Jim Olsen, president and co-founder of Signature Sounds Recordings, one of the most prolific roots music labels in America, is scared that a lot of good music will be lost. As Internet services like Spotify provide access to songs at zero cost to the listener, Olsen notes that music is losing its value—"a dangerous proposition." This de-valuation spells financial difficulty for virtually all but top pop-royalty acts, and perhaps a cultural deficiency down the road as those who would devote their lives are edged out of the market.
Against these changes that have emerging artists and the major labels scrambling alike, Signature Sounds, skeleton staff of five, has been carving itself into the foothills of music, shucking standard industry practices and creating a model resembling a label from "back in the 50's, in the 60's," says veteran folk and blues singer-songwriter Chris Smither, when "companies actually took an interest in developing the artist." Started as a labor of love in Jim Olsen's basement, the Pioneer Valley-based label has resolutely nurtured its artists, swift profits or not, and has itself grown steadily over twenty years from a hobby project to a cultural bastion, providing a home for folk, Americana, roots, singer-songwriter, and now indie rock musicians.
Last November, Signature Sounds celebrated their 20th Anniversary by throwing a three-day concert and inviting their musicians to come play at the historic Academy of Music in Northampton, MA. It was a triumphant moment, a testament to music and community in the 21st century. At the center of our film is this concert; from the stage to the greenrooms, we will lead you through the stories and the lives that made it all possible. Musicians, managers, producers, and booking agents all have a part in the tale of one small label and its mark on music in America. We will take you to that concert in our documentary short, “Behind a Good Song.”