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Episode 011 – Punk Rock, Bowling and Bonds

How to run a Punk label and still keep your soul.

“It’s not Rocket Science”

– Shawn Stern, BYO Records

Ponte De Le TetteShawn Stern didn’t set out to become a Punk Rock Icon.  When he – along with his two brothers – created the (now) seminal band Youth Brigade back in 1980, all they really wanted to do was play music and hang with friends.  Punk Rock, he quickly realized, was the perfect venue for that lifestyle, “We (could) play music, we don’t have to be really good,… and you could talk about the problems – that really still exist – that (pop music) won’t talk about.”

But Punk Rockers need to eat.  So, when the major labels couldn’t care less about distributing BYO’s albums, when club owners didn’t want to book the band, and when promoters wouldn’t return his phone calls – Shawn went DIY.  Again with his brother, “This is a family affair,” Shawn cashed in his Bar Mitzvah Bonds (in the process screwing Bank of America) and started his own label – BYO Records.

“It’s not rocket science, We learned early on how businesses work without ever taking a business class, I don’t know to me it’s just logical.”  Suddenly, Shawn was more than Youth Brigades lead singer, he was an entrepreneur, de-facto CEO, and both President and CFO of his own company.

In this episode of 21KHZ, How Shawn Stern managed to run a punk rock label and still keep his soul.

But BYO was more than a label, to Shawn it was part and parcel of the punk community. “We need to support the scene and the only way to do that is to make a community out of it.  BYO was sort of our attempt to try to get a community going with people that we are friends with.”  Throughout the 80s, and 90’s BYO, with Shawn at the helm, was one of the major players on the American Punk Rock scene.

But the digital revolution hit BYO hard, “we could see, you don’t need a record label anymore, what’s the point of signing bands and putting out a record, when there’s no more record stores.”  Without the music to keep BYO going, Shawn found a new venue for his BYO ideas – Punk Rock Bowling.

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And… if you’ve managed to stay this long, a little bonus.  A story that didn’t make the final edit.

What if your first album sounds like shit?  You re-record the whole thing….