30th Century Records Showcase
Waterstrider, Big Search, Nine Pound Shadow
@ The Resident DTLA
There is something, if not surreal than something close, about watching Brian "Dangermouse" Burton go about his business as label impresario with his 30th Century Records label. Burton was recruited for this label by Rob Stringer, presently head of Columbia Records, soon to be head of Sony Entertainment, which makes him one of the five to ten most powerful people in the music industry. The philosophy of men like Rob Stringer has been expressed by his predeccesor with Sony Entertainment, Doug Morris. Here is a quote from Morris when he was working at UMG, in 2008:
Let's move to present-day issues. When you come to work, what do you see as your biggest challenge?
The biggest problem is always getting hits. That's the one thing that has never changed. The way of delivering music has changed, the way of listening to it has changed, the way of distributing it has changed, but it's always the music. (BILLBOARD MAGAZINE 2008)
The answer, according to Morris, and I would presume, Rob Stringer, is that you bring hit-makers into Sony Entertainment and then pair them with artists. As Morris himself says above, the other stuff is secondary- you have to have hits. 30th Century Records then, is the intersection of the vision of Brian Burton with the philosophy and money of Columbia/Sony Entertainment. What is different between Burton and other, typically producers, like Dr. Luke and Max Martin, who have also been selected by Sony (Sony entertainment owns Columbia, but Columbia maintains an infrastructure accrued over half a century as an independent "Major" label.
So, I mean, the completely obvious and true fact to observe about the difference between Brian Burton, Max Martin and Dr. Luke, or other entities that have similar agreements with UMG (Universal), is that, simply stated, Brian Burton is not a whore for hits. He has hits, great, massive, hits, but he does not spend his days thinking of ways to create more hits. I happen to know someone who works for producer Max Martin, who I think is still independent, but I can testify that it is all about the hits with Max Martin.
That is the only way to process the 30th Century Records showcase, which equally could be the showcase of a moderately funded indie label with a production and distribution deal via Secretely Canadian. I'm pretty sure I've reviewed Waterstrider and Nine Pound Shadow, and they are both extremely mellow indie bands. If I haven't said it before, I'll it now: Nine Pound Shadow compares closest to the Milk Carton Kids (who are huge, fyi.) Waterstrider is more in the vein of Arcade Fire, to use a broad comparison. Big Search has 538 Facebook fans. They also had a mellow, indie sound and vibe. It's simply impossible to doubt that Burton is trying to create a legitimate indie-style label with bands who are excited to get the opportunity. I mean, I personally vouch for the fact that by any yard stick, his heart is in the right place, and I'm saying that as someone who ran an indie label with no major label involvement.
And also, I can testify that is he personally involved with the bands, and gives them tips and advice about their live show and of course their sound. In conclusion, what is amazing about capitalism, and the entertainment industrial complex in general, is that how people who could very much afford to run their own business with no interference from anyone will instead accept arrangements with giant conglomerates. For obvious reasons, the resources of the multi national conglomerates far exceed those that can be brought to bear even by a wealthy individual with extensive business experience in the entertainment industry.
It's similar to the idea in american capitalism where a tremendously successful, mega-billionaire will have to justify him or herself to a board of directors, because accepting outside capital requires a board of directors. The situation where you have a Steve Jobs getting fired and then brought back in according to the vagaries of the business cycle. I guess I wonder, what was the exact understanding between Stringer and Burton. Did Stringer say, "But you have to give me some hits in a reasonable time frame." Or was that not said, because no one would say that to Brian Burton.
Mostly though, I wanted to write this review to commend the Resident in DTLA as a venue. It is for sure worth while to head down there to check out a show if there is a band you like. It's clean, with indoor and outdoor areas, and seats inside and outside. The sound is good. They had a food truck in the court yard. I would go back to the venue to see another show if asked.