Bon Voyage, Porto Franco: Big-time success was never a likelihood for Porto Franco, a family-run Mission District record label that prides itself on championing local artists, rather than ones working in the same musical genre. Russian immigrant Peter Varshavsky started the project with his father, Sergei, in 2008, hoping to help the San Francisco musicians they loved -- jazz wizards, folk singers, an incredibly talented Ethiopian-born singer named Meklit Hadero -- put out records, build a following, and realize some of the success that the Varshavskys believed they deserved. No one thought that sustaining a new label was going to be lucrative or easy: From the start, Peter Varshavsky says, "Everyone told us not to do it." But he and his father thought they could at least build a business that would support itself.
Three years later, many of Porto Franco's more than 20 artists have raised their profiles; some, like Hadero, are on their way to international stardom. But as a business, Porto Franco has failed. Having invested between $300,000 and $400,000 of their own money into the project, and made almost none of it back, the Varshavskys plan to stop releasing records around the middle of next year. Porto Franco will carry on as a website and a blog, with self-produced videos of its artists, curated show listings, and other content. But it will be out of the business of subsidizing or funding new recordings by local musicians... [continue reading]
Sizzle & Fizzle: Highs and lows from the week in S.F. music.