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Dead Reckoners are alive and well, on their own

By Joel Bernstein, March 1997

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"Kieran has always been in our orbit," says Stinson. "He would play with us sometimes at The Bluebird." Stinson had co-produced Kane's Atlantic album, developing a following in a faraway place.

"A distributor in Norway said 'if you've got a record, I'll pay to get it done.' He offered to buy a thousand copies. About the same time, Kevin was looking for an outlet for his stuff. We (Stinson, Kane, and Welch) stayed up quite late one night convincing each other that this was the way to go. Then Tammy and Mike came in shortly after."

Rogers was a relatively recent arrival on the scene, but she had quickly established herself as one of Nashville's top session fiddlers and toured withYearwood and Kane. "She was playing fiddle for me for about a year,"recalls Kane. "When we were starting the label, she had a record I actually helped her work on." So Rogers became a Dead Reckoner, and her album came out as the label's second release.

With all of the Dead Reckoners' previous work out-of-print, (even The O'Kanes), it would be reasonable to think that the label might want to reissue it. all. While none of this material would be chart-topping items, all of it would likely sell very well by the standards of a small label. The three-year old albums by Kane and Henderson would seem to be particularly likely to benefit, since they were deleted before most of the target audience ever knew they existed.

The thought has occurred to the artists as well. "We're attempting to make some licensing deals," says Kane, who handles much of the label's business. "We're going to reissue Kevin's albums at some point. My stuff, I don't know. We may be able to do something with The O'Kanes, but it doesn't look good. Atlantic has refused to license my (solo) album. They'd rather it sit in a box somewhere. It's not reasonable. They have nothing to lose and the potential to make a few bucks. We can't license Mike's album either."

They manage to keep the label afloat by keeping costs down. A distribution and promotion deal with Rounder makes their albums findable in stores. But a large percentage of the label's sales come at their shows, and Kane admits "If we can sell 20,000 copies of a record, a major label can sell more" because of its greater resources.

The Dead Reckoners have launched several short tours around the country and in Europe.

Creative ways of selling product don't necessarily work. Kane tells of advertising Mike Henderson's "First Blood" album on an Internet Blues newsgroup for only $10. The album had been nominated for a prestigious award, and Kane's posting was followed by a couple of unsolicited testimonials from newsgroup readers who already owned it. Kane says he got almost no response. Obviously, most people only buy what they've heard, no matter what.

Is Dead Reckoning a wave of the future? Stinson thinks not. " It was an organic process. You can't plan this out. Some of us have been working together for 10 years. It just seems natural to play together Our situation is unique."

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