Catalytic Sound began in 2012 by putting a group of creative musicians in more control of the distribution and sale of their recordings. We provided a single place for our artists to enable their fans to find the largest number of their albums and, later, helped to distribute the catalogs of the artist-run record labels represented by musicians in the collective. In both cases, the purpose was to help the members generate more income through sales of their recorded work.

The current goal is to help create artistic sustainability for the 30 musicians in the collective.  This means providing financial assistance to help them spend more time developing their artistic practice as opposed to more hours working at a day job. We create innovative economic strategies that support artists’ work in the rapidly shifting economic circumstances that currently affect all musicians. We also work to develop more audience awareness of the range of creativity involved, both in terms of each individual’s work and what inspires it, by providing information about different aspects of the collective’s activity.

The record store finances work like this: after purchasing albums at wholesale from the independent labels we collaborate with, 50% of the net income from every sale goes directly to the musicians, and the other 50% goes to covering costs and developing new projects at the collective (such as the yearly festival, the Quarterly, new revenue generators like the Catalytic Soundstream music platform, developing other means to represent of the musicians’ work, website and social media improvements, etc.). For example, a $20 LP issued by a non-member label, $10 goes to the label, $5 goes to the musician, $5 goes to Catalytic. In the case of a $20 LP issued on a label run by one of the Catalytic members, $10 goes to the artist and $10 goes to Catalytic (in all cases, without the cost to get merchandise shipped to the offices in Chicago and Vienna; an expense covered by the organization, one of many services the co-op provides to the artists involved).

In addition to the record store, the co-op created another artist directed music service, called the Catalytic Soundstream, developed to circumvent the inequitable practices of corporate streaming services.  Unlike any other streaming platform, by participating in the program, every musician in the collective receives an equal share of the artist funds generated through member subscriptions. These two economic strategies are unique, and help sustain artistic practice by giving a larger percentage of every album sale and subscription back to the artists than provided by any other music retailer or streaming service.

Catalytic Sound is much more than a music retailer, however. It is a co-operative between artists and patrons. The musicians involved provide the diversity and depth of their individual discographies and record labels. Fans of the music can directly support the artists they admire through purchasing albums from this outlet and, by becoming a member, their subscriptions to Catalytic provide an ongoing source of income for all 30 musicians in the collective.  Buying records at Catalytic and becoming a member has a parallel to belonging to a food co-op: the money spent sustains a creative ecosystem by directly supporting its producers, helping to maintain their survival through firsthand sponsorship. In these ways, and by continuing to develop additional economic strategies, Catalytic Sound will maintain its ongoing effort to generate solutions that overcome the dwindling and conventional financial resources for contemporary musicians.

Catalytic Sound aims to do more than “sell great records.”  We strive to expand the economic resources for musicians while documenting and making available information regarding their artistic practice, one that takes place in the evolving world of contemporary improvised and experimental music.  By subscribing to our membership, you provide ongoing financial assistance to 30 artists, helping each of them continue their creative work as they confront the ongoing challenges facing musicians everywhere.  We thank you for joining us in this cause!