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New Record Label Takes Community Approach

by on Oct.17, 2011, under Djs, Music, Shows

Chicago record label Second City Recordings reaches out to the record buying community to finance a physical pressing of their first release.

Plastic Dreams

When Garrett Shrigley, Lee Dunn, Andrew Gordon, and Jake Nelson started making plans for their new record label Second City Recordings they knew that they wanted their first release to include a vinyl record pressing.

“We wanted a product people could hold in their hands and play”, said Nelson. “We wanted products that people could stand behind.”

Second City Recordings is one of a number of new boutique record labels that are putting in the extra time, effort and money that it takes to release their music as a physical product. While pressing records is not a big money generator, these labels believe that distributing physical media provides them with a marketing edge.

“Labels that just release digitally tend to get lost in the shuffle,” said Michael Serafini, owner of Chicago’s Gramaphone Records. “It’s nice to have a physical representation and there is still a lot of people out there that still only play records out, ” he added.

The desire to put out a put out a physical release posed a problem: pressing records takes money, and the group of burgeoning label bosses were working on a shoestring budget. After giving it some thought they decided the best way to raise the money needed to press a record was to reach out to the record buying community for help.

Kickstarting Finances

With a goal of raising $4000 in capital the SCR crew reached out to a service called Kickstarter for help. Kickstarter, which describes itself at “the largest funding platform for creative projects in the world” gave the group a forum from which to ask members of the record buys community and other music lovers to contribute to the release of their first record.

In return for their donation contributors may receive a copy of SCRs first release both as a physical record and as digital media as well as perks dependent on the amount donated. These perks range anywhere from free admission to the label’s launch party at Smart Bar to a gourmet dinner and drinks provided by the label owners.

“We hope that all the donors feel an ownership of this project and we’ll be making an effort to be very inclusive of all those who are helping out,” said Nelson. “We’ll be reaching out to all these donors to make sure they feel part of what we’re doing.”

If the first couple days since going live on Kickstarter are any indication, record buyers are eager to take Second City Recordings up on their offer. Less than 48 hours since their Kickstarter page went up Second City Recordings has already raised over $2,500 – more than 60 percent of their $4,000 goal.

Contributors have come from all over the world. “Kickstarter has put us in front an audience that we wouldn’t otherwise have been able to reach,” said Gordon.

For more information about Second City Recordings and how to contribute to their first release check out the label’s Kickstarter page here.

Launch Party

Second City Recordings launch party will be happening at Smart Bar on November 6th. Performing will be Second City Rhythm, Black Madonna, Jake+Andrew, Adam Rowe, Michael Serafini, and Kid Color.

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Sir Raymond Mang – Number One

by on Jul.20, 2011, under Music

Inés

Today I found a record that has been on my list of must-haves for a while – “Number One” by Ray Mang (or Sir Raymond Mang, as credited on the compilation the song was included in).

The first time I heard this song was on Groove Armada’s contribution to the excellent “Back To Mine” series from Ultra Records. The Back To Mine mix series had a number of phenomenal editions, such as those provided by Everything But The Girl, Adam Freeland, and Orbital, but Groove Armada’s mix was always my favorite. The mix introduced me to a few tracks that I went on to hunt down on vinyl and still play out regularly such as “Playing Your Game, Baby” by Barry White and “Pharoahs” by Tears For Fears.

“Number One” may be my favorite track from the mix, but up until now a copy on wax had eluded me. Actually, the song is not that easy to find even digitally due to it’s not being available on Beatport, iTunes, or even anywhere on Hype Machine that I could find.

The collection that I found the track on today is a 1996 compilation from Dimitri From Paris called “Monsieur Dimitri’s De-Luxe House of Funk”, a 3-plate LP presented by the British club music magazine MixMag. It was a little funny to me to note that the previous owner had underlined his favorite tracks on the back of the sleeve with a Sharpie and “Number One” was not one of the tracks he underlined. One mans trash…

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Sir Raymond Mang – Number One MP3

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First Fridays @ 914 California Gallery

by on Jan.04, 2011, under Shows

Inés

This Friday I have the privilege of playing the first iteration of “First Fridays” at the 914 Gallery in Chicago. Every first Friday of the month 914 is providing a space for local artists to showcase their work while getting a chance to link up with other art enthusiasts from around the city. This month features work by Justin Teichen, Jeff Bauer, Amy Allison, Craig Litterio, Joe Miller, Ryan VanAcker, Carolyn Hughes, Neeka Allsup, Courtney Howell, Kerri Spiteri, James Denoyer, and others. Doors open at 7. To RSVP visit the event’s Facebook Page here.

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Sweet bauble from Nicolas Jaar’s new Label

by on Dec.02, 2010, under Music

Inés

Nicolas Jaar has had a pretty meteoric rise within the dance music community over the last couple of years. Already a regular contributor to revered labels like Wolf + Lamb and Circus Company Nicolas has taken the next step and started a new label of his own, Clown and Sunset. The label’s latest offering comes in the form of a particularly tasty piece of swag: a USB drive pendant and chain containing the Inés LP. Inés is comprised of works from Jaar, as well as his close friends and label mates Soul Keita and Nikita Quasim. A preview of the first 5 songs of the LP is shared below, and you can check out the Clown and Sunset Soundcloud page here to check out a rich collection of aural pleasures.

Regardless of where you stand on the vinyl vs. MP3 debate I think we can all agree that there is a large group of people that want their music delivered on physical media. The Inés USB necklace is a really creative way to offer the digital generation a tangible product as well as some quality tunes in one tidy package. I’d love to see more similar products on the market in the near future.

You can purchase your own Inés LP USB necklace at Phonica Records while supplies last.

Here is a preview of the first 5 tracks of the release:

Inès LP / PART I by Clown and Sunset

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In Genre Hell

by on Dec.01, 2010, under Djs

Although it’s not apparent from the amount of posting that I’ve done on this blog the last year has been a complete whirlwind for me. 3+ years ago I made the jump from living in a distant suburb of Miami, FL to the center of a major world-class city. I have to admit in retrospect that I was a bit naive about what I was getting myself into. I’ve certainly hit a few roadblocks while navigating my way through both the secular and social landscape of a major metropolis like Chicago but I think at this point I can honestly say that I wouldn’t change a thing. I’ve met some amazing people, been a part of some exciting cultural scenes, and enjoyed some phenomenal meals. With that being said, I know that I’ve only scratched the surface of the experiences that are available in our great city and I’m really looking forward to diving in even deeper over the next few years.

Ever since I was a kid I’ve loved music and taken great pride in searching for quality cuts rather than letting popular media dictate what I should spend my time listening to.  Since I grew up in remote ski towns before the prevalence of the internet I got most of my exposure to fresh music by staying up late and watching forward thinking shows on MTV like 120 Minutes and AMP, reading music magazines, and good old fashioned trial and error (I’ve spent more money on horrible CDs and records in my lifetime than I want to admit).  Before moving to Chicago I was used to being the most informed person in the room when it came to fresh and classic music, but now I realize that I was swimming around in a pretty shallow pool; I’m in the big leagues now.

Over the last couple years I’ve been paddling around in a veritable sea of music both new and old.  In some respects I’ve been trying to catch up to those that have had the privilege of growing up in the big city and being exposed to the rich culture that urban living provides but at the same time I’ve been working to get a better handle on the ever expanding interactive universe of cyberspace and the glut of media that is presented within.  Over that same time my digital music collection has gotten a bit out of hand.  More accurately, it’s kind of a huge, disorganized disaster and it’s become a problem – especially when I’m out DJing.

And so, in an effort to maintain my sanity I’ve began to tackle the task of organizing my digital music.  It goes without saying that this is easier said than done.  As I’ve gotten rolling on this adventure I’ve found that most of the music that is the most interesting to me contains elements of a myriad musical syles, particularly everything that is essentially house music in one form or another.  As I’ve moved along I’ve found myself creating more and more playlists, or “crates” for those of you who prefer to use classic DJ vernacular, for ever more specific sub-genres of house music while the crates for musical styles of less interest to me like “rock” are staying rather broad and generic.

I think that’s kind of an interesting point about the subjective nature of music and the filters that we all use in order to make sense of the mass of information that we’re bombarded with on a daily basis.  In essence I am stereotyping genres of music that are of less importance to me in order to easily compartmentalize and dismiss them so I can spend more time focusing on the content that I really like.  If I’m honest with myself this is a pattern that I’ve followed most of my life, sometimes to my own detriment.  I’ve noticed that many other people I’ve dealt with also fall into this trap.  How often have you heard people state that they patently dislike a wide-range style of music such as “techno” or “rap”?  To those that have a passion for these genres such a wholesale dismissal is quite offensive.  This is true because such individuals have taken the time to explore the genre and searched out the cream rather than making assumptions based on the elements of the genre that has been presented for mass consumption via popular media.

Shuttering oneself from entire categories of music in this way can oftentimes lead to missing out on music that has a great deal of merit.  I most recently fell into this trap by willfully ignoring Dubstep, a burgeoning style that incorporates elements of Drum N’ Bass, Dub, and 2-Step, because most pieces in the style I heard early on were not at all to my liking.  Since that time friends of mine have introduced me to tracks in the style that are quite subtle and beautiful.  It just goes to show you that nearly every style can produce quality when done properly (except maybe Horrorcore, but I digress…).

So where does this leave me?  If I do my best to fully explore every piece of music in my collection in the attempt to properly categorize it I’ll end up with entirely too many lists to manage.  I suppose that some level of stereotyping is unavoidable, and some (see Malcolm Gladwell) may even say it’s healthy.  Having come to that conclusion I’ll continue to focus on specificity when it comes to the music that is most interesting to me and generality for the music that I find less important, while making a concerted effort to avoid the compulsion to broadly dismiss types of music that I don’t fully understand or have the time to fully explore.  Hopefully this process will help me to become a more organized and informed member of the music community in this great city I now call home.

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The Good Natured

by on Oct.08, 2010, under Music

The Good Natured

One of the highlights of the most recent Kitsune Compilation 9 was the Zebra & Snake remix of the track “Your Body is a Machine” by The Good Natured. A new single by The Good Natured (aka, 19 year old Sarah McIntosh) is set to be released on the Kids label November 1st, but I’ve been given a preview of the b-side track “Prisoner” to share. In “Prisoner”, McIntosh channels Siouxsie Sioux and offers something a bit darker than her other productions but no less effective. For more information on The Good Natured check her out her Facebook Page

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The Good Natured – Prisoner MP3

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Is Nic Fanciulli’s Remix of Two Dots the song of the summer?

by on Aug.10, 2010, under Music

Two Dots

I first heard Nic Fanciulli’s remix of Lusine’s Two Dots on the terrific Nu House compilation released by Bargrooves. Since then I swear I’ve seen this track pop up on pretty much any mix worth paying attention to, including John Digweed’s new offering, Structures. The original mix of Two Dots was released last year on Ghostly although I have to admit that I slept on it until hearing Fanciulli’s remake. Since picking it up I’ve been dropping Two Dots into every set I can. The vocals on the track, contributed by finnish singer Vilja Larjosto, are reminiscent of Elizabeth Fraser – best known for her work with the excellent Cocteau Twins. Beautiful stuff.

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Lusine – Two Dots (Nic Fanciulli Remix) MP3

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Adorable – Sunshine Smile

by on Aug.05, 2010, under Music

Adorable

I recently DJ’d a party for a couple that was heavy into brit pop. As I was scouring through my collection putting together a playlist I was reminded of a song that I had on heavy rotation a really long time ago. The song Sunshine Smile – a one hit wonder of sorts for british glam popsters Adorable – was a hard find in the U.S. way back in the early 90s; at the time I had to special order the single from the UK. Alas, after a thorough search of my dusty CD collection it became apparent that Sunshine Smile is one of the many CDs that have found their way out of my possession over the years. I figured that a digital copy would not be that hard to come by in the middle of our current instant gratification age. Surprisingly, the song was not available through any of the usual online channels through which I acquire music. No dice with i-tunes, juno download, Reckless Records, Amazon, or Hype Machine (my usual last ditch music channel). As I’ve kind of established, I don’t mess with any torrent sites, so my trail went cold until a few days ago when I was tooling around on Ebay. On a whim I ran a search on ebay for Sunshine Smile and was happy to find a seller that was listing the 45 – and at a reasonable price of $3. Since I’m a really nice guy, I’m posting a high quality vinyl rip of the track for the worlds enjoyment. Maybe I’ll be a hero to a few people looking for the song like I was.

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Adorable – Sunshine Smile MP3

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Pay to play?

by on Jul.13, 2010, under Djs, Music

NYE

While shopping in Wicker Park about a week ago I came across a flyer that piqued my interest. The flyer was advertising an event at V-live in Chicago featuring Steve Aoki. I’m not a huge fan of the pop-electro sound (please feel free to correct my choice of genre association) championed by scenesters such as Aoki so his playing a show in Chicago was not what caught my attention. The fact that the flyer advertised that the event would feature more than 30 other DJs in 4 rooms is really what caught my eye. More than that, the blurb on the flyer that offered a spot on the roster for any DJ with a follow of greater than 20 people or a “buy-in” opportunity for any “crew” intrigued me.

Wanting to learn more I reached out to my Twitter brethren for more info on what the promoters of this show meant by “buy-in opportunity”. The short answer I received is this: groups or DJs who purchase 16 tickets at the regular price of $20 receive 6 tickets for “free” with the option to play the party. I’m sure that there are most likely other packages available for a “crew” that wants to put more skin in the game but for the purpose of this post I’m going to stick with discussing the deal I just mentioned.

I’m not a math wizard by any estimation but as far as I can figure, in essence, the DJ in this equation is putting in $320 of his/her own money and buying a spot on the roster. If said DJ is able to move all 22 (16 they paid $20 for and 6 they got for “free”) tickets allotted for that investment at the face value of $20, he/she will net $120 and the chance to play a gigantic club in front of what he/she hopes to be a large group of potential fans. If 30 DJs are willing to buy into this model the promoter comes out way ahead because he/she’s just sold 480 tickets for a gross dollar amount of $9,600, has potentially put tickets in the hands of 660 people (in the form of purchased as well as “free” tickets), and has also enlisted a street team of at least 30 ambitious selectors that are going to be pushing the night like mad since they have a vested interest in it’s success. Everyone wins, right? I’m not so sure.

There are 3 reasons I don’t like this format for throwing parties. First, I think it shortchanges the partygoer by presenting him/her with a glut of unproven talent. Second, it’s providing a model which, if successful, would allow promoters to avoid paying DJs who have spent years building up their skills and their reputations and who’s time is better spent honing their craft than trying to personally sell event tickets. And, third, it is sending a message to aspiring DJs that their money and hustle is more far more valuable than their skills behind the decks (or laptops, or midi controllers, etc.).

The lines between performer and promoter have been increasingly blurred over the past 10 years or so with DJs stepping up and running their own nights and promoters learning to DJ so they can play their own residencies and keep more of the proceeds. For the most part, I understand this dynamic and have done my best to play along. Most of the people I know that are making any kind of dent on the nightlife scene tend to fall into two categories: good DJs that have taught themselves to be average or better marketers and good marketers who have taught themselves to be average or better DJs. Unfortunately, it seems to me that those that are more adept at the marketing side of things are starting to choke out those whose main talent is on the performance end of things. I fear that a wide-spread acceptance of the pay to play model could result in another big step in that direction. Namely, shows with mammoth size hype and mouse size substance. It’s the nightlife patrons that end up paying the price. If promoters are able to successfully run nights in which local talent is willing to pay to play and essentially promote for free what incentive do they have to take a chance on groundbreaking international talent that is trying to book shows in Chicago? Also, what incentive do aspiring DJs have to hone their performances when their time is better spent acting as a one-man ticket office?

Admittedly, I haven’t been in a big market for that long having moved to Chicago from West Palm Beach, Florida just a little over 3 years ago but it didn’t take me long to fall in love with the city and with it’s nightlife culture. One of my first and fondest memories of the city was on one of the first Sundays after I moved in walking my dog around the West Loop and happening to walk by Stanley’s on Van Buren when Major Taylor was spinning on the patio. The fact that a DJ as talented as that was playing just blocks away from my house on a Sunday afternoon was something that really struck me. Over the following months I had similar experiences, catching DJs like Jesse De La Pena, Zebo, Intel, Maker, Trew, OneFiftyOne, and SR-71 – really talented DJs playing anywhere from a small lounge to a big club like Smart Bar. Sure, all these DJs could pull a crowd but they were booked more on their ability to move that crowd than on their ability to bring people through the door and were paid accordingly. How would any of these Chicago mainstays fare going up against a wave of neophytes willing to pay to take those same gigs?

Finally, what is the message that this model sends to up and coming DJs? As far as I can tell the flyer did not stipulate that there was any standard to play other than the ability to pull a small crowd. The reward then becomes much greater for these guys to promote themselves than to work on creating, discovering, and presenting quality, interesting music.

I’m sure that many will disagree with the notions put forth here. They will point out that in this format the cream will rise to the top and the best acts that pay for their chance to reach the crowd at V-Live that Sunday will be able to begin to build their brands and work their way up the ladder of Chicago nightlife. Those people would be right, but the cream would rise to the top anyway. Why do we need to subject partygoers who are paying their hard-earned dollars to see what they hope to be a quality show to so much of the swill at the same time?

I have the utmost confidence in the overall integrity of the nightlife scene in Chicago and I’m sure that this one show is not going to signal anything as drastic as the end of quality nightlife in the city, but I thought I’d be remiss not to make some kind of comment and hopefully fuel some dialogue on the subject. If you agree or disagree with my views please don’t hesitate to drop in a comment. Different strokes and all that….

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Back in the saddle

by on Jun.11, 2010, under Djs, Music

It’s been a hectic and interesting few months in my world but I’ve come out the other end with some fresh perspective on myself, on the local Chicago music scene, and the people involved in that scene. I also feel that I have a better understanding of how I fit into everything. It’s been humbling at times, but in the end I feel much more comfortable in my own skin at this point and I think it’s going to help me to be a better DJ and maybe even a better person in general.

As is often the case, these periods of self discovery I tend to go through lead to periods of silence on this blog. I hope to be posting with more frequency going forward since I believe that I’ve broken through some of the obstacles that have held me back from posting in the past (insecurities, ethical dilemmas, etc.).

One issue that I want to make clear to all my readers is that, while I have a strong affinity for physical media (vinyl records in particular), I am by no means a “vinyl purist”. I don’t go to clubs with DJs playing and think any less of those that are using some sort of vinyl emulation software (Serato, Traktor, Etc.) or any other combination of digital tools to play live. If someone rocks the party, they rock the party, regardless of what they use to do that. That being said, vinyl culture is a significant part of the DJ heritage and I think it’s just as relevant today as it was when pioneering DJs like Francis Grasso and David Mancuso were changing the face of nightlife. To me the act of searching through stacks of records trying to find those few plates that stand out to you gives one a greater appreciation of the music they attain and play. To quote DJ Shadow – “Digging isn’t going to make a bad DJ good, but it will make a good DJ better”.

So, enough about that. The bottom line is I like records and hope they will continue to be pressed but I’m also all about pushing things forward, and the internet and digital media has done a lot to help creative people whose voices would not otherwise been heard get their productions out to the masses. In the end it’s all about balance.

Finally, I’m not a technophile in any right, but I’ve taken some time this morning to figure out how to embed songs/mixes etc from Soundcloud in my posts. I love this feature because Soundcloud is a terrific forum that artists can make their songs available for people to listen to while maintaining some control over how the material is distributed. I’ll be using this method to draw attention to acts I’m into a lot going forward. To get started here are a few tracks I like. Follow the links to Soundcloud to learn more about the artists and hear more great stuff.

Greymatter – Raw Root (Klic Remix)

The Smiths – Barbarism Begins At Home (Tim Zawada Edit)

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