Between Multiple Bands, Warren Haynes Stays On Track With His Evil Teen Label

Singer/songwriter/guitarist Warren Haynes is rock'n'roll's consummate jam band professional-and these days, that isn't a contradiction in terms. A maverick on both the business and creative sides of his career, he handles duties as an integral player in the Allman Brothers Band and the Grateful Dead, as well as with his own hard-touring outfit, Gov't Mule, and occasionally finds time to engage in his own well-received solo career.

Haynes believes in the jam band ethos of letting fans tape shows, touring hard and making money on merchandise. Haynes is an elder statesman of this business model. He is often, as he puts it, "stepping off one tour bus and onto another," and is out with all three bands this year. In October, Gov't Mule will release its eighth studio record, "By a Thread," on his own label.

Recorded at Willie Nelson's Pedernales Studio in Texas, "By a Thread" comes on Evil Teen Records, the indie label owned by Haynes and his wife/manager, Stefani Scamardo, and distributed by RED. And that's not Haynes' only foray into the business side of music: There have been nearly 2 million paid downloads of songs from Gov't Mule's Mule Tracks Web site.

Amid all your touring and recording, you find time to run your record label, Evil Teen. Do you consider yourself a label executive?
The word "executive" has never been one that I would use to describe myself. The progress of Evil Teen has really been a gradual, organic sort of thing. My wife has been in the music business since I've known her-she started the label years ago-and we became partners shortly after. The way the music business is going, we could just feel ourselves getting closer and closer to wanting to put out our own records. There was a lot of interest in other labels putting this record out, and we owed it to ourselves to see what everybody had to say. But in the long run, we just felt like it was time for bands like us to represent change and the new model.

There are opportunities now you certainly didn't see when you first started.
Yeah, it seems to be kind of the way of the future. We got a pretty good glimpse of that when we started doing Mule Tracks and allowed people to download the shows. That's pretty amazing; I never expected it to catch on that quickly. Bands like us that play a different show every night can get away with offering their live performances up, because they're so different night after night, people want to hear what's going on.

What it does is create another revenue stream from your touring that doesn't end when the show's over.
We've always allowed people to tape the shows anyway-we set up a special section so people can record the shows. People trade them for free; as long as there's no money changing hands, we have no problem with it. But Mule Tracks is us offering what we consider a step above that, almost like a live record-quality recording night after night. It's really caught on, and it's a little scary for us, because every note we play is available to the public.

Click here to read more from the Billboard Q&A with Warren Haynes, including life on the road, his advice to concert promoters and more.