Some record labels are foregoing physical media entirely.

A new local roots-music label, Howlin Kitty Music (, began in earnest when Mike McCauley retired.

“What makes us a little more special is that we’re only selling downloads,” says McCauley, 71. “The startup and production costs are much lower. When you’re dealing with downloads you’re dealing with a virtual product.”

He’s built a studio in his house in South Fayette.

“We’re trying to build a community of roots musicians,” McCauley says. “Part of that will be the audience that likes that stuff. Musicians from all over the country or maybe all over the world can share tracks back and forth, even if maybe they haven’t even met.”

“We have already produced an album, by Rev. Frankie Revell, an Appalachian folk album. He’s from Cumberland, Maryland — originally Berkley Springs, West Virginia. He is a three-or-four-time Maryland banjo champion.”

Running an independent record label forces you to always think long-term. Betten, for his part, mostly likes what he sees.

“This gives me hope,” he says. “I was just at a show …, a showcase for a label called Crafted Sounds, that’s run by this 18-year-old Pitt student. Before my very eyes I’m watching this next generation of incredible Pittsburgh musical talent getting their sea legs.

“We’re just caretakers, but we’re leaving this city to a good generation. The kids are all right.”

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