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The Maverick MC, the Studio Mess, and the Sturdy Indie Label 

The 2008 local music landscape in three parts.

Wednesday, Oct 15 2008

Okay, we get it. The economy is in rapid decline. The major labels are in rapid decline. And, thanks to San Francisco's insane summer festival schedule, our hearing is in rapid decline. But, unlike the financial and housing markets, elected officials aren't offering bailout packages for the recording industry (or, sadly, handing over cash incentives to purchase those high-fidelity earplugs).

Music is a resilient business, though. Sure, sales have fallen as we shift further away from CD culture toward digital downloads, but it's not as if our entertainment nation is headed into extinction. Artistic visions that pair talent with smart business sense still have a place in our modern music age.

For this year's SF Weekly Music Awards issue, we examine three distinct facets of our music community to provide a deeper look at the lessons each has to offer. First up is Lyrics Born, an artist whose ascent over the years is downright inspirational (and who is headlining our awards party at Ruby Skye on Thursday, Oct. 16). The Berkeley MC has built an internationally desired brand of funk-infused hip-hop. But, as Eric K. Arnold writes, the dude is still down in the DIY trenches, making sure that record stores are well stocked with his product.

Slumberland Records is another single-operator enterprise. The indie label has released 100 records since its inception, and is the Bay Area's best-kept secret for underground pop lovers. Two decades after its start, founder Mike Schulman discusses with Mike McGonigal what it's like watching the trend cycle move toward his brand of tastemaking.

Speaking of trends, one underreported aspect of the music industry's struggles is the state of the recording studio. As musicians receive smaller checks from their labels and learn more about home recording, major studios from the Bay Area to Los Angeles and New York are closing up shop. Ezra Gale explains how the tide has slowly turned away from this once-important cornerstone of the business.

From each of these stories, a single conclusion emerges: Agile artists, engineers, and other decision-makers can still make an impact on today's music industry. After all, whether your depression is economic or plain ol' losing-your-lover type, what better way to understand this world than through the perfect song? Although ... okay, if you fans of live music really want to hear that tune down the line, it's probably time to invest in some fancypants earplugs.

2008 Music Awards

The Bay Area Maverick - Lyrics Born

The Big Studio Slump

Slumberland Records: Trapped in Amber

About The Author

Jennifer Maerz


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