starting a fanzine. And having a business mentality that I have, I gravitated towards that aspect of it. So I took that plunge. My first release was a cassette tape — and that was the first time around, not the comeback hipster tapes of today! The next was a seven-inch vinyl, and the first time we did a CD was our fifth release in. I bought the CDs on a spool, and put the albums together myself.
How do you find artists to feature on your label?
There was a time when I was looking for bands that weren’t yet on that upswing, but now I have a different strategy. For example, Dave Wanamaker was in a group (Loveless, Expanding Man) from years ago, and he made a record that was amazing, and every time I listened to it, I would Google him to see what he was doing. Eventually I found him releasing music on Soundcloud, and I immediately reached out to him. He happens to be based in NYC now, and it turned out he had these songs recorded and didn’t know what to do with them since he was out of the industry and didn’t have a label. So I said I would put them out. That type of thing is satisfying at this stage of my life. I won’t find that next big group, but I can put out a record that never would have existed without me in the world.
What’s your day-to-day like?
I work at RSG Media, which is my WeWork primary membership. I’ve really only had two jobs besides my own label. I started working at Sony Music out of college, doing royalties, and worked there for 12 years or so, so I always juggled the major label day job with the indie label night job. (Editor’s note: He wrote a memoir about it, too, called Sex, Drugs, and Cubicles.) At RSG Media, we provide technology solutions for royalties and rights managements systems that is live with various clients – think sports leagues and also bigger consumer product companies. Same math that I always did, but now it’s working for the company that builds the software that does that.
Favorite things about being a WeWork member at Grand Central?
I had this vision of having all these small music companies in one place together, along with publicists and booking agents, and you kind of get that with WeWork. There’s always new people, new faces, and it brings a better energy and excitement to it than our old office.
What record was Fake Chapter Records’ most surprising hit?
One rock band that I signed, at some point the lead singer married a music teacher, had kids, and then told me that “the next record I’m going to send you is a little bit different.” Then on the next album he sent me, under the name Mr. Steve and Miss Katie, the first song was “I’m not Afraid Of The Dark.” That was followed by “Please and Thank You,” and other great classics. The funny thing was is that his records never sold, but this kids record recouped right away! So I now have done four kids records in total – including other artists, like Josh and Gabner out of Pittsburgh, or a compilation of kids music by Lisa Loeb.
Any band recommendations?
Growing up, my favorite group was The Clash. The advantages of having an older brother included listening to The Ramones and the Clash when I was 9 years old! And unless you were a teenager in the early ’90s you probably haven’t heard of Ned’s Atomic Dustbin. I love everything in that indie rock style and sound.
Where can people find the music that you release?
Spotify and YouTube are the most popular, but we are still making music available in local record stores and all my artists have their own websites. You can find our music on MusicIsFake.com also.