Jen is the co-founder/co-owner of Cyber Tracks, a record label based in Los Angeles who boasts a unique business model, which they describe as “For artists, by artists”.
Jen founded the label with her husband Aaron Abeyta, better known as El Hefe in legendary California punk band NOFX, in hopes to create a label that allowed for artists to share control, revenue, and decision-making equality, unlike modern labels that have strict business relationships.
Bands on the Cyber Tracks roster include Unwritten Law, Implants, Counterpunch, Fenix TX, Ten Foot Pole and many more punk/hardcore/alternative rock acts.
Jen does everything on the label roster, from graphic design, web design, publishing, ordering merch/CDs for her roster, getting contracts sorted out and much more. This is a woman who who does it all, including home schooling her 8 year old son Jaden and even doing renovations on her home. Jen is a whip smart woman who has absolutely earned her place in the industry.
Learn more about Jen in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time today! Can you please briefly describe how Cyber Tracks was first formed? Why did your husband and you decide to start it?
We formed Cyber Tracks a few years ago with the simple idea to release the album’s my husband was producing (at that time), rather than taking the finished product and helping the bands shop it to a label. We created our foundation with a band called Margate who all work at universal records.
What exactly is the business model and goal of Cyber Tracks?
Our motto is “for artists by artists” which represents our equal share of decision making, master ownership, and revenue with the artists we work with. We wanted to offer our artists a fair deal where the label doesn’t make more than the band, and vice versa.
I understand that you do it all when it comes to the company. Can you talk about some of your day-to-day duties? What does a typical day look like for you?
I handle pretty much everything, solely. Daily, I deal with my bands, my distributors, shipping product, producers and album production, album artwork adjustments, publicists, and customer service …I respond to all inquiries personally, which is very important to me. We are a very boutique label (mom and pop style), and intimate with our customers.
What are some of the bands that are under your label? Do you find that you lean towards a particular genre of music or do you take on anything? Are you constantly looking for new artists and bands to represent?
I’m extremely proud of our roster. Some of our bands include: Unwritten Law, Fenix TX, Implants (featuring members of strung out, pulley, and more), Ten Foot Pole, Counterpunch, This Legend (featuring two original members of Yellowcard), Margate, and more to be announced soon. We love and appreciate all genres of music, however, because we’ve been signing bands more “word of mouth,” we’ve been signing bands that lean more towards the punk and alternative sound. My plate is full at the moment, so we aren’t looking to scout any new bands. If they come to us and we feel it’s a good move, we’ll do it, but I’m focusing more on the current releases I have the remainder of this year.
I’m curious to know more about the online harassment you have faced and how you’ve overcome it? Do you think it’s getting easier to be a woman in the music industry?
People can just be really mean, my close friends always tell me that the bullies are just “haters,” but I lean more towards thinking that they just have nothing better to do than attack people on the internet. It was hard to overcome at first, I’ve been called every horrible name in the book …I don’t go looking for it, but unfortunately things pop up on my Facebook feed. It doesn’t bother me anymore, I’ve grown some pretty thick skin over the years because of it.
What bothers me the most is how humans can be so in disregard of others’ feelings and unaware that we all have our own personal struggles in life.
As far as being a woman in the music industry …from my 11 years of experience, I’ve noticed that if you get with a guy in a band, you’re automatically deemed as some dumb groupie. Over the years, I think I’ve definitely earned some credibility as people (and the public) get to know me better.
Where do you see the music industry heading in the new 10-20 years?
It’s changed so rapidly, and still is. The only prediction I’m sure of, is that CD’s will become obsolete, like cassettes. The majority of new cars don’t even have a CD player in them, yet, they are equipped with Bluetooth, App access, and internet. The music chain stores have been closing dramatically recently.
What advice would you offer a young person who is interesting in starting their own label or something interested in working for one?
Come up with a unique and smart business plan. Keep your overhead low. Understand the digital changes and figure out how to make it work …think outside the box. As far as working for a label, I’ve heard that the majors are laying people off every year to cut costs to make up for the decreasing album sales. I wish good luck to anyone who’s heart and soul is geared towards releasing music to the masses, it’s so tough now, but not impossible.