Wayfarer Records: AV Talks with David Luxton ©2024 Ambient Visions


David Luxton

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AV:   What was your initial motivation for founding Wayfarer Records? 

DL:  I founded Wayfarer Records in 2007 during my final year of graduate studies (I’m also a professor and psychologist). Years prior, I played in bands and composed instrumental music for film and television, but I wanted to take the music further. My vision was to establish a small indie label specializing in ambient instrumental music, which I have always enjoyed. I planned to keep the label small and artist-focused, and I envisioned a “community” approach in which the artists formed a collaborative network. 

Wayfarer Records marked its 15th anniversary in 2022. The following year, I appointed a board of directors: Sean O’Bryan Smith, Dieter Spears, and Jason Blake, who are friends and fellow artists. They have been bringing things to an entirely new level. Further expansion is planned for the coming year.  

AV:  It’s easy to read the words “Dave founded Wayfarer Records,” but what does that mean in terms of things you have to do to get the label up and running? 

DL:  We have been focused on getting our artists out there through promotion. We are constantly getting reviews and charting. While I kept the label very small until recently, our shared vision for the label has remained unwavering. We are flexible and adaptive. As an independent label, I suppose you could say that we are “a small operation, we don’t fall into the jurisdiction of the Empire.”

AV:  What guidelines do you have for the types of artists you would like to sign to this label, and how did you go about finding the talent that populates Wayfarer?

DL:  I’ve always looked for artists with undiscovered talent and heart. Daren Keck and Boreal Taiga were the first two artists I signed, aside from myself, and they are still with us today. I signed ELEON and Ambiente Solstice in 2022, and when Sean joined, we added a slew of new artists, including a couple of Grammy nominees. We call this phase a “reboot,” and we’re back in start-up mode, which I enjoy as an entrepreneur. 

AV:  Does Wayfarer Records have some sort of A&R department to discover new talent that might find a home on the label and to make an offer to them to join the label?

DL:  Sean is our Director of Artist Development and Relations, so he has covered many discoveries over the last year. The commitment that Sean has to artists and the label is exemplary. Inquiring artists are welcome to reach out to us. 

AV:  Even after all these years of being in the community, I’ve never felt that ambient labels are in competition with one another. What qualities do you want to imbue Wayfarer Records with to create a niche within the ambient community that might not have been as well represented around 2007 when you founded the label?

DL:  Years ago, I coined “Innovative Sonic Artistry” as our tagline. Innovation and persistence are what have helped us stand out over the years. I’d be remiss if I said there isn’t some competition among the few notable labels. However, a certain amount of friendly competition is beneficial because it serves as motivation. 

AV:  You mention on your About page that you have a commitment to creating a community for artists who eventually end up on Wayfarer Records. Tell me what that means in practical terms for what you hope to achieve with an artist who signs to release their music on your label.

DL:  Our catalog shows that our artists enjoy cross-collaboration, appearing on each other’s releases. We also collaborate with off-label artists, which has been a pleasure. We encourage this kind of collaborative spirit. 

AV:  Do you maintain studios for your artists to work in? Is that still a thing that labels need to do?

DL:  Each of our artists has their method of music production, and I’d say the majority use their personal studios, while others will do sessions in commercial studios. I do approximately 80% of the audio mastering for our artists in my own studio in Washington State. 

AV:  Are there any limitations on what genres of music might be released on the label?

DL:  We are definitely focused on ambient, space music, chillout, and virtuoso instrumental styles of music. We feature some vocalists, too, such as Nacre, who we signed this past year. 

AV:  What is it as a label that you do for an artist once they have new material that has the potential to be released on Wayfarer Records? In other words, what kind of help does Wayfarer Records provide to the artist to help them bring their music to the point that it can be released to the public?

DL:  Our support to artists is what distinguishes us as an independent label. We remain artist-focused and believe in artist development. We provide additional ears to listen to the initial production. We may work together on a performance; Sean, for example, is our resident bassist extraordinaire. Dieter produces a lot of album artwork and videos for the artists. If the artist does not want to outsource the audio mastering, I handle it myself. Sean and I also provide guidance to artists regarding marketing. 


AV:  Do you find it easier or about the same to bring music to the marketplace with digital distribution available to you? Do you offer physical products as well (CDs, Vinyl, cassettes) as digital distribution?

DL:  Nowadays, digital (streaming and downloads) account for more than 90% of sales. Some of our artists, including myself, still print CDs for sale at live performances or for fans who collect them. 

AV:  With music seemingly pouring onto the Internet, do you find it harder to get artist recognition among music fans simply because there are so many voices screaming to be heard?

DL:  More artists are vying for attention today than ever. My solution for the label is to remain focused on quality and consistently build name recognition for the label and the artists. We also need to be savvy about technology and its future.

Technology has consistently disrupted the music industry, including the Internet, streaming, software-based instruments, and, most recently, artificial intelligence (AI). I research, write, and speak about AI when I’m not making music. I’ve spent the last year developing international standards for distinguishing between human and machine (AI) interactions, such as in media.

One primary concern is generative AI and what it means for the creative arts. Artistry will no longer be defined by talent, skill, and innate creative expression; instead, it will be deceptively marketed as if from an artist, but created and performed by unfeeling machines with no real-world or personal experience, as opposed to a human experiencing life - an authentic “wayfarer.” In my opinion, this represents a significant devaluation (both intrinsic and monetary value) of the arts. I believe the solution is to emphasize human performance, skill, and the uniqueness of human artistic creation. It is probably best to think of AI as an assistive tool that ranges from augmentation and assistance to full-fledged autonomous machine generation. I’m optimistic that if we stay on the assistive end of the spectrum and are honest about it, we will be okay as artists and a viable modern indie label.


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