The Making of a New Twin Cities Record Label (Part 1 of 4)
The most sublime undertakings often spring from modest proposals.
It began in 1998 during weeks leading up to a high school graduation somewhere in the north Twin Cities suburbs. A bunch of boys were hanging out in the hallways, chattering about where they were headed, gossiping incessantly about college chics. Most were staying close to where the egg hatched, but not all.
The shared experiences of the boys all revolved around the high school music department they held in common. Four years had passed, and through that period they had variously played music together both within and outside of school. Most had been contented to let the education stream M-F within those secondary walls, but one had a spark and drive like none other, and he pursued above and beyond instruction at Minneapolis’ MacPhail Center for Music.
In a circle now, this boy told everyone, “I’m going to do this. I’m going to do music, and nothing is going to stop me.” He was Berklee bound.
Years past and each boy carved out a different life. One entered the Navy, another went to vocational school and became a machinist. Still another went into management in the retail liquor industry, while this one became a professional archaeologist turned unemployed music blogger. We all had hopes of becoming rock stars, playing Woodstock festivals and packing First Avenue nightclub. We never made it, but to varying degrees we kept each other and the memories. But it was that fifth boy (indeed, there were five of us), he did it. No, he didn’t play a Woodstock festival and he didn’t pack First Avenue, but he did exactly what he proposed he would do. He went into the music industry with a relentless fervor, and he did it well.
In January of 2009 I received a phone call from Mic (Note: not the real name, so close your google window). He was working A&R for a prominent record label out in NYC, and had been for two to three years. But things weren’t going so well. He liked his job and the people he worked with, but it was tough getting by in NYC on the salary he was given, and he’d been doing it for five years atop student loan debt. Making matters worse, he had that nagging feeling we all know too well, that which builds during moments of personal struggle. We look at our lives and wonder what the hell we’re doing, how many coaches passed while we were busy warming the terminal bench. He told me something was missing in his life, and it was none of the likely suspects like love, close friendships, or even an agreeable job. It was a dream of sorts.
Mic had spent a lot of time in the last decade doing the things he wanted to do and being happy doing them. He’d gone to Berklee in Boston and earned a prestigious degree, moved to Nashville and worked for BMI for several years, and eventually landed in NYC working again for BMI and then said prominent record label. Along the way he’d performed and recorded with many known and unknown musicians, hobnobbed with some of the best and partied a plenty. But now he was telling me he wanted to slow it down a bit, attain some stability and do something truly ambitious. Then he just said it.
“I think I’m coming home man. I’m starting my own label. I’ve thought a lot about it, and I think Minneapolis needs it.”
That was it. It was happening, and the first vision made reality occurred on a pastel post-it note. This was the culmination of a modest proposal just over ten years earlier. His life was going to be in music, he was doing it.