Dissonance Records

Dissonance Records (DR) is an independent recording / marketing / promotion label specializing in “power pop punk rock n roll” and other related rock subgenres. Dissonance has long been the vanity label for veteran New Hampshire indie rockers Nostalgic Distortion, but occasionally enjoys the opportunity to partner with other artists and labels to fight the good fight, spread the word and get music heard.


Dissonance Records was formed in 1995 in Plymouth, NH as a partnership by Plymouth State University students Ryan Byrne and John Girouard to record and distribute music for their band, Nostalgic Distortion. They established relationships with over 25 record (CD) stores throughout New Hampshire and beyond, built custom, attractive counter-top CD displays that the stores kept next to their registers, and negotiated deals with several local bands and another bigger local label to distribute their CDs for a small fee per item sold. One day each week, Ryan drove a certain route checking on several stores, ensuring that each store got serviced about once per month. In so doing, Ryan became a recognizable face among the store owners/managers. Also, since the displays in each store were right next to the register, name recognition of the Dissonance brand began to take hold among the customers. Dissonance had begun to make itself known as local distribution label. Eventually wanting to become a full-fledged label, Dissonance wanted to be able to sign other bands to recording contracts, fund their recordings, and release them on the Dissonance label. They weren’t quite ready to take that step yet, but they took an in-between step. Another local band that Ryan and John were friends with were self-releasing a CD. Even though Dissonance didn’t fund the recording, Ryan pointed out that it could be mutually beneficial to the band and the label to put the Dissonance logo, complete with a catalog number, on their CD. The band would be able to take advantage of the Dissonance brand name awareness (and distribution network) with the local stores and customers, and Dissonance would have their company associated with another local CD release, thereby building the brand name even more.

But there were changes on the horizon. In 1995, when Dissonance started, there were still lots of mom-and-pops record stores. Ryan could walk into a store, and within a visit or two he could be talking to the owner, and setting up the deal. But just a few years later, mom-and-pops record stores starting disappearing . . . fast! The corporate chains were taking over the retail recorded music business and pushing the little guys out. Ryan was able to get his product into some of these chain stores, such as Borders and Newbury Comics – but it wasn’t the same. Nothing happened at the store level anymore. If it happened at all, it was when somebody in an office in a different city finally returned your call after multiple attempts and finally agreed to test your products out in some of their stores.

Other things were changing as well. Several years after starting Dissonance, it was time for college graduations, “real jobs”, and other various life changes. John was graduating before Ryan and wanted to be able to concentrate on these other life changes. So Ryan and John dissolved the partnership, and Ryan re-opened Dissonance Records as a sole proprietorship. Ryan would eventually graduate college as well, and then it was his turn for a “real job” and such. Ryan got a job as a public school music teacher right out of college. The teaching job meant that Ryan had less time and energy to put into Dissonance. This, and the disappearing mom-and-pops record stores, meant that Dissonance would resort to being pretty much just a vanity label for Nostalgic Distortion, at least for the time being. In 2002, Dissonance (Ryan) funded the recording, pressing, distribution, and promotion of ND’s third CD, “The Spaghetti Accident?”, distributing to whatever stores were left in the Dissonance network, and selling discs at live shows.

In 2003, New Hampshire’s most visited tourist attraction, The Old Man of the Mountain, succumbed to the forces of nature and came crumbling down from it’s cliff-side perch on Cannon Mountain. The “Old Man” was a pre-historic mountainside rock formation that resembled a face when viewed from a certain angle. It was devastating news to the native residents of New Hampshire, many of whom thought of the Old Man almost as a living relative. One of the schools that Ryan taught at was right in Franconia, the town where the Old Man resided. So Ryan wrote a tribute song and recorded it with the members of Nostalgic Distortion. However, being an acoustic, folky song, it was quite different from anything Nostalgic Distortion had ever released, and it was released as a solo project under Ryan’s name. Ryan decided to form a new recording label imprint, 251 Records, as the song was also not something that would be considered normal fare for Dissonance Records. The song was released as a CD-single, and was distributed to music shops and gift shops in New Hampshire only, where it would sell nearly 2,000 copies.

In 2004, after 6 years at his teaching job, Ryan moved to Nashville, TN to pursue his music career at a different level. While gigging and learning his way around the Nashville music scene. Ryan became a serious student of social media for the purpose of promoting his various musical and business projects. He created a 251/Dissonance Records online CD store, as well as embedding PayPal “Buy Now” buttons on his 251/Dissonance MySpace pages and selling CDs right through MySpace. He continued to learn about every new social media platform that came out and then delved into the world of WordPress web development. By 2013, Ryan rolled up 251/Dissonance Records into 251 Media, shifting his focus from physical CD sales/distribution to digital marketing and promotion. In 2017, Ryan rebranded 251 Media as 251 Group to serve as an umbrella business name, under which he offers an increasing number of services including music instruction and music performance services, digital marketing and promotion, SEO/SEM, web design and development, ecommerce, premium domain name leasing for the music lessons industry, domain name registration, web hosting, web security, and other web services.

The Dissonance brand name continues to be used as a vanity label imprint for Nostalgic Distortion, but is now once again available for certain niche music promotion projects where the association may contribute to marketing objectives.