The Rock & Roll Globe Presents The Real Deal 30

Ranking the players in the music industry that really matter in 2021

We always see plenty of articles about our favorite and least favorite artists, but the people behind the scenes that make the music happen otherwise rarely get their due.

Without them, most performers would be banging away in their bedroom on their own, for better and worse. To salute these great behind-the-scenes toilers, we have a round-up of 30 important people / companies  / labels / organizations in the music industry that have been fighting the good fight there for years, helping to make the tunes happen, usually without the glory that they deserve.

Along with toasting these stalwart folks, we also cornered most of them (over two dozen) to find out two salient things:

-How will the music industry thrive again when the pandemic gets under control?

– What keeps you motivated to do the work that you do?

The first question is one that we’re all wondering and while no one has a definitive, catch-all answer, our respondents here have plenty of good perspective and some great thoughts and ideas.  For the inspiration question, hopefully that can provide some of its own inspiration for others in the biz and for others who are looking to join the crazy ride of the music industry.

Full disclosure: I’ve known and worked with some of these people and org’s before but having done so, I can easily and unapologetically vouch for their expertise and wisdom.  Don’t believe me?  Read on.

 

SAIDAH BLOUNT 

Saidah Blount (Photo: Facebook)

So not only does Sonos make arguably the best speakers on the market outside of Bose, the Santa Barbara, CA-based company has been leading a low-key revolution in revitalizing radio to its creative heyday by bringing the focus back to creativity and curation over the tone deaf corporate capitalism that nearly killed FM in the Clear Channel era. And leading the charge is former NPR luminary Saidah Blount, who as a senior member of the Sonos Radio Content division is utilizing her vast knowledge and fierce love for music to help create a feel on the digital airwaves closer to the warmth of the well-curated free-form station on the radio dial of our dreams.

“Sonos Radio is committed to elevating the art of music discovery,” Blount tells Rock & Roll Globe. “We want listeners to remember how it felt to put on their favorite album for the first time, or what it feels like to lean over and ask a friend “wait, who is this artist?” We want to be the digital liner notes to your music collection. We want you to learn more about your favorite artists, or get in the know about that singer-songwriter everyone is buzzing about. And when you just need to turn on some awesome music to fill your home, we can do that, too. Sonos Radio is striving to remind people about how epic music can be, and how it deserves to be an integral part of your life. And I feel so blessed to do that everyday.” – Ron Hart

 

On the post-COVID music scene:

I’m hoping for the best… 

I think like we’re going to feel the loss of small music venues in an epic way. So many bands won’t have that one special venue that gave them their first foot in the door. So many staff members are out of jobs. And music fans lost the opportunity to come together as a listening audience, discovering new music and vibing over favorites and classics. 

However, I’m excited for even just the possibility of going to a live show in 2021. I can’t even imagine what these artists who have been cooped up for a year-plus must be feeling. Hearing some of my favorite albums from 2020 live for the first time is going to be amazing!

 

What keeps me going is…

Music and the chance to see my friends again at our favorite concert venues, arenas, and record shops. I love the feeling of communing with friends over a new band, sharing old favorites, and feeling that ripple of emotion over the shared love of music. It’s been hard not to listen together, but I definitely see a light at the end of the tunnel.

 

 

AQUARIUM DRUNKARD

Starting out as a not-so-unassuming blog in 2005, AD became an impressive site over the years with dozens of contributors, including many artists, and a palate that covered everything from psychedelic/jam band music to jazz. Do you like Relix (as you should) but want something more adventurous? Then this place is definitely for you. To reward your curiosity in the obscurities they dig up, they even have a pool of writers who have an infectious enthusiasm. AD also features audio interviews (‘Transmissions’), reviews and radio shows on dublab and Sirius-XM. 

 

Tyler Wilcox

Longtime AD contributor, co-host of “Radio Free Aquarium Drunkard

Tyler Wilcox (Photo: Google)

 

On the post-COVID music scene:

Not sure, but it seems like close engagement with fans via things like Patreon and regular livestreams will be here to stay. The whole streaming situation is going to have to be adjusted as well. I don’t know how it’ll all shake out, but it seems like the Justice at Spotify movement is a step in the right direction, with musicians organizing to get better royalty rates. 

 

What keeps me going is…

Honestly, it’s just a fun hobby — I’ve never really tried to make music writing into a real career. But sharing my love and enthusiasm for music is something I’ll probably be doing until my dying day. I just can’t shut up, I guess. 

 

 

ARTS FOR ART

 

Now celebrating their quarter-century of existence, this wonderful New York City institution is responsible for the Vision Festival, which is arguably the foremost annual jazz gathering in Gotham, though they actually also have programming (including shows, panels and workshops) throughout the year. True to their mission to support not just music but also poetry, dance and visual arts, you’ll see all these on display (literally) at the Fest. And it’s also fitting that two of its core members and guiding lights are dancer/choreographer Patricia Nicholson and bassist/composer William Parker.  And AFA is a non-profit, so why not donate and support them?

 

Patricia Nicholson

Patricia Nicholson (Photo: Ken Weiss)

On the post-COVID music scene:

After the Pandemic and 2020, the year that wasn’t…. people will be elated. They will want to be out and about, once they feel safe. And for some, this will take longer.  

The music industry is mostly in the hands of the Internet.  And big internet has been collecting all of the artists’ hard work and selling it cheap.  I am not a prophet so I am not sure how this will all play out in 2022, etc. Just how angry are people with Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc.?  Will they continue to use all of these platforms in the same way?  It will be difficult to turn your back on them, but who knows? 

But once people can get out, my guess is that they will get out and live concerts will be where it is at, both for the artists and for the audiences.  But of course, we have been learning how to livestream and share our music online, reaching a more global audience.  So, this will also continue. 

Some music publications may fail, but if that happens, others will take their place. 

I am an optimist.  I think that a new Roaring 20’s could be coming. And for those who can imagine this, they will set the stage. If enough people imagine it, then it will become a reality.

 

What keeps me going is…

The idealism and the creativity haven’t changed, so the motivation hasn’t changed.  The obstacles are more daunting, but it only seems that much more important to stand strong. So, we do.

 

HENRY BORDEAUX

Henry Bordeaux

Bordeaux has been an established Tour & Production Manager in the concert Industry for 20 years, with work spanning from clubs to arenas. He’s managed world tours, TV shows and events for high profile acts like Jennifer Lopez, Avicii, Puff Daddy, Miley Cyrus, Travis Scott, Fall Out Boy and Tyler, the Creator.  Last year, he started Ground Branch, a management company that focuses on event and travel management, providing work comparable to tour/production management for non-musical entities,  with clients like the Biden/Harris campaign (where he served as Production Director), The Los Angeles Dodgers and Digital Nation.

 

On the post-COVID music scene:

The music industry will thrive again by doing what it has always done best- creating a visceral experience for the fans. When the house lights go down for the first time and the crowd feels goosebumps run down their arms, they’ll cheer and remember what it felt like to go to shows. That’s a rollercoaster they’ll want to ride over and over again. 

 

What keeps me going is…

Teaching and mentoring the next generation of the concert industry has always been a passion of mine, so starting www.TourMgmt.org, an online music industry school with my colleagues, has been very motivating and will continue after the pandemic. 

 

 

BILL BRAGIN 

Bill Bragin

Though his official title right now is ‘first executive artistic director of The Arts Center at New York University Abu Dhabi,’ Bragin’s true title should be ‘consummate impresario.’ At Joe’s Pub, he programmed everything from Tony-Award winning shows to one of the only concerts that Amy Winehouse did in New York.  At Lincoln Center, he produced their storied Out of Doors Festivals. He also co-founded (and still co-manages) the amazing world music hub globalFEST.

 

On the post-COVID music scene:

To be honest, it will take a while. But there’s so much pent up need on both the artist and audience side to come together, and to experience ecstatic catharsis, that I have faith it will come. The scale might be smaller, or at least more spread out. And everyone is going to have to look at the economic structures, from performance fees to ticket prices. Fundamentally though, there are few things that tap into people’s hearts better than music.

 

What keeps me going is…

First and foremost, I’m a fan. And I’ve had so many transformative experiences, and always want to share them with others. When applying to college, I wrote an essay about how I was always proselytizing to my friends about music and art, and I’m pretty much the same as I was at 17. My Twitter bio jokes that I’ve been “imposing my taste on friends and strangers since 19XX.” Ultimately, it’s still a version of sitting on the floor of my high school bedroom, albums strewn around, and asking “have you heard this? And this? Oh, wait, you need to hear this.” And when others respond with the same kind of curiosity and passion, there’s nothing better.

 

 

COMPLEXION

Complexion (Photo: Google)

This UK DJ has been featured on the BBC and toured with Little Simz and performed with Wu-Tang mastermind RZA. Complexion can be found in all manner of sonic ways across the online world but the best place to catch him is on ‘The Future Beats Show,’ his Twitch channel sessions.  There, he spins and mixes his favorite rap and R&B and throws in constant banter.  Normally, this would be annoying as hell but he had such a sweet, easy-going style that you actually LIKE to hear from him.  Plus, he loves having conversations with everyone in the chat box. And like a good DJ, you hear some of your favorites from him and he introduces you to songs that become new favorites.

 

The post-COVID music scene:

I have a feeling the music industry is going to be fine- labels are still making money and artists are putting out content. Who I’m worried about are the smaller venues, the local venues who have more restricted cash flows. The pandemic has been incredibly hard on them and many won’t survive until everything gets under control, if you’re able to, please buy merch, advanced tickets or anything to support these places

 

What keeps me going is…

The listeners of the show- so many people use music as a means to deal with stress and anxiety and the fact that I might be able to make someone’s day a little better by shouting them out or playing them a song keeps me going.

 

 

SHAMIR

Artists have been ditching big labels in favor of bringing their operations in-house since jazz icon Erroll Garner ditched Columbia Records in the early 60s. And since ditching the tastemaker UK imprint XL Recordings in favor of investing in the power of the BandCamp early in the site’s existence has enabled Las Vegas dance rocker Shamir Bailey to drop a steady stream of acclaimed LPs as self-released endeavors (with the exception of 2017’s Resolution, which was issued through Father/Daughter Records.) In fact, just this past year alone, as BandCamp began waiving off their fees so artists get 100 percent of their profit on every first Friday of the month, Shamir released his two best LPs yet in Cataclysm and a self-titled set. They are both equally fantastic, creating this unlikely wormhole where house-hop pulse and power pop crunch can harmonically co-exist in a way it never has before. -Ron Hart

 

On the post-COVID music scene:

I’m not sure, I honestly try not to think too much about it because the thought of it kinda makes me sad. I just hope that the transition back to live shows is handled with care and safely.

 

What keeps me going is…

I think the overwhelming support and understanding from fans. It’s obviously been very tricky to be an artist these days so it’s nice when the people who appreciate your art rally for you.

 

MATTHEW COVEY 

Matt Covey

Though his international CV includes a non-profit cultural agency (Tamizdat), management (The Klezmatics) and a booking agency (for Knitting Factory), the overreaching reason that we should all be grateful to Covey is this: if you’ve ever seen a foreign act play in the US, you probably have him to thank. His specialty for years now has been as a sterling lawyer who’s been untying the endless knots and red tape of the onerous (and ridiculous) US visa laws so that acts can come to the States to perform. As such, numerous venues and festivals have relied on him to make their US tours happen.

 

On the post-COVID music scene:

There are many ways the music industry has never thrived. It has been an industry that both exhibits and promotes many of our society’s greatest inequities and failures. Following this profoundly destructive time, the rebuilding of the industry offers an opportunity for us to collectively and individually transform our industry into one that transforms society info a fairer, more equitable, and more sustainable one. 

 

What keeps me going is…

For me, art is a creative means to a social end. I am motivated by the hope that the work we do facilitates and how it amplifies the progressive power of the work of artists around the world.

 

SCOTT CRAWFORD

Scott Crawford

Already a hero to music fans for helming two great music publications- Harp and Blurt– Crawford went on to direct two acclaimed music documentaries.  First up was Salad Days (2011), which featured Dave Grohl, Ian MacKaye, Henry Rollins among others, covering the DC punk scene and spawned the book Spoke: Images and Stories from the 1980s Washington, DC Punk Scene.  More recently, he released CREEM: America’s Only Rock’n’Roll Magazine (2019), covering yet another beloved music publication. And now, he’s ready to birth yet another impressive doc: Something Better Change, which covers the career of legendary Canadian punk turned politician Joe Keithley (aka Joey Shithead of D.O.A.). 

 

On the post-COVID music scene:

I think the music industry will bounce back in a really meaningful way. As challenging as it is, creating music during the pandemic has created new ways to collaborate and inspire. Once touring resumes, I know I’ll have a whole new appreciation (and hunger) for live music—and I think it’ll result in a more engaged and supportive audience for bands and artists around the globe.

 

What keeps me going is…

I’m always searching for a new story to tackle and a way to tell it that will challenge me and the audience. It’s a curiosity about people and culture that I’ve had since I was a 12-year-old kid putting out a fanzine about the local punk scene. The process of making a doc is at times tedious, torturous and heart-breaking, but ultimately when you’ve seen it through and finished it, it’s a hell of a high—I suppose that’s what keeps me going. Chasing the creative dragon!

 

 

DOWNTOWN MUSIC GALLERY

Technically, DMG is a Gotham record store that spans the last thirty years but it’s much more than that.  It’s been an outpost of jazz/avant/classical music with an extensive stock of titles and a performance space (with over 1000 shows done there) and as such, it has deep roots in the music scene.  DMG also has a great newsletter which includes not only its own reviews and write-ups but also news about other leading lights in the world of outré music.  It’s also one of the few remaining NYC record stores in this digital age and runs its own substantial mail order business on top of that.

 

Bruce Gallanter 

Co-founder, owner

Frank Meadows (DMG manager) & Bruce Gallanter (Photo: Charmaine Lee)

On the post-COVID music scene:

We can only hope that the music industry will thrive again. Certainly, enough folks who still attend concerts regularly are missing them immensely now so I would think that folks will appreciate live music when it does happen again. Selling recorded music has changed since the pandemic/lockdown. We are currently selling less new CD’s & new vinyl but we are selling more used LP’s & CD’s on Discogs than we ever have. I think many folks who are stuck at home are gaining a better appreciation for whatever music they are listening to, as long as they are not too distracted by current events. Being inside, one gets to choose the music for themselves, rather going somewhere where the music is programmed and predictable. We are slowly getting more folks to visit and I know that those folks really enjoy coming to a place where Creative Music is taken seriously and we are rarely condescending with our taste.

 

What keeps me going is…

Ever since I was a kid, music has always motivated, inspired and enlightened me. I feel that myself and the other folks who work at DMG are part of a continuum of friendly & insightful record stores. I feel a deep passion for listening to and discussing music seriously so that other folks around me will also feel that music is much more than entertainment- it is a way we share the joy of communication, bonding with others. As long as I continue to listen to Creative Music, I feel motivated to search for more and share that bond with others. It is an ongoing journey/search and the more I take in, the more the Creative Spirit helps to keep everyone sane and motivated.

 

 

ECHOES

If you need a good healthy doses of ambient, ‘space music,’ and electronica, you have a fine destination right here. This exemplary two hour daily radio/streaming program, which began in 1981, is syndicated in dozens of states across the US, along with a podcast available on Apple Music. Along with interviews with everyone from Brian Eno to Yo Yo Ma, they’ve also produced dozens of live albums.

 

John Diliberto

Executive director, producer, host, co-creator

John Diliberto

On the post-COVID music scene

I think it’s going to bounce back to normal relatively quickly. Venues will reopen or new ones will replace the ones that have closed. Independent distribution will increase via Bandcamp etc. until someone  figures out you can make real money again and creates new labels. Musicians will sell their vast publishing catalogs to the highest bidder.

 

What keeps me going is…

The music, duh! I’ve seen no diminishment of creativity or output during the pandemic and that’s what keeps me going.

 

 

HEADPHONE COMMUTE 

You might think of ‘ambient’ is just new age type music but you’re wrong- there’s all types of shades to it, including techno, dub, house, pop, industrial and dark ambient (my personal fave).  Want to sample all flavors of it?  There’s a site that does just that. Helmed by its mysterious name-sake (who’s also a musician), Headphone Commute dates back to 2008 when it garnered a following on last.fm and where its playlists established a network of like-minded music lovers.  With this momentum, Headphone Commute became a website which includes track premieres, studio sessions (where you drool at artists’ gear), mixes, playlists and more. And though head honcho HC writes most of the content, there’s also dozens of contributors otherwise.

 

HC

Founder, editor

HC (Photo: HC)

On the post-COVID music scene:

I think the musicians will adapt. There are those who make music for a living and as a result, they will suffer the change in the economics that the pandemic has brought upon us all. They will have to rethink the opportunities that are available and possibly find another outlet (which may not even be music!). And then, there are those who write music because they simply must. It’s hard to explain, but music for those people is the only way to express what is inside them. And by “express,” I can also mean “purge.” So if there is an emotional ball of wire curled in the pit of the stomach, the only way to get it out is to put it in music. I speak from experience, of course. My main quote for my own music is by Victor Hugo, who said “Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent…” So, those people will never stop, because music creation is part of them, and no pandemic will prevent them from being who they are.

 

What keeps me going is…

I’ll admit that every so often I ask myself that question. What is it that I’m really doing here and what value is it to me? I know that there’s a lot of value to the musicians who spend a lot of time on each and every single piece. I am a musician myself and so I know every single painstaking moment that gets invested into something that may get played three or four times on Spotify. So, for music that I really like, I intend to really listen – not necessarily to break it down, but to absorb the message, so that it fulfills its purpose. Giving back to the musicians and labels that provide me with music is truly what motivates me, and I feel like (after doing so many other different things in my life) I have found my purpose. Every time I ask myself if I should really go on, the answer is always “yes,” because it became “who I am” versus “what I do.” I can tell you that it’s definitely not for money because I literally get ZERO from it, and there is a pretty large annual expense to properly run and maintain the site, the podcast, and all peripherals that add up (SoundCloud hosting, Mixcloud, etc.).

 

JESSE JARNOW

Jesse Jarnow

Modest though he is, calling himself a mere ‘chronicler,’ Jesse–the son of acclaimed animator Al Jarnow–is much more than that.  Along with his weekly radio show on WFMU, he’s also authored books on Yo La Tengo, Deadheads and the Weavers, does a prolific amount of articles for the likes of Relix, Pitchfork and Rolling Stone, pens numerous album liner notes and serves as co-host of the Grateful Dead’s official podcast (‘Deadcast’).

 

On the post-COVID music scene:

While I think every day about the return of live music, I’m not sure I see the industry ever thriving again in how we traditionally think about an industry with stable institutions and reliable paths to success. What I do see thriving is chaos, both making things suck in new ways for working musicians, but also driving creative energies. Said another way, I don’t think the future is Bandcamp so much as an infinity of things-not-exactly-like-Bandcamp that swarm into a Big Rock Candy Mountain-like critical mass, root the streaming nouveau-oligarchy to the ground, and drink up their blood like wine.

 

What keeps me going is… 

Rooting the streaming nouveau-oligarchy to the ground and drinking up their blood like wine, of course! I say that half-jokingly, but I often quite earnestly think about the Works Progress Administration-era phrase “cultural worker” as an aspirational job description–better than content maker!–and less earnestly hope that the position of countercultural worker is available when we get to the Green New Deal.

 

JESSE MALIN 

Jesse Malin

Accurately described by Rolling Stone as “a New York City staple, as ubiquitous as a Duane Reade,” singer/songwriter Malin started out helming D Generation in the ‘90’s and then turned to an impressive solo career in the early millennium (2007’s Glitter In the Gutter is especially a gem), which has included collaborations with Bruce Springsteen, Lucinda Williams and Green Day.  Recently, he’s done an equally notable series of streaming shows with special guests including Evan Dando, Chuck Prophet and Lenny Kaye among others. Though he doesn’t like to brag about it, he co-owns several NYC clubs and become a strong advocate for supporting the Gotham music scene in these COVID times, which helps earn him a place in the listings here (and a possible halo in the afterlife).

 

On the post-COVID music scene:

I think the music community is very strong, and people will not forget once it’s safe enough to come back out and be at shows.  People will be there full on.  The first few shows will be pretty emotional, I imagine for both the artists and the audience.  Music and dancing are a vital part of human existence, like laughing and smiling.  Whatever it takes to make it happen, we will find ways to make it happen. 

 

What keeps me going is…

I have no choice but to do what I do . It’s the way I relate to the world and express myself.  It’s how I speak, move and feel. It’s my medicine and my church.  On a good day, it can help me transcend almost anything. 

 

 

THE NEEDLE DROP

Anthony Fantano (Art: Ron Hart)

Jealous haters (esp. writers) can’t stand the fact Anthony Fantano (‘the Internet’s busiest music nerd’) is a music journalist who presents his work as a video series and does it in a fun, goofy and easy going way, but what do they know?  Fact is, his reviews are detailed and he shows the passion of a real music fan. He’s been at it for over a decade now, with hundreds of videos on his YouTube channel, tirelessly posting almost every freakin’ day. Originally honing in on indie music, he’s branched out to rap and dance pop over the years.  Will you agree with him?  Not always.  But you won’t be bored either. And just to up his game even more, he’s also added in interviews, weekly round-ups, year-end best lists and worst music round-ups. 

 

On the post-COVID music scene:

The music industry did its thing without anyone telling it what to do pre-pandemic, and it’ll do the same post-pandemic. However, what I think isn’t being discussed enough is all of the venues, businesses, and livelihoods that are being destroyed right now because of this. The government needs to jump in and keep things afloat so there are actually musicians and concert halls around when we get back to normal.

 

What keeps me going is…

Love of music, love of cultural conversations, and a desire for me and mine not to starve to death.

 

 

NEW MUSIC USA

 

Formed as an alliance between American Music Center and Meet the Composer, this umbrella organization gives a good home to modern classical music, jazz and ‘new music.’ Their projects include the impressive New Music Box magazine (which has great interviews and engaging think pieces) along with a grant program, musician advocacy work and partnerships with other music organizations.  They also have their own online station (Counterstream Radio, featuring US composers) and playlists available. Their vision- ‘a thriving and equitable ecosystem for new music throughout the United States.’  Now if that’s not a worthy goal, what is?

 

Vanessa Reed

President & CEO

Vanessa Reed (Photo By Gail Kilpatrick)

On the post-COVID music scene

If we’ve learnt one thing from the pandemic, it’s that music is absolutely central to many people’s lives. Music raises the spirit, gives us hope and connects us to worlds and communities beyond our current locked-down lives. Not being able to give or attend live performances during the pandemic has been a huge sacrifice for millions (in 2018, 52% of Americans attended live music shows). All of this means that I’m convinced the music industry will thrive once again as long as there’s investment for its recovery. Crucial factors for the next 12 months are:

  • Federal support to safeguard its extensive infrastructure and workforce including venues and individual artists
  • Renewed “emergency funds” stewarded by non-profits which go beyond the first aftershocks of the pandemic
  • Creative approaches to digital and digital/live hybrids with investment from tech companies who’ve profited from increased online consumption
  • Learning from other countries’ approaches to financial aid, research and opening up (Dr. Fauci highlighted this important German research in his interview for the APAP conference).

 

What keeps me going is…

Like many leaders of non-profits in the arts, I support people and activities that bring meaning, imagination and connectivity to our lives. Music has always been at the heart of this work for me so the impact of COVID-19 makes me even more determined to ensure that creators and music organizations have the help they need to survive and adapt as things improve. Recent submissions to our Creator Development Fund demonstrate that the support we can give now is needed more than ever before. 

I’m also motivated by the fact that disruption brings opportunities for change – this is the time for music and the arts to lead by example, demonstrating why and how social justice in all its forms would benefit us all. Can leaders of music and film continue to claim innovation and cultural influence when so many voices from our society are absent or marginalized? Not in my view. Talent is everywhere. Opportunity should be as well. 

 

 

NEW SOUNDS

A radio staple for almost 40 years now, this famed program has been a noted destination for all forms of modern classical and avant garde music though especially as of late, it’s been offering up expanded selections of world music, rock, jazz and other genres.  The program runs on a lean staff yet is so well thought of that it’s syndicated by NPR. The shows’ website also feature an archive of its programs and playlists. One measure of the power of the show is that when it was supposed to be cancelled from its home station in 2019, there was such an uproar from the audience, as well as some noted lights like Laurie Anderson, Phillip Glass and Bang on Can, that the decision had to be reversed so that the program would stay on the air.  

 

John Schaefer

Host

Jon Schaefer (Photo By Daniel Randall)

On the post-COVID music scene:

Once the pandemic recedes, the music business (and life in general) can’t just go back to what it was.  We’ll have spent more than a year learning new ways of dealing with things and getting stuff done, and you’d expect some of that to turn out to be useful and lasting.  In the music world, we’ve had to adjust to music as something experienced on a little screen with headphones on.  Some of it has gotten to be quite sophisticated, and I’d expect that sort of thing to stay around.  But nothing matches the immersive experience of hearing music live – whether it’s balls-to-the-wall hardcore punk in a sweaty club or an intimate chamber music recital.  I think – I hope – that when we are able to get together for live concerts that we’ll be less likely to take it for granted. 

 

What keeps me going is…

The music keeps me doing what I do.  The day I find myself thinking, “I’ve heard it all; there’s nothing new anymore,” is the day when I’ll know I am officially old and in the way.  Fortunately, music is constantly evolving so that’s unlikely to happen (the thinking part, not the growing old part).

 

 

OH MY ROCKNESS

How’s this for an adorable story?  Two people meets up over ‘an album mix-up’ and then become a couple. Then they also say ‘hey, why not start a website for upcoming shows?’ And thus, an incredible site and music resource was born in 2004.  Since then, Clair and Patrick McNamara have produced ‘your indie concert calendar,’ which tracks shows in NYC, Chicago, Los Angeles and SXSW, providing a great way for all of us music fans to track upcoming concerts, including links for where to find tickets.  In addition to their ridiculously extensive curated concert calendars, they also provide band profiles (including many up-and-coming acts) and show alerts. 

 

Patrick McNamara

Co-Founder/Editor

The McNamaras

On the post-COVID music scene:

I’m optimistic that once it’s safe to have live music performances again, people are going to go to shows in droves and concerts will have a moment. Livestreams have been cool and will probably continue to be a part of the industry, but watching a show on a phone just isn’t the same. 

 

What keeps me going is…

I think what’s motivated us to do Oh My Rockness for so long is that we still like working on it together and we still really love music. It’s introduced us to so many good bands. 

 

 

CHERYL PAWELSKI

Cheryl Pawleski (Photo: Nina Johnson)

Want to hear a resume that’s tough to top?  How about a Grammy-winning producer who’s a co-founder of one of the most respected reissue/archive labels around (Omnivore), after having spent years at several major labels.  Pawelski also supervised historic releases from a range of artists including John Coltrane, the Band, Aretha Franklin and Willie Nelson,  and served as a governor and trustee for the Recording Academy.  I have to say though that the thing that really impressed me, and made me jealous otherwise, is her 70,000-piece collection of music memorabilia, which has been shown at EMP among other places.

 

On the post-COVID music scene:

The music industry has always been a crazy and volatile business, so people that work in music are pretty well equipped to ride these rocky waters. A lot will likely rebound when live music can return and when the record stores can fully open. I believe there will be a new appreciation for both.

 

What keeps me going is…

First and foremost, I love music, everything about it. It’s endless, and there’s always a new discovery around the corner. When you hear a great song or artist, your inclination is to share it with someone else. Music is our common language. So in that spirit, I’m motivated to pass along what I find, hopefully turning people on to new things, that they in turn will be inspired by and share as well. It’s my hope that by doing this, I help preserve and throw some great music into the future that may otherwise have been left behind.

 

 

PAUSE & PLAY

Way back in the early days of the internet, Ohio sports writer Gerry Galipault started a text-only music column, trying to convince labels that online was a series place for music coverage.  By 1997, he launched Pause & Play, one of the finest music resources on the web- each week, he’d present a listing of dozens of some of most notable releases, links to hear the music and listings of upcoming albums. It’s now expanded to daily updates, which includes new songs, new releases, news and more.  The regular weekly newsletter (which is a must to subscribe to) includes CD/vinyl releases, reissues, digital downloads as well listings of music-related books and movie releases. 

Gerry Galipault (Photo: Facebook)

On the post-COVID music scene:

Fortunately, the art of making music has not been adversely affected by COVID-19. Good music always breaks through – just look at the success of Taylor Swift’s Folklore and Evermore, livestreaming shows and the popularity of Bandcamp. Streaming music is still hot, vinyl sales are rising and artists are finding other ways to connect with fans. What I really fear for are live venues, from concert halls to bars to festivals. When things settle down, these venues are going to have to scale back on large crowds; they should still enforce health measures and social distancing, and they should find new ways of getting their shows outside. This pandemic has proven that we can no longer do risky things. 

 

What keeps me going is…

Honestly, the positive emails and DM’s [direct messages] I get from readers gets me through it, and knowing that Elton John uses my site as a resource just blows me away. Pauseandplay.com is easily a full-time job for me, but I have to have another full-time job to keep it going. My time is stretched to the limit. If I was able to devote all my time to Pause & Play, that would be ideal. A guy can dream!  

 

 

 

PIGEONS & PLANES

Originally a hobby hatched out of writer’s bedroom in 2008, P&P later became available courtesy of the good people at Complex magazine (which you should also be reading) since 2011. This outpost is an incredible rap/R&B/pop music curation site, which covers some hitmakers but also spends a generous amount of time with up-and-coming artists and some underground bizarre shit that’s always at least worth hearing once. Most impressively, unlike many other publications who just list tracks that ‘you gotta hear,’ the accompanying copy at P&P is actually good.  And where do they get their fascinating name for their service?  They’re glad to explain it to you on their Facebook page.

 

 

Jacob Moore

Founder, general manager

Jacob Moore (Photo: Google)

On the post-COVID music scene:

The obvious answer is that when live shows are possible again, fans are going to be so ready for it. The lack of touring has also given a lot of artists more time to focus on making music and artistic development, so I think we’ll start to see that pay off over the next year or so.

More importantly, 2020 brought so many deeply rooted problems to the surface in ways that were impossible to ignore. A lot of those issues are way deeper than music, but the industry is suffering from the same things—systematic racism and sexism, socioeconomic injustice, countless side effects of big businesses and ruthless capitalism. None of these are going to be quick fixes and I think it will take time for the music industry to “thrive” in a way we can really celebrate, but it starts with people realizing the problems, talking about them, and getting pissed off enough to want to fix them. I saw more of that in 2020 than ever before, and I think it will spark a lot of much-needed disruptive innovation in the coming years. 


What keeps me going is…

The core of Pigeons & Planes has always been about music discovery, and that’s still the thing that drives me the most. I think we’re at a particularly interesting time in the music industry, because there is so much data available now and most labels, media outlets, and music-focused companies are relying on that to decide which artists to support. I want P&P to be an alternative to that. The hard part is figuring out how we can balance pure discovery with enough accessible content to reach an audience big enough to really make a difference, but finding new ways to do that is what motivates me. I want P&P to be the go-to source for music lovers to keep up with all the best releases and be in the know about what’s happening at the ground level, but I also want to consistently put people on to their new favorite artist or get fans to check out things they’d normally never give a chance.

 

 

 

ROUNDER RECORDS

 

Arguably the Americana/roots label with a history stretching back over 50 years, this record label started out in Cambridge, Massachusetts, documenting old-time bluegrass acts and later catered to the likes of Jonathan Richman and rising crossover stars Alison Krauss (including a collaboration with Robert Plant) and Mary Chapin Carpenter, while also building up a great roster of subsidiary labels (Sugar Hill, Philo, Flying Fish among others). When Concord Music Group acquired Rounder, the label moved its operations to Nashville.  In 2017, the label brought on a new leader, who happened to be a founding member of the Blake Babies and a member of the Lemonheads as well as a singer/songwriter himself, bringing a solid musician’s perspective to the role.

 

John Strohm

President

John Strohm (Photo: Rounder)

On the post-COVID music scene:

Different aspects of our business have been effected in different ways, and to different degrees. Obviously, the live business has been hit very hard, along with anything (such as theatrical) that requires people to attend in-person. The recorded side of the business has had the benefit of timing with the rise of the digital consumption model hitting a point of relative maturity prior to the pandemic. Companies such as ours in the recorded business have had to be very proactive and innovative to continue to thrive under the challenges brought by the pandemic. I hope that the live business returns to something like ‘normal’ very soon, and that will bring back promotional channels we’ve long relied upon in artist touring and in-person interviews and appearances. But, I believe we will come out stronger with a much better sense of how to use content to drive consumption when touring is not possible. These are changes that have been coming for years, but the pandemic has really hastened certain changes.

 

What keeps me going is…

I am a music fan. With the exception of two years when I worked as a lawyer in financial services, my work has always been focused on artists. First, I made my own music professionally, then I advocated for artists as an attorney, and now I develop and market artists through Rounder. The common thread has been passion for great music and great artists, and other than simply providing for my family, that is what motivates me.

 

 

PAT THOMAS

Pat Thomas (Photo: Facebook)

Though his main gig nowadays is as a producer for Fire Records and Earth Recordings, Thomas has also been the author of several outstanding counterculture historical books, including his biographies of The Black Panthers (Listen Whitey!) and Jerry Rubin (Did It!), as well as an anthology on Lou Reed (My Week Beats Your Year). His work as a reissue producer is staggering- his mile-long listing at All Music Guide includes releases by Tim Buckley, Sly Stone, Dr. John, Waylon Jennings, Brian Eno and Roky Erickson. Upcoming projects include books on comedian Ernie Kovacs, Van Morrison and Allen Ginsberg (based on the poet’s archives that he curates for Stanford University).

 

On the post-COVID music scene:

Sadly, I don’t think it’s gonna thrive again! It was already dying before COVID. How many record stores went out of business in the past 8 months that aren’t coming back? Here’s the core problem in my opinion: in the era before Spotify, you might wake up and say, “I don’t have the Beatles’ Abbey Road on CD” and proceed to a record store. While there, you say “oh, there’s the new Lucinda Williams CD”- now there’s 2 things you’re buying. Then, you spot an interesting reissue, and you buy that too. You leave the record store with 3 CD’s; the Beatles made $, Lucinda made $, the reissue label made money, even the record store did! However in 2021, somebody wakes up, realizes they haven’t heard Abbey Road in a while, and finds a website to stream it. End of story. The Beatles might have made a few pennies if they’re lucky and nobody else did. End of story, really.
 

What keeps me going is…

That’s a good question. I used to think it was fun. It’s no longer fun and I’m grossly underpaid, but I enjoy the search, the hunt, and then delivering something interesting and obscure to fellow music nerds like myself around the world. It’s the historical nature that drives me to keep going. I’m more historian than record collector at this point. Our culture is dying- I’m trying to capture it.

 

 

THE VINYL GURU

The Vinyl Guru (Photo: Facebook)

For online music nuts, those really in the know will tell you about this wonderful music obsessive who’s put out over 100 videos in the space of the last 10 months. Her 10-20 minute clips cover everything from ‘thrifting for vinyl’ to Record Store Day finds to cleaning your stylus to picks for psych & metal bands to the real questions we need answered, like ‘Is Kate Bush the Nerdiest Musician?’ and ‘Where Roxy Music the Chicest British Band?’ (I vote yes).  She’s entertaining and gregarious (which lots of writers can’t pull off) and she’s stylish (which most writers ain’t either).

 

On the post-COVID music scene:

I think the industry is going to try to get everyone out touring again. It’s how they make the bulk of their money. It’s touring and publishing. Everyone has silently been working on new music. So expect a lot of music to come out in the next year or two.  Music thrives off of sorrow, inspiration pores out the seam.

 

What keeps me going is…

I love music from the underground belly. Worldly music, music with a twist, music with a story.

 

 

THE WIRE 

The Wire (January 2021)

Starting out as mostly a jazz publication in the early ‘80s, this staff-owned monthly London magazine has become one of the most preeminent chroniclers of all things avant in the music world, ranging from classical to techno to jazz to other styles still seeking names.  Its coverage of highbrow music, think pieces and storied writers (including Simon Reynolds, David Toop, David Stubbs) have also made it a destination for the ‘chin stroking’ crowd of intellectual readers and listeners. Known for its slick stylish design, the mag has also produced a longtime series of compilation CD’s (The Wire Tapper) as well as unique, extensive ‘primer’ series on artists and ‘Invisible Jukebox’ features where artists are asked to comment and guess on tracks without knowing the content beforehand.

 

Tony Herrington

Publisher/Director

Tony Herrington

The post-COVID music scene

I’m not much of a futurologist, and I’ve grown weary of the number of people speculating or prognosticating on what life after the virus might look like, or should look like. 

All I know is that all the people I know in music just want to be able to get back to doing what they were doing before the virus stopped everything in its tracks. I’m talking about the workers: the musicians, club runners, venue owners, shop owners, sound engineers, etc., etc., etc. They just want to be able to do their thing again, whatever it was. And I’m talking about people of all stripes here, all over the world, not just in London. So that’s how the industry will thrive again, if that’s the right way of putting it. Though when I say ‘industry,’ I’m talking about the kind of subcultures that get reported on by The Wire, so when I say ‘thrive,’ I mean culturally not economically, because no one I know working in music has ever truly thrived economically. Everyone lives a hand to mouth existence more or less- they did before the virus, they have during the virus, and they probably will after it too. But that’s OK- we didn’t come into this to get rich. We did come into it with our eyes wide open, knowing it’d always be a struggle, economically. And we knew that the pay-off would come in other ways, in the music, and the experience of being involved in activities and initiatives and relationships that felt like they might actually mean something real, the value of which couldn’t be measured with a calculator. 

I have no idea about the globalized mass entertainment music industry, that means nothing to me, that never-never land of streaming and syncs and hedge funds buying up publishing catalogues. That’s got nothing to do with music as I understand it.

 

What keeps me going is…

The Wire is my life! I’ve been reading it since 1984, I started writing for it in ‘86, joined the staff in ‘92, led a staff buy out of the title in 2000. I never thought it’d become my life’s work, but that’s how it seems to be turning out. To keep The Wire going, that’s all that matters- that’s the imperative, and that’s all the motivation I need. And I’m not unique in that. I think of the number of people I know who feel exactly the same way about the thing they do- the label, the club, the band, the festival, the radio station. Those are the people who count, the ones who are in it for the long haul, in it for life, regardless of the economic rewards. It’s people like that who will ensure the industry, or this sector of it at least, thrives again. I can’t wait.

 

 

ANDY ZAX

Andy Zax

Though he prides himself as an historian, producer and an award-winner writer, I first knew of Zax as the ‘Music Geek’ on Comedy Central’s “Beat the Geeks” show.  True, he did produce the Grammy-nominated 40th year edition and then the 50th year edition box sets of Woodstock, the latter of which is likely to be the definite edition going forward as it contains almost every note of music played at the festival.  He’s also down incredible remastering work for reissues of everyone from Talking Heads to Little Richard.  And he did snag the vaunted ASCAP Foundation Deems Taylor/Virgil Thomson Award (for an article on obscure psych band Neon Philharmonic no less).  

 

On the post-COVID music scene:

The recorded music business will thrive the same way it always thrives—because of the work of artists; the legacy of our present enforced downtime is likely to be an explosion of creative leaps forward made by musicians in isolation.  I think the live music business is on track for a robust post-pandemic recovery; the excitement of being able to go out and see bands again will be like nothing the world has experienced since the end of Prohibition.

 

What keeps me going is…

I was trained as a filmmaker, so I approach all of my projects as if I’m directing a movie and telling a story. That can be as straightforward as anthologizing an artist’s work in a way that illuminates their importance, or as complex as reconstructing all 36 hours of the Woodstock audio to allow you to experience the event in something approximating real time.  What gets me out of bed in the morning is that there are always sounds—and stories about those sounds—that I’m excited about and that I can’t wait to share.

 

OTHERS OF NOTE

BANDCAMP– When Radiohead got hacked and blackmailed over some OK Computer out-takes, they valiantly told the bastards to go eat it, and where did they put up the material for fans to (temporarily) buy it?  Right here. The fact that some huge acts like that see this as a place to reach fans says a lot.  And there’s plenty of other, much smaller and criminally less known groups that you should know about here, so why not dig around?  If there’s a genre you like, it’s definitely represented here.  Plus, these folks have big hearts- they do a lot of charity fundraising (especially for BLM-related causes) and several no-fee Friday’s where they let the acts keep all the sales money that come in.

DISCOGS– If you’re overwhelmed with your record collection or you still don’t have enough records, you should be here.  Not only can you catalog your whole collection, you can find out where that rare record you want is for sale as this is also an excellent marketplace.  Hell, if you feel up to it, you can even add to the collective documentation for anything that they don’t have listed there. If you’re a real obsessive, you can even check out all the special editions of your favorite albums and the artwork that they have (there’s something you really miss with digital music nowadays).

HYPE MACHINE– You say that you don’t have time to trudge through endless blogs, newsletters and web posts to find the finest music out there? No worries.  The Hype team is a place where they sift through the mounds and mounds and mounds of posts, recommendations and lists from all over the online world to come up with their own chart listings of favorites, along with links to the tunes.  So, if you’re wondering what’s the latest songs that everyone’s buzzing about, this is a good place to find out what’s going on and to keep up to date.

 

RECORD STORE DAY Nowadays, most kids are probably wondering what a ‘record store’ is. Luckily, this organization which started in 2007, helps to create a show of strength for indie shops.  Drawing in customers with special releases which harken to music nuts who then flow into the streets outside of shops each year, it’s been a brilliant bit of promo for thousands of stores across the US and elsewhere. In COVID times, RSD has had to shift online (with tri-annual ‘drop dates’) but still managed to offer up 100’s of limited edition offerings for drooling collectors everywhere. There have been some controversies about some slimy shop people hoarding these items to sell on their own later and also about which shops are eligible/ineligible, but we’re much better off having RSD than not having it. 

 

JUNO DOWNLOADS

Though it’s associated with its own namesake label, Juno is arguably the premiere distribution service for all manner of music that you’d label ‘techno.’  Stretching back to 2006, they boast offerings for everyone from profession DJ’s to bedroom DJ’s, offering up good ol’ vinyl as well as several digital music formats, along with sample packs for those creative types. On top that that, they pride themselves as being ‘one of the cheapest download stores available.’ Along with their sterling newsletter, which itself provides a rich selection of discoveries, they also offer up label picks of the month, free track giveaways and ‘takeover pages’ where customers offer up extra content.

 

Jon Lloyd

Marketing & Promotions Manager

Jon Lloyd

On the post-COVID music scene:

I think once lockdown eases and the clubs reopen, there will be an explosion of new music right around the corner. People are desperate to go outside and express themselves, so when they are given the opportunity to do just that, I think the music industry will bounce back stronger than ever.

 

What keeps me going is…

It’s easy to stay motivated at work as I do a job I love and get to discover and listen to new music everyday single day.

 

SOUNDOHM

For fans of all kinds of oddball music, stores like Other Music and Aquarius Records (both sadly gone now) provided roadmaps with their store offerings and amazing newsletters.  One of the best places taking up the slack now is this Italian mail order service which dates back to around the turn of the millennium.  Their specialties include limited edition pressings, archival/reissue releases and obscure albums that will surprise even the cognoscenti. And their newsletter and their monthly editorial deep dives into artists’ careers are things to drool over.  Looking for 10 CD box set of Ennio Morricone or a Don Cherry ’68 broadcast or a cassette of experimental poetry?  Look no further.  If that wasn’t enough, the small Soundohm operation also manages to find the time to run their own fascinating experimental labels, including Ouidah, Blume Editions and Die Schachtel.

 

Bradford Bailey

Writer/editor

Bradford Bailey

On the post-COVID music scene:

The best way for the (independent) music industry to thrive is for everyone involved to acknowledge that each of its aspects – fans, artists, venues, labels, shops, writers, publications, etc. – belong to an interdependent ecosystem, each deserving respect, support, and acknowledgement for what they contribute. The entire landscape becomes unsustainable if any of these elements fail or becomes undervalued or taken for granted.

Effectively, this means making careful and conscious choices about how we consume and invest in music, rather than defaulting to the cheapest or easiest means available, while conversely, those who make and produce it will need to respect the value of the other contributors to the landscape, as well as the sacrifice it requires on the part of the listener to invest in music.

 

What keeps me going is…

A deep and endless love for music, a belief in its importance within all of our lives, and the fact that I never fail to be surprise by it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jason Gross

Jason Gross is the editor/founder of Perfect Sound Forever , one of the first and longest-running online music magazines. He also does freelance writing for Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, Time Out, AP, New York, MTV, Oxford American, Billboard, MOJO, The Wire, Blurt among others.  Reissues and collections that he's produced included Delta 5, Essential Logic, Kleenex/Liliput, DNA, Oh OK and OHM –The Early Gurus of Electronic Music. He lives in New York with his girlfiend and their 30 plush cats.

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