Homegrown Business: Toronto music label Cursed Blessings Records

We recently spoke with punk rock heavy weights and personal friends of mine Al Nolan and Doug Smart of new Toronto punk rock/hardcore/Heavy metal label Cursed Blessings Records.

What is your business called and what does it do?

The business is called CURSED BLESSINGS RECORDS, we are a record label specializing in punk, hardcore and heavy metal.  The business was founded by Al Nolan in June of 2020.

What made you want to do this work?

The entertainment business is in my blood.  My parents were classically trained ballroom dancers (1972 North American Champions in Latin and Ballroom!) and they also were heavily involved in every aspect of a local theatre company.  From a very young age, I learned about staging, sets, lighting, performance, live vocals, acoustics, event planning, marketing, ticket sales etc.  I put on my first event when I was about 13 ( a dance with the help of my twin sister) and then around 15 or so I started to promote rock shows…..mainly because there wasn’t anyone else doing it and I wanted to see good music in my quaint little hometown of Bowmanville.

From there I started performing in bands and did so for nearly 30 years.  I was a co-founder of The Dungeon in Oshawa and helped to guide the music scene in the mighty Shwa (Oshawa, Ontario) for many years alongside the legendary Jason King.  Given my lifelong history with entertainment and my almost equally as long friendship with label owner Al Nolan, when I was approached to help run Cursed Blessings Records, it was definitely a natural fit.

Al Nolan
Al Nolan, President of Cursed Blessings Records

What problem does this solve?

We solve an age-old problem, making the hell we live in sound a lot better.  To quote the late Mark K Gibson of The Almighty Trigger Happy; “Things are always gonna’ suck, we’ll just be here to provide a good soundtrack.” (RIP Mark)

Who are your clientele/demographics?

The wicked thing about the scene that we run in is that age simply does not matter.  Our demographic is anyone who has good taste in music and our clientele is a diverse as they come.  We have the good fortune to have a product that can be (and has been!) enjoyed by anyone, anywhere at any time.

How does your business make money? How does it work?

We produce and manufacture vinyl records on behalf of bands.  We establish a cost-per-unit price and sell the records to the public at a marked-up price in order to pay the bands royalties and to ensure the ongoing existence of our company.  We also release digital albums that are for download only.

Where in Toronto can we find your profession?

Our business can be found in every corner of this city, country and world.  But in the meantime while we’re still on lockdown due to Covid-19, you can find us online at Cursed Blessings Records.

Why should a band sign with you when they can manufacture and sell their albums themselves?

This is a common question, and a good one to ask yourself if you’re thinking about starting a record label.  The harsh reality is that the music business is nowhere near as lucrative as it has been in decades gone by.  Digital music, downloading and an overall change in our way of life has resulted in less people having the need to buy physical copies of the music they like.  Bands have more tools at their fingertips today than ever before, ways to literally become famous overnight.  They can record, mix, master and produce music from their phones nowadays but once the music is out, most band don’t have the time, resources or the first idea of how to go about marketing their music and themselves and ultimately selling it in order to make a living. We utilize a network of contacts that has been amassed over a combined 60 years in the music industry to get our bands heard by the most influential people in the business as well as by the general public.

Doug Smart
Doug Smart, Vice President and co-ordinator for Cursed Blessings Records

What is the best part about what you do? What is the worst part?

The best part about my job is the creative aspect.  Figuring out how to present ourselves and our bands to the world, developing our branding and our style.  Seeing the reactions of happy people listening to our bands also makes this job the best.  It doesn’t hurt that I work with one of my dearest friends ever and I am a true fan of the bands we have signed.  The worst part of the job is having to say no to people who you like, who’s bands you’ve played with or even in.  Bands who were in the trenches with you, looking for the very break that we now offer.  It sucks to say no to bands.

What is your favourite joke about your own profession?

There’s lots of money in the music industry.
That’s the joke…..
It’s so funny because it’s so untrue.

PAY IT FORWARD: What is another Toronto business that you love?

Toronto is full of SO many excellent businesses and business people.  Gotta’ shout out The Bovine Sex Club, Hammer Skateboard, Hot Docs Film Festival, I Am Cafe and Blood Brothers Brewing.  All amazing companies who I highly recommend.

Doug Smart
VP/Label Manager
Cursed Blessings Records