A Q&A with Douglas Mcgowan of Yoga Records

Yoga Records is an archival/reissue label focused on private press and unreleased or barely-available recordings. The label began as a download-only enterprise in 2008 before moving to physical releases in 2009. The Yoga catalog covers a wide array of genres and artists, including Ted Lucas, Collie Ryan, Alice Damon, News, Joel Andrews, and Bobb Trimble. Yoga’s most recent release by Penny Carson Nichols features solo recordings from 1988 in the vein of NPR darling Connie Converse. 

Label founder and head Douglas Mcgowan is based in Los Angeles, where he has also served as an A&R representative for Numero Group since 2015. Douglas’ work for Numero Group includes releases by Jackie Shane, Joanna Brouk, Laraaji, and a forthcoming box set by WTJU Rock favorite Margo Guryan. Douglas has also worked with Light In The Attic to produce a series of compilations exploring new age, cosmic/kosmische, and ambient sounds from North America, Europe, and Japan.

In anticipation of the 2024 WTJU Rock Marathon show focusing on the Yoga Records catalog (hosted by Baconfat and Sister Pirate Jenny on Saturday, April 20 at 6pm Eastern time), Douglas Mcgowan was kind enough to answer a few questions regarding the label.

For more about Yoga Records, visit Yoga’s Bandcamp page. For more about Douglas Mcgowan, visit his website

When did you start collecting records and focusing on singer/songwriter and private press releases?

I got into records in 1994 when a friend pointed out that they were dirt cheap and everywhere, and you could find “incredibly strange music” on them. I got into singer/songwriter and private press around 2003/2004 when I started to meet the kinds of people who network and trade and go online to talk about records. That was when I realized how much I had to learn, but also how I was already a lot like those folks. And it was when I realized how many private press records were already in my collection without me really ever thinking about the fundamental difference between major label and private press. 

What was the impetus behind starting a download label?

Yoga Records started as a hobby and as a digital label because there was a moment in 2007/2008 where Other Music and a few others started digital shops. That was a very brief moment but I was lucky and hung around just long enough to make an actual record (Collie Ryan). But the main reason I started with digital was because I had no money, not enough to press a single record. I never planned to be in the music business, but I knew I wanted to make a few LPs just to see what that was like. 

Once you decided to do physical releases, you established a series of partnerships (Riverman, Drag City, Sebastian Speaks, etc.). What was the reasoning behind those moves?

Working with other people was a way to learn and to get things done. By partnering with labels outside the US I was able to make myself useful by tracking down and talking to American artists. This helped me learn the rudiments of A&R before I knew what A&R was. I was really lucky to meet people like William Tyler who was doing Sebastian Speaks before he became a famous guitarist, and Drag City, which was crazy enough to partner with me on my third record. All these partners had more money, experience, and credibility than I did. So many people helped me and I try to be as helpful as I can with anyone starting out. 

The reissue field has gotten very crowded over the past decade-plus; what do you think separates Yoga from other operations?

Most labels do one of two things I don’t want to do. One is try to create a brand identity, either by focusing on one type of music, repetition of a design scheme, or whatever. That obviously makes a lot of sense, and a lot of the best labels have really made this work, but it never interested me. 

The other thing labels do that I have a lot less enthusiasm for is just reproducing things that already exist. I did too at first, but eventually realized life’s too short to repeat yourself or anyone else. I just think if you’re going to do it then bring something to the table. 

For Yoga releases that aren’t currently on the major streaming platforms, can we look forward to some of those arriving in the future? 

I do endeavor to do more with digital and do more digital releases since a lot of stuff just ought to be available and everything doesn’t need to be a record. I’ve never done anything without a signed license agreement from the artist.


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