orchid tapes and the importance of the microlabel

because of the internet, accessibility has largely been redefined in the music world.  i’m currently reading high fidelity for the umpteenth time, a twenty-year old novel whose narrator makes passing remarks about rare, live bootleg cassettes of famous artists that he has squirreled away somewhere; fast-forward to 2014 and those tapes would be all but obsolete, with file-sharing sites and numerous back-door operations helping to eliminate the lust of ravenous music collectors.  while that specific practice may have its share of moral and legal faults, other results of this increased accessibility are undoubtedly more positive.  as i have sought to broaden my musical horizons over the past year, one result that i cannot ignore is the resurgence and importance of the microlabel.

d.i.y. certainly isn’t a new phenomenon; home recordings have existed for about as long as the technology has been available, and plenty of influential albums have been self-released or put out by tiny, blip-on-the-radar record labels.  but as the pillars of social media become more and more intertwined, it becomes easier for these small labels to gain recognition.  a simple twitter search for “cassette tape labels” yields a laundry list of results, and i guarantee even more will pop up as suggestions after some time is spent perusing said list.  in particular, labels that specialize in cassette releases do comparatively well due to the low cost overhead and the growing acceptance of tapes as a legitimate format for music.


one such label that i cannot help but admire, and one that deserves credit for all of the work they do, is orchid tapes.  the brooklyn-based microlabel is run by warren hildebrand and brian vu, and has been slowly archiving releases from the likes of r.l. kelly, coma cinema, elvis depressedly, happy trendy, and hildebrand’s own foxes in fiction since 2010.  a home-grown record label that disseminates home-grown music, orchid tapes embodies the d.i.y. aesthetic that has implanted itself on the internet.  digital downloads are always free and cassette prices are reasonable, and the quality of music is so good that it entices intrigued listeners (at least this one) to search through the rest of the catalog.

after cultivating a substantial following and a reputable name in the underground and online communities over the past four years, orchid tapes is poised to do big things in 2014.  ricky eat acid is set to release his debut album, three love songs, through the label on january 21st; it’s their first foray into vinyl and, at the time of this publication, less than 50 of the original 250 records are still available to pre-order.  a limited cassette run of b-sides from the album has also sold out, further strengthening the anticipation surrounding this release.  on top of the well-deserved buzz for ricky eat acid, orchid tapes is also set to release a full-length from salem, oregon bedroom popper the sweater i gave you, as well as the new foxes in fiction album.  their expansion into limited runs of vinyl is sensible, but the label’s continued dedication to the tape format is commendable.

i hope 2014 is a year of increased awareness surrounding the prowess of microlabels all across the world.  the music that they curate and support is often among the most unique and downright good the world wide web currently has to offer, and i wish orchid tapes and their colleagues nothing but the best in 2014 and the years to come.

orchid tapes