It’s 10:30pm on a dark and stormy night. I take a break from staring at the myriad of emails, papers, programming and production outlines in development to make next June’s NMS an even more engaging personal experience for the next generation of music and business stars. I lift up the needle and flip over 180 grams of wax – it’s the second record of three, I have no idea of what I am about to hear since I had not previewed it online.
Sunday night, I had the pleasure of attending the grand opening of Rough Trade Records in Williamsburg – a fantastic evening filled with enthusiastic industry cats and a glowingly proud Martin Mills. 15,000 square feet of music surrounded you, a great-sounding live room, listening stations, a café, a pop-up bedroom installation of Childish Gambino (with another glowing Daniel Glass in attendance), and most importantly record bins.
I was transported back to my younger DJ period in the mid-to-late 90s with memories of kneeling on the floor of the original Satellite Records flipping through hundreds of records looking for that one last white label copy of some track by some producer that was going to blow the roof off during my set later that night. I originally heard the track 32 minutes into a [RealAudio] online mix on some random site by some DJ I never heard of. I quickly shot off an email from my Earthlink account (or was it Geocities) – within 15 minutes he responded with “great track, eh?” (he was Canadian) and let me know where to find it. Within hours there I was on the floor at Satellite with fists of success in the air as I had found it! The DJ I had emailed came to my gig that night and found we had a number of mutual acquaintances and learned each others ‘screen name’ on ClubPlanet.com – little did we know from that moment the foundation of a music community was being built as we started a number of events throughout NYC.
“… most importantly there was the passion and love of music bringing us all together. It was the experience of life happening in real time to a soundtrack.”
One such event became “The Social” at The Leopard Lounge on 2nd Ave. – a tiny bar with two floors and a total capacity of 150. When it started there was one-and-a-half turntables (as one of them only worked half the time). The PA system was a stereo amplifier with McDonald’s-like ceiling speakers. Over time this turned into the Thursday night place to be for our 100+ friends and artists. We rotated DJs and played whatever we wanted. One friend began to bring in his own sound system and soon both floors were booming with club-like quality. It was dark, it was intimate, relationships were made and broken there, hook-ups, break-ups, tons of positive energy and smiles, the excitement of getting ready to be there each week, dancing till 4am, the misery of going to work on Friday morning, and other stories I can’t repeat…yet most importantly there was the passion and love of music bringing us all together. It was the experience of life happening in real time to a soundtrack. Since then the Leopard Lounge has been converted into a high-end burger joint and we have gone our separate ways. We sometimes bump into each other and relive the memories of what occurred on those Thursday nights. I don’t think we ever got paid for those years of playing, mostly in free alcohol consumption (which was probably what we would have earned anyway) but these experiences are ones that make you what you are today, and you can’t put a price tag on that.
I am thankful for that period of time, and thankful that the road of life is not a linear line. Tonight I listen to these records through my Allen&Heath 4-channel digital mixer while texting, emailing, and scanning my Facebook wall with such headlines as “15 Reasons Why Cyclops Is Everyone’s Least Favorite X-Man”,“Meet Floppy Bear, The Cutest Dog On Instagram EVER”, pictures of what my friends are eating for dinner, yet most importantly almost 75% of my timeline is a music post: a YouTube video, an upcoming music event, a photo from a concert someone is at, music business news, a new release, a review, a list of Top 100 songs to do your laundry to, a song someone posted to reflect the mood they’re in…I posted “I love this song”…their retort, “great song, eh?” We have moved into a digital networking lifestyle, yet in retrospect I realize what made “The Social” a success. It was the personal connection, the nurturing of relationships – all based around the spirit of music. A common bond was developed between the artists. We sat face-to-face in the bar to discuss the challenges of the music business, we laughed, we debated, we connected, and we grew. I discovered these are similar personal stories I hear from veterans – and from the next generation of hotshots after they attended NMS…and I am thankful for that.
I am thankful we live in the most opportunistic time the music business has ever seen, an entrepreneurs market – one that challenges your creative skills, whether you are a writer, performer, booking agent, promoter, publisher, label person, marketer, or technologist. Yes, the Internet has raised the noise floor, yet it’s the creative people like you, the passionate ones, the driven, the disruptors, the ones who refuse to play by the rules, the ones that are building the future of this business and finding innovative ways to create a sustainable career. I am thankful for being allowed to take on the role as General Manager of the New Music Seminar, which has allowed me to meet and discuss the future of the business with some of the most amazing intellectual, forward-thinking minds in the business. Over the last year I have spoken in depth with many of our speakers and partners – and while discussing the challenges, there is one theme which carries over from meeting to meeting, and that is WE ARE WORKING TO BUILD A MODEL TO SUPPORT THE ARTISTS! I am thankful that Tom Silverman just sent me another email at 11pm with brilliant (and sometimes crazy) ideas on what we can do at NMS to build the community, to support the artists, to grow the music business, to create new innovative and engaging events at NMS, to convene the game-changers, to educate, and to join together in a collaborative discussion and share personal experiences on how to best create, expose, and monetize into the future.
As we go into this special day of Thanksgivukkah (an event that wont be repeated for another 70,000 years) remember to thank everyone that have blessed your life, and most importantly the people who are assisting you in your career – whether it’s your manager, agent, publicist, co-worker, or boss. I’m sure they would appreciate those kind words and are thankful to have you as part of their life as well. Keep creating, and we’ll keep fighting for you!
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Michael Huppe, President & CEO of SoundExchange during the New Music Seminar 2013, “We need to focus our attention on the value of the real product…the simple joy of listening to music.”
Happy Thanksgiving, and a Toast to the Future!
– Peter Schwinge
Oh, and the record I am listening to..