Without a doubt, WormHoleDeath is one of the biggest labels in rock and metal music nowadays. Carlo Bellotti, the owner of the label, can be proud of his great work, proud of making WormHoleDeath a huge institution of the contemporary rock/metal music business, through which fantastic groups and artists are able to release their fine music and get it to the fans! Myth of Rock was lucky enough to discuss many interesting topics with Carlo Bellotti, who gently gave his remarkable answers – this interview contains things that are of everyone’s interest (bands, fans, companies etc.) and I am sure that all will find some really significant things to learn!
by Dimitris Zacharopoulos
Hello Carlo! What is WormHoleDeath? Present us the parts of the whole group please.
Our company head office is in Firenze (Italy), we are organized with two partners, me and Natascia. We both have two guys each in our respective departments. Internally we only do A&R and Coordination. Then in every continent (USA, Japan, Australia, South America, America Latina, Europe, Russia etc.) we have an export partner that deals with local distributors. For the promotion we have our own Press Office, but we also hire external agencies locally to increase the volume of press and radio coverage. We have also external people helping us with a lot of tasks and a very strong booking agency we work with. In USA and Japan where we have our offices we sign bands through these offices and we have extra promotion activities, label representation. As a company we are administered by Warner Chappell Music (Warner Music Group) and we have released 400 albums so far... We belong to label groups in Europe (Aural Music Group), America (Misra Label Group) and Japan (Bit Organization Inc.) to be stronger in these very important key markets and receive the max support and services (contacts, marketing, distribution, promotion, administration etc.) from the label groups we belong to. We work with a network of distributors all over the world, the best ones I believe (The Orchard/Sony Music for digital, Audioglobe in Italy, Edel for GAS, Soundpollution in Scandinavia, Shellshock in England, Hellion Records in South America, The Groove Merchant in Australia, Redeye in the US, Disk Union in Japan, Soundworks in France, Propagande in Canada, Sonic Rendevouz in Benelux and many more) and a powerful press office with a 10.000 media mail out. Our offices are Located in Los Angeles, Firenze and Tokyo and we have more than fifty people working for and with the label all over the world. We are affiliated to a very strong Concert Booking agency based in Canada that is capable to book concerts and tours in Europe, USA, Canada and Australia thanks to the huge networks of sub-agents that they have created.
How did it all start in the very beginning? How did you get into the music business?
Like 90% of the label owners, I started in the music business as a musician. In 1992 I formed my first serious band, it was called Necromass (black metal) and like all the bands we started with a demo. The demo sold more than 1000 copies in a month and a label approached us to print it professionally (it was a tape obviously). Then a friend of us financed a 7“ and a more serious label (with real distribution) offered us a contract for a second 7“. This second 7“ was distributed by Unisound International (a big Greek label) and sold more than 2700 copies in one week. The guys from Unisound International called me to offer us a deal for a full length album...The album was ready, produced by me (like all the other releases) and the label released. We sold a lot of copies (CD/LP/CS and 19 different types of t-shirts, hoodies and long sleeve) in Europe, but also in the US (they never told me the real amounts) and we became very well known...We did a lot of interviews, collaborations, concerts... From that moment I started working with a lot of bands in studio and I became a producer. With my productions I was attending Popkomm every year and in 2000 I had a very interesting meeting with a Dutch MD from Warner that liked a lot my stuff and explained me that it was a good move for me to start a publishing company under Warner (administrated by them)... I did it and I officially became a music publisher under the Warner Music Group. So, the final move to complete my business platform, as you can imagine, was to create a label to give my production clients and publishing artists the label services (distribution and Press Office). I am a big fan of an Italian label Group called Aural Music and luckily the owner is a big fan of my work, so I asked him if he was interested to start my label under his group. He said yes immediately, so it has been a lucky strike for me as I was starting a new label with the credibility of a powerful label group, with a big distribution network (my first six albums have the SPV brand on the cds), help with marketing and promotion... At the same Popkomm I had another meeting with a small American start-up called The Orchard, which was trying to start a digital distribution business... They were trying to invent the B2B service of “Aggregator“. They contacted me via the Italian country manager and I decided to sign with them for my digital marketing (What was it?? We didn't know, but it sounded futuristic so we liked it). Another lucky strike, because today The Orchard is owned by Sony Music and is the biggest digital distribution company in the world, so I have so much support and help from them, which is unbelievable, because they help me with promotion, marketing, technical support and much more. That's more or less how Wormholedeath started.
How did WormHoleDeath become a big label? Which were the main obstacles you had to overcome and the big sacrifices you had to make, in order to become a successful label?
Becoming important and the big sacrifices we have made, could have the same answer: get out of the comfort zone, leave the “safe job” at the shopping mall, work so hard that you feel sick, you see double at the end of the day, you faint ... Risk all the money that you make investing them promoting your brand and bands, because you truly believe in what you are doing and in your artists... Be honest, true, transparent, but also tough, strong and accept no compromise. Will is Power, Death or Glory.
How easy or difficult is it to make money in the rock/metal music business? Which is your advice to the ones, who want to get into the music business as businessmen, journalists etc.?
Don't do it....There's too much to work, too much sacrifice... In this world where people want everything and immediately this is not a good idea. I have earned my first euro after 10 years working for free and after having spent so much money to create my portfolio of products that only somebody crazy like me could have followed that path... I also had to fight with my parents that wanted me to become a lawyer, doctor etc., etc. ... In the end, I made it... I do the job I love and I live with it. This is the real success... Now I know that I was born for this.
How can somebody work for WormHoleDeath?
It's very difficult...I am too demanding to work for. Even if I have to say that after having kept one guy one year under my radar, I have hired him permanently. He's now our A&R and we are really, really happy with his work....But he's just one out of a million. Also, my assistant Carla keeps the struggle, since quite a lot of time and she could be easily sanctified as Martyr by the Christian church...Then there are a lot of freelancers that work with us managing their own time and tasks which we really like, because they only send us the invoice when the job is done.
Which music genres does WormHoleDeath cover?
All rock and metal genres as long as the quality is good. We don't have a “sound concept”, but our “label concept” is the high quality... Hard rock and prog are the main genres right now, but we also work with metalcore, death metal, thrash metal, power metal, industrial, epic metal, grindcore, deathcore, groove Metal etc., etc. Everything with heavy/powerful guitars and vocals.
How many albums has WormHoleDeath released until now? Which are some of the most important WormHoleDeath releases, in your opinion?
We have released around 450 albums on CD/digital and around 100 digital only ... so let's say around 550 … I don't have an important release, because for us they are all important the same way, no matter if one has generated 100.000$ revenue and one only 500$ … We don't weight our artists based on the money that we make on them, we consider our artists “family” or not based on how they threat us and how they act with us. If they are nice, polite, loyal, honest, grateful, hardworking and love being a team with us and bearing our logo on their album for us they are REALLY IMPORTANT, even if they didn't sell much, they are family. Instead, if they are inflated balloons, rude and give everything for granted they are out, even if they have sold well. This is our policy and it's not going to chance, because we know that the humble will grow, forever...The snooty will end up down the drain.
With which criteria do you sign bands? How can a band become a member of WormHoleDeath?
The quality criteria are very simple and complicated at the same time, as they are simple to be listed and complicated to achieve. The Quality of the Music, The Production, The People and The Image go together as first. For me the music is not enough alone. The band needs to have a very strong sound/production/identity and Image. On top of this I want to know the guys to understand who they are and how they „think“, because I don't like rock star wannabes, inflated balloons, big heads, hot-headed, impolite/rude etc etc. When I understand that the guys are very humble and nice, the album has great songs and a super powerful production, the band really cares about the image (with „image“ I mean graphic artworks, photos, but also having an official website, cool merch, perfect English pronunciation and grammar in the lyrics-bio-posts, updated socials with engagement with fans etc.) we can check the last thing that is their attitude in being their own managers, selling theirselves and entrepreneur potential. If all these criteria match, then we can make an offer. I don't care if the band is young or has seven albums already, I don't care if the band has videos with million streams or 1000 plays... If I find what I want, the things I just said, then for me it's deal. We, unlike many other labels, don't rely on numbers, we rely on the people and their artistic vision/attitude ... For me the attitude is 99% of the success.
Which is your advice to the newcomer bands of the contemporary rock/metal scene?
Write an album that is very difficult to market, because it becomes the new market. Steal from the bands that you listen to, don't copy. Make new art, not new copy of old art. Be unique, be true to yourself and to your fans. Work with a label, don't play the musicianmanagerlaberA&RdistributoPragent etc., etc. ... It's simply ridiculous...It doesn't work that you put the music on YouTube and Distrokid and you collect sales and media exposure... It takes years and years of relations (and money) with the media, radio, magazines etc. to get the space. Be serious, be credible, this is my suggestion.
Nowadays technology and internet have changed the way music is released and distributed. How have technology and internet affected labels like WormHoleDeath? Do you think things have gotten better or worse with internet?
Well, the biggest challenge has been the transition from physical products to digital … Together with music distribution, the media has changed from being printed magazines to web magazines. Even a lot radios have moved onto the web creating the so called “web radios”. That has been the biggest challenge (because the torrents were giving the chance to everybody to steal the music), but being with pioneers like The Orchard helped us to understand the changes in the market and the sale/distribution of music. Then it changed again from sales to streaming… This has been a huge change, because all the promotion was not done to sell products anymore, but the goal was to get the songs streamed by people … The numbers with streaming became the main thing and they have to be big, huge, if you want to make any profit in music. I believe that people should buy the music how they like, not save it in a bloody Spotify account to listen to it again later… Music loses its value like this and bands can’t make much money, due to the fact that streaming is paid in peanuts. I prefer when we released albums on LP and we sold 10.000 copies, the magazines were on paper, we were writing each other letters and not emails ...
What music do you listen to nowadays, Carlo? Which are your favorite bands and artists?
Favorite records for sure “Deathwish“ and “Only Theatre Of Pain“ from Christian Death. I am a huge fan of Rozz Williams, and Shadowdream’s “The Sunsettler’s Motel“, I love the Pixies' “Surfer Rosa“ as well. I also listen to shoegaze bands like Interpol, darkwave (Joy Division, The Cure, A Place to Bury Strangers). I like Sonic Youth, Sigur Ros, The Killers, Editors, Placebo, Rammstein … Some devastating hardcore like Converge, Neurosis, Comeback Kid, Shai Hulud and a few new bands like Lorna Shore, Fit for an Autopsy and Wage War.
How have the Covid-19 pandemic and its restrictions affected you and WormHoleDeath?
Covid has made us sell a lot of B2C services through our agencies (Volume, Firmline network), because all the bands could not play live so wanted to invest money on videos, merch, print CDs, LPs etc., etc., … So we have made big money with services. Also the labels have done very well, because even if the bands didn't play live, they have written a lot of new music, recorded, answered interviews, created new strategies, so we have been working a lot closely to them... Obviously we have gone through a lot of logistic troubles... Stocks blocked at customs in South America, Japan, North America.... CDs and LPs destroyed …. But after all it has been positive for us.
WormHoleDeath published a film by Susi Medusa Gottardi. Can you give us all the important information about this film?
Well, we are all big fans of underground films and film makers, so when Susi Medusa Gottardi of Private asked us if we wanted to produce one of her regular (not adult) films, we immediately agreed, and as a result our label also opened a small "film production" division. The movie is mainly a collaboration between our oldest band “The Way Of Purity” and Susi that wanted to work together, but obviously for a bunch of freaks like they are a normal videoclip was not an option, so they asked me to produce this 30 min. film. I think it came out very cool! The narrative is presented as documentary of a true scary event. The film relates the story of four musicians who hike into the dark forest near Prague to perform a strange religious ritual and find an old tape recorder in a black house. This tape recorder contains recordings of a suffering voice. After further research, the band finds out that the “dream” has just begun and that everything has a deep religious meaning. After that incredible event, the four guys decided to write an album and use the voices found on the recorder as main vocals in the songs … “Thirty minutes of brutal romantic atmosphere, written, directed and created by Susi Medusa Gottardi. This film relates the story of a true scary event experienced by a band of young extremists of the cross: The Way of Purity. The four members of this band are musicians united in faith through a blood pact, they have a higher religious mission and are in contrast with their manager: in a moment of very strong emotional tension they are guided, apparently by chance, into a black house inside the dark forests of Bohemia, where they find an old tape recorder that contains the harsh, screaming lyrics of a suffering female voice that causes them insane visions of blood and martyrdom. After further research, the band finds out that what happened to them has a powerful religious meaning: as this is the voice of a girl’s spiritual purity, recorded while she was taking her own life in the name of God back in 1972. Deeply moved by all this, they decided to compose the album “Crosscore” using the voices found on the recorder as main vocals in the songs. Featuring young actress Lena and Steve J. Drakos”. The DVD is not for sale, only available as a present for our friends and the digital file has been bought in 47.000 copies.
WormHoleDeath is the owner of Opera Core. Can you give us all the necessary details about Opera Core?
Opera Core is a solid sound concept initially started by Wormholedeath with the band Crysalys in 2011. Later during 2015 and after the big success of Crysalys’ album “The Awakening of Gaia” (which was conceived to be the link between Opera and Apocalyptic Devastation), Norhod decided to inherit the legacy and rejuvenate the movement. In 2017 Opera Core was finally back with Elegy Of Madness’ epic third album “New Era”. The singers must have a degree in Opera singing at Conservatorio and the album needs to be mixed in a certain way with a certain sound. The themes must be apocalyptic. It's not easy to be released under this brand and to be honest we don't even get many submissions...A lot of bands like the idea, but they don't even try as they see it's too hard. “Only three bands in the roster ... We don't even try ...” I can't blame them...I have seen that now Opera Core is officially a music genre, sub-Genre of metal... I am proud to be the one who created it.
Which are your ambitions/goals for WormHoleDeath? What should we expect in the future from you and WormHoleDeath?
Our ambitions are to get every band that we release to a certain guaranteed level, and we are working for this. The amount of money that we are spending to make agreements with so many media, radios, festivals all around the world is phenomenal, but when this “media/promo/guaranteed network” will be created, then it will be the end of all our competitors, because every band we will sign, no matter the genre, no matter the potential, will be able to reach some incredible promotional results that only the HUGE labels could guarantee in the past. This is our goal. We have already achieved it with distribution and publishing with the major labels, now with concerts...The last step is the biggest and more expensive, with the media. What you can expect is more and more bands in the charts, certified gold, big tours, big festivals....
Can you give us some information about WormHoleDeath’s future releases? To which WormHoleDeath album release are you looking forward?
There's no favorite album or band we are expecting, because they are all the same for us, all important, all priority releases. For sure I can tell you about the contracts that we have renewed: The Way Of Purity (releasing a new album), Temtris (releasing a new album), Arched Fire (releasing a new album), All Wasted (releasing new singles), Duckwalk Chuck (getting ready to record the new album), Colin Secretan (new project Demons by Design), After Evolution (getting ready to record the new album), Thomas Hansen (Under The Oak and Bolverk new albums), Areis (getting ready to record the new album) and many others we are talking with... Thanx a lot for the space, really enjoyed answering your questions!!