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Brevity is key to Exercise1 benefit CD


A big part of songwriting is knowing what to leave in and what to leave out.

And that’s really important when there’s an imposed limit on song length.

For its benefit compilation CD 50minutes, U.K.-based Exercise1 Records limited participating artists to roughly 60 seconds per submission.

“Part of the ethos we have as a label is kind of resurrecting the art of song smithery — the idea of making the songcraft and narrative the most important thing about a band, as opposed to how skinny their jeans are,” says Exercise1 co-founder Lucas Stidson. “So 50minutes was an ideal opportunity to gather the most thoughtful songwriters we could think of and ask them to cap their ideas down to one minute. It’s a display of how truly great these writers are — being able to almost write to order like that.”

Stidson says the label spent a year gathering tracks, and initially he was worried not enough people would be interested.

That wasn’t the case, as music was sent in by established and unsigned artists from around the world representing various genres.

“I think we ended up with about 65 to 70 submissions, and getting it down to the final 50 was a huge job,” Stidson recalls. “We ended up putting a few of the tracks that we loved but just couldn’t find any space for on the enhanced section of the CD.

The 50 artists making the final cut include Trademark, Captain Black, Ladyfuzz, The Death Set, Action Plan, The Coral Sea and Laura Groves.

“Probably the single most important inclusion for us was Daniel Johnston,” he adds. “If the idea of this album is to be an insight into classic songwriting, then there really is no finer example alive in the world today than Daniel Johnston.”

Proceeds from the CD, which was released in October, benefit the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture.

“It’s an incredibly important organization,” says Stidson, “and we certainly feel like we made the right choice in the charity we wanted to support. Some of the stories and facts they’ve published are horrific, to say the least. They were also the best choice in the amount of support and promotion they gave us in order to help sell the album, and they were very interested in the idea from the start. We’ll certainly be raising money for them again in some way.”

— By Chris M. Junior