Friendships forged around a downtown recording studio have spawned a new venture aimed at helping Richmond-area artists bring their music to the masses.
Shockoe Records, a new independent label, formed out of In Your Ear Studios, the production site of Shockoe Bottom led by co-founder and president Carlos Chafin, who runs the label with co-owners Craig Martin and Queon Martin ( no link ).
Chafin, who started IYE three decades ago with the late singer-songwriter Robbin Thompson, said the label was born out of necessity when one of its five inaugural artists, Elizabeth Wise and Her Guys, ended an album but found himself without a way to promote her, after a promotion associate pulled out for personal reasons.
“When it happened, I was like, ‘Well, this sucks: we’ve put all this time and energy and effort into this, the album is almost in our hands, but we don’t have any somewhere to go,'” Chafin said. “What shall we do now?
“I started talking to friends about it, and everyone I talked to was really excited and said, ‘It’s not a problem; it’s an opportunity,” he said. “We can come in and create something that works for the artist, a new business entity that’s a holistic solution for their marketing and their ability to distribute, release products and get paid for it. But how do you do that?
To get answers to that question, Chafin reached out to friends and colleagues he’s worked with over the years or met at Shockoe Sessions, the eclectic business networking concert series he hosts at IYE. . Among those who offered to help were brand strategist Zane Gibbs, Plan 9 Records owner Jim Bland and Jen Finn, a strategic advisor who helped open Capital One’s 1717 Innovation Center.
The two Martins, Craig and Queon, also gave advice, who both signed on to share ownership of the label with Chafin. Craig is a creator and co-host of “The right road“, a television docuseries partially produced at IYE, while Queon – who goes by the name “Q” – is chief operating officer at Soulidifly Productions, a local media company that uses IYE for the music and sound of its movies.
Q, whose other businesses include a hip-hop and history magazine, said he suggested the name Shockoe Records after searching the internet for the word “Shockoe.”
“When I did it, it was directed to In Your Ear Studios, Shockoe Sessions and Plan 9 Records. I was like, ‘That’s the name!’ “, He said, laughing.
Noting that “Shockoe” is derived from an indigenous expression referring to a flat rock or foundation, Q added, “Not only are we creating something that is aligned with historical meaning, but we are also that foundation of the new music and what the sound of Richmond sounds like.
Wise, a blues and roots singer-songwriter and guitarist, is on the label’s roster; rapper Chance Fischer; jazz pianist Weldon Hill; Holy River Folk Group; and Rodney “the Soul Singer” Stith.
Craig said the list represents a diversity, both in people and musical styles, that Shockoe Records aims to promote.
“I’m really excited about the parallels between not only the diversity of musical styles, but my vision is that there will be diversity in the makeup of the performers themselves,” Craig said. “Because when you start embracing a musician or musical artists, people look up to them. They want to be like them and learn from them.
Chafin adds: “Here, we are moving towards real diversity. This label will not be a genre or a flavor; we don’t want that at all. Part of the thrust of all of this is education and information. We want people to learn to appreciate musical styles and things they’ve never really considered before. It will be like the Shockoe Sessions: we represent everything.
Although each of the five artists has worked with Chafin or performed at the Shockoe Sessions, he said that use of In Your Ear’s studios is not required or expected for an artist to sign with the label. In fact, he says, the label isn’t about creating albums or discovering new stars, but rather promoting and helping guide established musicians who have already started working on an album.
“We want to help them introduce it to the public so they can actually sell the thing. We want to help promote; we want to help them with their marketing and distribution efforts and all those tough business things you have to do on the back end of creating the art,” Chafin said. “That’s where most artists fall, and that’s where we want to step in and go, ‘We’ve got you.'”
Chafin said that many artists run out of money after making an album, so there’s no money left over for marketing and promotion. By providing its resources and industry connections, Shockoe Records would provide an investment in an artist with the goal of a return on that investment over time.
The label will earn money from sales of CDs, vinyl, merchandise, sync licensing and specialty services provided to artists.
Chafin described the label’s business structure as more co-operative than for-profit, where artists are seen as part of the business by providing an equal amount of investment, with the artist earning all profits once the contribution of the label retrieved.
“When we start approaching 20 artists, and we have 20 artists with products that we’ve promoted and we’re selling thousands of units each, we’ll be profitable,” he said.
Chafin added that the label would seek input from Richmond’s business community, including investors who might be interested in helping a given artist.
“We want to reach out to the business community and say, ‘Here’s how you can participate, here are things you can do, events you can sponsor, things this artist is going to do that you might be interested in. participate to grow this artist and develop your connection with the artistic community of Richmond.
“It has to happen”
The label marks a new chapter for IYE and Chafin, who sold the building that houses the studios last year along with business partners Kathy Allsbrook, Paul Bruski and Terry Stroud.
The group, which created the facility at 1813 E. Broad St. through the rehabilitation of four dilapidated townhouses along 19th Street, sold the 18,000 square foot complex to Michael Congdon, a music producer and entrepreneur who had collaborated with IYE for years. . Congdon produced Chris Brown’s Grammy-winning album FAME, which was recorded at IYE.
1813 E Broad LLC of Congdon bought the property for $1.7 million, according to city records.
Chafin said the sale was prompted in part by the retirement of Stroud, who was IYE’s chief operating officer, a former president of the Virginia Production Alliance and a longtime lobbyist for the industry. state cinema.
“We wanted the building’s vision and mission to stay intact, and Mike Congdon was that guy,” Chafin said. “I wanted to focus on what we were doing and not own, so when Terry left that was a factor. But it wasn’t the (only) factor.
Shockoe Records also continues a tradition at IYE of doing something extra for the artists it works with. Shockoe Sessions, which began six years ago as a business network series centered around a musical performance, has continued during the pandemic via livestreaming in a bid to help artists earn money and to provide a place to play when live concerts were not possible.
Wise, who has performed on several Shockoe Sessions, returns to the series this Tuesday with a performance at Hardywood in Richmond which is also a release party for his new album, Reckless Sophistication. She said she was grateful to the IYE community and the Shockoe Records label which formed largely because of her situation.
“Most musicians can’t afford marketing,” said Wise, who funded the album through a Kickstarter campaign that raised $20,000 from 74 backers. Additional donors brought the total to around $30,000, which she says helped but did not cover marketing costs.
“To me, record labels are really terrifying, because you hear so many horror stories,” Wise said. “It just happened, and if it wasn’t for the people behind it, then I probably wouldn’t. I’ve lived all over the world, met a lot of people, and those are a few of my favorite people.
Shockoe Records joins the ranks of other Richmond record labels, including Spacebomb and Egghunt Records. Other sound studios include Sound of Music, Red Amp Audio, Overcoast and Rainmaker Studios.
As for Chafin, after decades of recording, composing and producing music with IYE, he says he’s getting used to the idea of doing what he’s avoided in his career so far: conducting. a record company.
“Honestly, I avoided it like the plague,” Chafin said. “I think of myself as the person who makes the sausage, not sells it. It was just a career goal for me. But I’m so sick of seeing the artists I work with having absolutely no way to go with their work after they leave our studio. Might as well throw it in the middle of Broad Street.
He added: “It was born out of necessity. It just has to happen. Artists cannot continue to exist in this framework in which we currently live. I’m not going to sit back and watch the work of really good, talented people get wasted or taken advantage of by these streaming services and whatnot. It is driving me crazy. They deserve to have a career like everyone else deserves to have a career. It is their livelihood.