About a month ago, I wrote an article on the recent release of Dreamy Life’s Group Therapy, Vol. 5 compilation. Embarrassingly, after the piece went to print, it was brought to my attention that in a line crediting the label’s co-owners for their efforts, there was a glaring omission of one of their number. Jim Vallee, a key Power Ranger that helps form the Dreamy Life Zord, had been forgotten. Again.
Apparently, it’s a fairly common occurrence. Unlike the other co-owners, producers Britt Robisheaux (Pinkish Black, BJ Thomas) and Robby Rux (The Fibs, Johndavid Bartlett) and locally prominent musician Cameron Smith (Sur Duda, War Party), Vallee’s contributions to the inner workings of the label and its associated recording studio and record store are less public-facing, an obstacle that has routinely denied him due credit and kept his name out of media accounts of the label’s goings-on.
“I think that people who really know the label and people who visit the store [regularly] know full well that I’m involved,” Vallee said about his general lack of recognition. “But when it comes to anything in print, I rarely get mentioned. It’s not the end of the world. It’s nothing to get too upset about, but it’s like, ‘Gah! I’m certainly pulling my weight to help make this thing go.’ ”
Since he joined with Rux and Smith in 2014 as the two merged their separate labels, Dreamy Soundz and Lo-Life Recordings, the way Vallee has “helped things go” is by being the main financial backer of the label and by offering some much-needed business acumen. He was responsible for obtaining the business license and forming the LLC for the label, and he brought a vision for how to operate viably that complemented the differing skill sets of the others.
“One of the value-adds I feel I’ve given is in not getting in over your head — to try to see what works and what doesn’t,” he said. “Instead of having this grand vision to do a lot of things up front, to start small and simple and evolve from there.”
Much of his small business knowledge comes from his father, who owned several small businesses in his hometown of Dover, New Hampshire — a Laundromat, a few convenience stores, and even a record store among them. It’s kind of funny that it’s come full circle and I’m now running a record store, too,” Vallee said.
Perhaps his biggest day-to-day involvement is his overseeing and financing Dreamy Life Records and Tapes, the modest music store also owned by the label trust, located inside MASS on the Near Southside. He purchases and maintains all the inventory — the store basically operating as a main revenue generator for the label.
“Basically, all the money from the store goes back into the label,” Vallee said. “I can buy $5,000 worth of records and sell them for $10,000, and I’ve doubled the investment into what we can do.”
It’s a clever way to help combat the difficult business model inherent in small independent record labels, especially in a rapidly changing industry. As sales of physical media continue to slump, being replaced by downloads and streams, it’s become more difficult than ever for a label to continue to operate, much less turn a profit. But such a passion still exists within the label that they’re pushing through.
“The rules have changed dramatically since we’ve started,” Vallee said. “New bands, especially younger bands, are not really seeing the value in [being on] a label. They’re coming out, developing their own social media campaigns, aligning with influencers, and trying to get on [streaming] playlists. We’ll always continue to put out releases. That’s never going to change, but we’re starting to move away from the thinking of a traditional label, focusing more on artist development.
“There’s a lot of great music in town,” he continued. “There’s a lot of music that needs to be heard, so we’re going to continue to do [what we do] despite what’s been going on.”