It’s the economy, stupid.
Not only has the music industry had to adapt to the growth of digital technology and file-sharing, now everyone’s broke and on the brink of fighting for food. This century has not been kind to record labels, record stores and record manufacturers, not to mention the promoters and venues who’ve seen some declines in business due to—you guessed it—the elevating economic crisis. Top that off with the threat of a Live Nation/Ticketmaster merger and a citywide Promoter’s Ordinance, and the fear is very much real. No matter how good the intentions are of all parties, there may not be enough room for the little guy for much longer.
Music 45 was written by John Alex Colon, Tom Lynch, Dennis Polkow and Elly Rifkin, with additional reporting by Todd Miller
1 Mark Campana
President, Live Nation Midwest Music
Campana kept relatively mum surrounding the details of the proposed Live Nation/Ticketmaster wedding at a press conference at Wrigley Field just last month, preferring to keep the discussion focused on the upcoming Elton John and Billy Joel date at the historic venue this July. Fact is, with control of major venues like the First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre, House of Blues and Alpine Valley in East Troy—plus a contract to promote shows at Northerly Island’s Charter One Pavilion and dominance over United Center and Allstate Arena—Live Nation has a towering control over the largest concert venues in the Chicago area, which sees the biggest tours—Madonna, Coldplay, Dave Matthews Band—and, of course, the steepest ticket prices. The world’s largest concert promoter has faced much criticism in the weeks since the merger’s announcement, from smaller promoters fearing a monopoly, music journalists and even Bruce Springsteen, who wrote on his Web site, “The one thing that would make the current ticket situation even worse for the fan than it is now would be Ticketmaster and Live Nation coming up with a single system, thereby returning us to a near-monopoly situation in music ticketing.” Controversial, to say the least, but evidence of just how big the bat Live Nation is swinging. And for every Boss looking out for the everyday fan’s pocketbook, the Live Nation/Ticketmaster union has a supporter—heavy hitters like Shakira, Van Halen and Seal have gone on record with their approval.
2 Charlie Jones
Co-owner, C3 Presents
Along with Charles Attal and Charlie Walker, Jones operates Austin-based company C3 Presents, which organizes and promotes Lollapalooza in Grant Park each year. Jones, who splits his time between Austin and Chicago, has seen Lollapalooza become Chicago’s biggest single concert event each year, bringing tens of thousands of attendees from around the globe each year, and has seen headliners as large as Daft Punk, Pearl Jam and last year’s Radiohead. Lollapalooza is contracted to stay in Grant Park through 2011, so Jones and crew ain’t going anywhere for a while.
3 Joe Shanahan
Owner of one of Chicago’s most beloved venues, Shanahan, over the last twenty-seven years, has seen the likes of Nirvana, REM, Radiohead, Pearl Jam, Bob Dylan and, of course, Smashing Pumpkins pass through Metro’s stage. Shanahan’s modest room on Clark Street, across the way from Wrigley Field, serves as a living history of modern independent music, and his dedication to the city’s local scene keeps the venue that much more essential to Chicago. After Metro celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary in 2007 with a series of events which included a Decemberists concert in Millennium Park, the Chicago Chapter of The Recording Academy awarded Shanahan Recording Academy Honors in recognition of his time spent fostering the local music community.
4 Arny Granat & Jerry Mickelson
Owners, Jam Productions
Always fighting the good fight. Not surprisingly, Jam Productions—which promotes shows at the Park West, Riviera Theatre, Vic Theatre and Aragon, as well as random, off-hand shows at smaller venues like Metro, Schubas and Martyrs’—strongly opposes the Live Nation/Ticketmaster threat, as Mickelson testified against the merger before the Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights just last month. “They dominate the arena level. They control and have all of the outdoor amphitheaters… and with House of Blues, they are taking over the lower-level theater business as well,” Mickelson told the committee, which is reviewing the mammoth proposal. To even be in the position to potentially compete with a business behemoth like Live Nation is an accomplishment on its own—as was Granat and Mickelson’s bagging of the Uptown Theatre last summer, purchased for $3.2 million. (We’ll wait and see whether that venue will be renovated properly and ever see a live act, but fingers-crossed.) Not bad for a company launched from a small Chicago apartment just over three decades ago.
5 Barry Dolins
Deputy Director, Mayor’s Office of Special Events
Taking his lead from the South Side “House Parties,” Chicago blues master Willie Dixon organized the first citywide blues festival in Grant Park back in 1969, although the festival didn’t catch on as an annual summer event until after the success of the Blues Stage at ChicagoFest. With a go-ahead from then Mayor Harold Washington, Barry Dolins made the annual fest a reality in 1984 and has been programming the free, three-day festival that always heralds the official start of summer in Chicago ever since. One of the hallmarks of Dolins’ art is the careful way that he is able to balance legendary names of the field with newcomers and offbeat acts from far and wide who keep Chicago’s blues tradition alive. This year’s twenty-sixth-annual festival will be June 12-14.
6 Scott Plagenhoef, Chris Kaskie
Editor-in-Chief, Publisher, Pitchfork Media
Ever since founder Ryan Schrieber moved to New York, Plagenhoef and Kaskie helped take over day-to-day operations at the highly influential Web site (Schrieber oversees the site remotely), which offers daily record reviews, news, interviews with artists and more. Pitchfork has embedded itself so much into the psyche of the independent music world that a site’s review can make or break a band and has become a destination spot for not only avid music fans, but also the artists that create the product. The annual festival, held each summer in Union Park and assembled by Schrieber, local jazz musician Mike Reed and the Pitchfork staff, is one of the city’s musical high points of the year, commendable not only for booking topnotch, often surprising acts—last year’s Public Enemy, Sebadoh, Cut Copy—but also keeping ticket prices low.
7 Deborah F. Rutter
President, Orchestral Association/CEO, Chicago Symphony Orchestra
When Deborah F. Rutter announced last May that the Chicago Symphony Orchestra had signed Riccardo Muti to become its new music director, she scored an unparalleled music coup for the cultural life and reputation of the city. Muti had turned down the New York Philharmonic, no less, for the CSO, thanks in large part to Rutter’s careful and patient courting that had left the orchestra without a music director since 2006. Rutter also oversaw the development of the orchestra’s own CSO Resound label, which brought the orchestra two Grammy Awards last month, and is somehow managing to keep Pierre Boulez and Bernard Haitink involved with the CSO well into Muti’s music directorship, which starts in September 2010.
8 Tony Brummel
Owner, Victory Records
With the ongoing saga that is the legal battle between Victory Records and emo band Hawthorne Heights serving as a distraction, it’s shocking to realize the number of high-selling records the label has produced over the years, from artists like 1997, Aiden, Bayside, Between the Buried and Me, Funeral for a Friend, Streetlight Manifesto, The Tossers and Voodoo Glow Skulls. Specializing in emo, post hardcore, metalcore and pop punk, Victory is the “biggest label in Chicago and top independent rock label in the U.S.,” says Brummel, and that they’re “excited about every release. That’s our passion and our job. Economy is tough for any business but if you are a brand you feel it less.”
9 Bruce Finkelman
Owner, Empty Bottle
Often cited as the most authentic rock venue in the city, Finkelman’s Empty Bottle has already achieved Metro-like legendary status, in just over fifteen years of operation. The famous sideways stage has seen heavy duty acts roll through over the years—recently Fucked Up, Blitzen Trapper and Tortoise have played, and in a couple weeks sees a reunion of Red Red Meat. Even better in this tumbling economy, admission to shows at the Bottle are sometimes as low as three bucks, and even, on occasion, free. Finkelman’s influence has been felt at other venues across the city as well, as the Bottle has taken up booking shows at the Lakeshore Theater, Logan Square Auditorium, Sonotheque and now the Epiphany, which welcomes Tricky on March 13.
10 Welz Kauffman
President & CEO, Ravinia Association
Welz Kauffman can claim not only to have overseen the most successful era of box-office sales in the North Shore summer festival’s long history but he has done so while expanding rather than cutting back on what the festival is offering. Following up on his five-year “Sondheim at 75” series that has evolved into fully-staged musicals (“Camelot” this year, with Robert Hearn), the intimate “Martinis at the Martin” series that spotlights cabaret performers, and attracting and maintaining a high-quality and high-profile music director in James Conlon who challenges and entertains while expanding the audience base, Kauffman’s latest innovation has been the expansion of Ravinia’s popular-music offerings and the overhaul and expansion of Ravinia’s food-service pavilion.
11 Earl Jones
President/Market Manager, Clear Channel Radio Chicago
Clear Channel has ownership and control over six major Chicago radio stations—WGCI-FM 107.5, WGRB-AM 1390, WKSC-FM 103.5, WLIT-FM 93.9, WNUA-FM 95.5 and WVAZ-FM 102.7. Formatted to reach the large variety of cultures in Chicago, the stations vary greatly in content, from urban contemporary music to inspirational, from Top 40 to smooth jazz, reaching more than three million listeners weekly.
12 Susanne Dawursk
Founder/President, Flower Booking
Along with partner Tim Edwards, Dawursk expanded the booking, event and tour production and event-marketing company even further globally in 2008, now operating in Singapore, Thailand, China and South Africa. Flower’s recently worked with artists like Frightened Rabbit, Ratatat and Minus the Bear, and the company celebrates its twentieth birthday in 2010, which will result in Flower 20, a string of concerts that raises money and awareness for charity. (The last event, Flower 15, produced nearly $100,000 for local charities.) “Our company’s principles have always remained firmly planted in recommending value-based touring/branding/marketing strategies for our artists and clients,” Dawursk says. “As a result, our global focus, ability to create large impact for a small dollar and our overall eye on the long-term goals for our artists have allowed us to simply keep on trucking in an otherwise uncertain economy. We have always been about creating value for everyone involved—not only our artist, but the fan.”
13 Jeff McClusky
Owner, Jeff McClusky and Associates
The marketing and promotion firm was once top dog in Chicago, but the slow decline in the importance and relevance of broadcast radio, as well as the decline of major record labels, has seen McClusky and his team, like everyone else in the industry, forced to adapt. The firm known for helping launch the careers of Madonna and U2 begun to work with smaller acts and independent labels like Sub Pop and Matador. Known in the industry as a promotions visionary, McClusky still gets the respect—he took home the Independent Promotion Executive of the Year prize at the Radio & Records Industry Achievement Awards in September of 2008. Jeff McClusky & Associates hosts an “Artist Development” showcase March 7 at Subterranean, with performances by Bright Like Japan and Janelle Kroll.
14 David “Boche” Viecelli
President, Billions Corporation
“In these circumstances, I am happier than ever that we find ourselves in the business of live music and management rather than some other places in the industry. It’s a somewhat smoother ride,” Viecelli says of his company’s survival during the current economic crisis. According to “Boche,” 2008 was a huge year for his booking agency—merging with Aero Booking, Billions acquired North American representation for Death Cab for Cutie, Fleet Foxes and Blitzen Trapper, Vampire Weekend got huge, they purchased a new building here in Chicago and opened an office in Seattle. This year will witness new records/tours from Neko Case and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, plus a brief reunion of The Jesus Lizard. That said, Viecelli says he’s being “cautious and sensibly concerned,” but remains “optimistic,” and is a partner in a new New York-based management company called Lever and Beams, which will handle artists like Sharon Jones, St. Vincent and Southern Culture on the Skids.
15 Michael Orlove
Senior Program Director, Department of Cultural Affairs
With all of the buzz about whether Chicago will actually host a world-class event with participants from across the globe in the form of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs has already been doing exactly that for a decade in the form of the World Music Festival. Michael Orlove not only founded the World Music Festival but also oversees the music programming for Millennium Park and the Chicago Cultural Center. Orlove’s original proposal for the annual World Music Festival, held every September, was to set up a mechanism where, for a week during the year, there would be a time where Chicagoans and tourists could experience a wave of artists coming in from all over the world that they never heard before and to make every event accessible—even free, where possible. And despite tough times and city budget cuts, Orlove and program coordinator Brian Keigher manage to track down alternative funding and belt-tighten enough to allow us to continue to have a brush with the world without leaving Chicago.
16 Tim & Katie Tuten
“When you think things are great, they can get better,” Tim Tuten says. “It’s very weird. The rest of the country has an economic crisis, and the wars are going on, but actually 2008 was really awesome for us.” With each passing year Hideout—baby of the Tutens and the Hinchsliff twins—regularly boosts its national profile, often being cited as one of the best bars in America. Check it: the annual Hideout Block Party in September is always a resounding success, each year better than the last, rising star Andrew Bird continually brings attention to the club, recently filming a new music video for “Fitz and the Dizzyspells” there, and the Tutens bussed eighty people to D.C. to celebrate Obama’s inauguration with the Big Shoulders Ball, at which Bird, along with several other local musicians, performed.
17 Tom Windish
President, Windish Agency
The booking man—who cut his chops at Billions all those years ago—reports that his agency is still climbing, having just this January purchased a new building in Wicker Park, and last summer adding an agent in New York who represents Paul Oakenfold, Sasha and Digweed, Glitch Mob and more. Last year saw impressive ticket sales for Girl Talk, M83, Justice and Hot Chip and, for 2009, Windish says that “Animal Collective is off to a great start, and we have high hopes for many artists, including Little Boots, Peter Bjorn and John, Datarock, Cut Copy and Crystal Castles, among many others on our roster.”
18 Steve Albini
The highly respected—and opinionated—recording engineer has had his hand in some monumental records over the years, most famously Nirvana’s “In Utero,” but also the Pixies’ “Surfer Rosa,” some work by Low and even The Stooges. He and his crew at Electrical Audio offer their services to anyone who can scramble together enough scratch—yet not an overwhelming amount, if you check out the rates on Electrical’s Web site, so if you’d like your kit to sound as angry and aggressive as Dave Grohl’s does on “Scentless Apprentice,” it’s not entirely impossible. Albini’s also something of a rock star legend around these parts, as a member of not only Shellac, but also Big Black and Rapeman.
19 William Mason
General Director, Lyric Opera of Chicago
As the most expensive of the performing arts, opera companies across the country are shutting their doors or scaling back on plans, programs and performances due to the recession, but Lyric Opera continues to thrive under William Mason. Mason had already seen the writing on the wall when he led the company through the sudden drying up of funds in the tough arts-unfriendly economic climate following 9/11 by canceling company plans deemed too expensive and tightening Lyric’s belt, while never allowing the artistic quality of what did end up presented on the stage to suffer as a result. Despite the fact that Lyric remains in great fiscal shape, Mason is taking no chances and that same emergency plan is in place for next season which eliminates money-eating Wagner and Richard Strauss and replaces grand Berlioz for a staged cantata while beefing up the warhorse factor by including operetta in the mix, a plan which kept the company in the black after 9/11 and which is likely to keep the company the fiscal envy of the opera world.
20 Jeff Mills
Owner and CEO, Axis Records/Co-owner, Gamma Player
Techno legend Jeff Mills wowed Detroit radio listeners for years with his unparalleled turntable skills, earning him the nickname “The Wizard.” With his Detroit collective Underground Resistance, and as a solo artist, he went on to release some of the most influential electronic music in history. Mills later established his record label Axis in New York before relocating to Chicago in 1993. These days, Mills tours the world relentlessly DJing and performing live, yet still has time to manage Axis and its four associated sub-labels and co-run the Wicker Park clothing boutique, Gamma Player, where he occasionally hosts art installations. Most recently Mills lectured at a screening of the film “X-102 Rediscovers the Rings of Saturn” at the Cultural Center. The film featured music from his solo work and his “X-102” collaboration with former UR partners Robert Hood and “Mad” Mike Banks. Though he only DJs in Chicago once a year, our city is fortunate to have the formerly reserved and constantly busy Jeff Mills constantly searching for ways to innovate and integrate art, music and fashion.
21 James Amato
Music Director, Smart Bar
Smart Bar’s music and bookings chief, Amato, cut his teeth in Milwaukee and quickly rose to prominence in the field of nightlife promotions, lauded by insiders and publications alike. In Chicago, James is instrumental in maintaining a Smart Bar calendar consistently buzzing with innovative acts and dance-floor favorites. Not content with one task, his Potty Mouth imprint churns out updates of the Chicago house sound, while mysteriously he finds the time to DJ as well.
22 Brian Deck
The member of the reunioning Red Red Meat (yes!) and main producer at Engine Studios has seen his profile increase with each passing year, working with artists like Iron and Wine, Modest Mouse, Califone, Margot and the Nuclear So & So’s, Counting Crows and Gomez. He’s become a sort of authority on folksy indie-rock as of late and also works with local musicians, as he did last year with Unicycle Loves You.
23 Matt Rucins
Talent buyer, Schubas
The quaint little room on Southport Avenue turns 20 this year and has taken a turn booking higher-profile acts playing “intimate” shows, most recently Sara Bareilles and Iron and Wine. The Monday night month-long residency program offers Chicago a weekly look at the local talent—Brighton MA’s supplied a stint just last month—and January’s annual Tomorrow Never Knows festival brings in talent on a yearly basis, with 2009’s edition including shows by Cursive, Department of Eagles, Thunderheist and Bishop Allen. Rucins, who’s been there for nine years, says 2008 was a tough year, but the venue has survived and “2009 has started off amazingly.”
24 Brian Peterson
Owner, MP Productions
MP has come a long way from booking shows at the Fireside Bowl and Prodigal Son—now handling Reggie’s Rock Club, Ronny’s Bar, Mad Maggie’s in Elgin, a pair of venues in Minneapolis and the new, Mike-Miller-of-Delilah’s co-owned Bottom Lounge, Peterson’s baby is busier than ever. (Reggie’s and Bottom Lounge alone continue to bring in major indie-rock acts, such as Liars and M83 in the last year alone.) “[I] have been doing this for a long time,” says the new father. I am able to work with all types of bands, big and small from different genres and with different needs. I really do have my dream job. Not many people can say that I guess.”
25 Kathryn Frazier
Owner, Biz3 Publicity
Biz3 has helped launch the careers of Lady Sovereign, Chromeo, Justice and Marnie Stern, and has also been the first on the scene for local cats like Flosstradamus, Kid Sister and The Cool Kids, who each earned their fair share of exposure in 2008 in major music magazines across the country. Frazier and her crew have moved on to managing now, taking the reins for Kelis, have launched digital marketing company Biz3 Digital—clients include Daft Punk, Asher Roth and Fischerspooner—and is even moving towards the film industry, currently working with Ryan Gosling and Zach Shields on their joint project. “This year has been INSANE!” Frazier stresses. Certainly sounds like it.
26 Derron Swan
President, House Call Entertainment, Inc.
Swan’s business handles booking for Belmont Avenue’s Beat Kitchen and Wicker Park’s Subterranean, as well as the increasingly popular Wicker Park Fest and the newly assembled Green Fest, this August in Eckhart Park, in which House Call is partnering with Big Creek Productions and the Chicago Center for Green Technologies “to insure a smooth and meaningful festival,” says Swan. This year’s Wicker Park Fest, according to Swan, will take place on Milwaukee rather than Damen.
27 Corey Rusk
Owner, Touch and Go Records, Quarterstick Records
A sad day just a few weeks ago when it was announced Touch and Go was being forced to scale back operations, essentially shutting down manufacturing and distribution services altogether, which aided independent labels like Kill Rock Stars and local cats Flameshovel and Drag City. One of the most respected independent labels in the country, Rusk’s Touch and Go has released records by such progressive acts like Shellac, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, Blonde Redhead and The Jesus Lizard. In his statement to the public, Rusk said that “Touch and Go will be returning to its roots and focusing solely on being an independent record label… It is the end of a grand chapter in Touch and Go’s history, but we also know that good things can come from new beginnings.”
28 Riccardo Muti
Music Director Designate, Chicago Symphony Orchestra
When all is said and done, Italian conductor Riccardo Muti chose Chicago over New York for one simple reason: the orchestra is better. Muti elaborated last June on the difficulties of preparing a particular passage of the Prokofiev Fifth Symphony and said candidly, “I have played this piece with many orchestras, all over the world; none of them ever played it like that. I fell in love.” To watch the CSO rehearse with Muti is to watch a musical honeymoon of the highest order with both parties—both immensely serious ordinarily—tittering away like schoolgirls. And for those of us who felt that Muti’s repertoire wasn’t broad enough or centered on the Austro-Germanic repertoire so long associated with the CSO, Muti’s two weeks here next season before taking officially in the fall of 2010 will include a Bruckner symphony and Brahms’ “A German Requiem.” As for orchestra personnel, in one week here in January, Muti held auditions that have already resulted in his first hire, which hasn’t been officially announced yet. Did we mention that he thinks they should start serving wine and pasta at CSO press conferences?
29 Bettina Richards
Owner, Thrill Jockey
As Richards’ Thrill Jockey nears the twentieth-anniversary mark, it continues to be a premier independent label in the world, and continues to produce quality work by artists like Tortoise, Califone, Bobby Conn, The Sea and Cake and Mountains. Richards says that it “should be no surprise to anyone that being an independent label of the size of Thrill Jockey is and continues to be very challenging,” but she’s looking forward to new releases by Arbouretum, Double Dagger, Tortoise and The Fiery Furnaces. Richards’ online MP3 digital download store, fina-music.com, is now a couple years old as well, and offers a gateway for a variety of artists and labels, including Ghostly International, Fat Cat Records and Bloodshot.
30 Jim DeRogatis
Pop music critic, Chicago Sun-Times
The Sun-Times columnist, co-host of syndicated radio talk show “Sound Opinions” and author of several books, including “Milk It: Collected Musings on the Alternative Music Explosion of the ‘90s” and “Staring at Sound: The True Story of Oklahoma’s Fabulous Flaming Lips,” continues to be the recognizable face of Chicago’s music criticism, and his consistent newspaper pieces that question the motives of major corporations like Live Nation and Ticketmaster reinforce his dedication to music fans more than anyone else. “Sound Opinions” reaches seventy-five radio stations nationwide, expanding DeRo’s message weekly.
31 John Humphrey, Jep Thornton
Owners, Engine Studios
This year, Engine Studios celebrates ten years in the business, and has recently seen the likes of Dave Matthews and Liz Phair within its walls, and its partnership with Brian Deck has brought in acts like Iron and Wine and Counting Crows. Engine’s also worked with local labels Drag City and Bloodshot for artists like Will Oldham and Jon Langford. “This year we’re currently gearing up for the new Iron and Wine record, with several other great projects on the horizon,” Humphrey says.
32 Greg Kot
Pop music critic, Chicago Tribune
The other host of “Sound Opinions” and rock critic at the Trib had a book about coaching, of all things, come out last fall, titled “Survival Guide for Coaching Youth Basketball,” and looks forward to the release of his new book, “Ripped: How the Wired Generation Revolutionized Music,” this May.
33 Joe Bryl
Co-Owner/Musical Director, Sonotheque
Many of Chicago’s nightclubs have all but abandoned music-driven programming to relieve the financial pinch of the economic downturn. Sonotheque, Ukrainian Village’s own “Lounge of Sound,” stands among the very few uncompromising in its commitment to cutting-edge and diverse bookings. Working with dozens of promoters and residents from month to month, Sonotheque hosts a mixture of local and international artists exhibiting live performances, film events and DJ-driven dance music featuring afrobeat, bhangra, reggae/dub, disco, funk, house, techno and more. Jack-of-all-trades nightlife industry veteran Joe Bryl is the man behind Sonotheque’s impressive programming, acting as co-owner, film-festival curator and resident for the club’s regular Thursday night party, Braziliance. Since its opening six years ago, Sonotheque has continued to thrive thanks to Bryl’s limitless musical curiosity and down-to-earth approach to dealing with the club’s clientele.
34 Brian Dickie
General Director, Chicago Opera Theater
Chicago Opera Theater has always been the most innovative opera company in town, even back to the days of late founder Alan Stone. So much so, in fact, that late Lyric Opera general director Ardis Krainik modeled her “Towards the 21st Century” initiative of presenting two twentieth-century operas a season throughout the 1990s after the well-established COT model. But the company nearly went under at the end of Stone’s reign—much as Lyric Opera itself almost had under its late founder Carol Fox—and had COT not been able to bring Brian Dickie to town, would likely be a mere memory. Like Krainik, Dickie is a visionary who keeps the company solvent while still challenging its audiences. His decade of COT leadership brought ten Chicago operatic premieres—most of which you would never hear at today’s ultra-conservative Lyric—including those that featured the extraordinary partnership of conductor Jane Glover (Dickie brought her to town, and she soon became Music of the Baroque’s music director) and director Diane Paulus and a “Nixon in China” premiere so impressive that composer John Adams came to conduct his “A Flowering Tree” at COT last year himself.
35 Phil Kosch, Nate Arling, Joelle Maggert
Talent buyers, Double Door
Double Door celebrates fifteen years as a live music venue in 2009, and is commemorating the anniversary with a slew of special shows, including this month’s evening with Brutal Truth. In 2008, they started booking shows in the renovated basement, called the “Dirtroom,” focusing on DJs and acoustic acts, mostly on Sundays and Mondays (and for dirt cheap). Kosch says they also plan to bring in a brand new sound system to offer DJs and electronic acts quadraphonic sound, which should be in place this April.
36 Michael Tiknis
Harris Theater President & Managing Director
Since Millennium Park’s Harris Theater opened five years ago, the venue has become home to an array of area music and dance companies, including Chicago Opera Theater, Music of the Baroque and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, among others. But thanks to the vision and persistence of Michael Tiknis, Harris has been able to present many exciting national and international acts that would otherwise go unheard and unseen in Chicago. Former Chicago Symphony Orchestra music director Daniel Barenboim, for instance, has shunned his former home at Symphony Center, but has been to Harris twice since leaving Chicago: once with his extraordinary East-West Divan Orchestra made up of Israelis and Palestinians energizing their tensions to make music together, and for an all-Liszt piano recital last December. The reclusive pianist Martha Argerich, who hadn’t played Orchestra Hall in years, did play at Harris; legendary dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov, who hadn’t danced in Chicago in years, did so at Harris, and the list goes on and on.
37 Michael Serafini
Owner and Manager, Gramaphone Records
Last year, vinyl addicts and DJs breathed a collective sigh of relief when they heard that Gramaphone Records, one of Chicago’s oldest independent record stores, was being handed over to veteran house music DJ Michael Serafini. Established in 1969, Gramaphone is a Chicago landmark, and one of the only record stores that still caters to DJs. Many of the world’s finest DJs have worked behind the counter including the Chicago-born-and-bred Serafini, who has been DJing since the late 1980s. When he’s not busy running the shop, Serafini continues to push the sounds of house music through his many DJ residencies around the city, including nights like the long-running Boom Boom Room.
38 Arman Razavi
Owner, Music 101/General Manager
Since its beginnings in 1999, Arman Razavi’s company Music 101 has grown to include nightclub and large-scale event promotions, venue marketing and a record label. Through long-running parties like Boom Boom Room, DayRa boat parties and other events around the country, Music 101 has cemented itself in the fabric of Chicago’s underground music history and its future. From the start, Music 101 has consistently championed house music, supporting Chicago locals alongside world-renowned DJs. Razavi also developed the business know-how to consult and manage an array of venues throughout Chicago.
39 Dan Koretsky, Dan Osborn
Owners, Drag City
The great Drag City label, a Chicago institution, has released several essential records over the years, by artists like Pavement, Royal Trux, Joanna Newsom, Bill Callahan and Silver Jews. (Silver Jews’ “Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea” was a best of ’08.) Drag City also turns 20 this year.
40 James Bau Graves
Executive Director, Old Town School of Folk Music
According to Eric Delli Bovi, director of external affairs at the Old Town School, enrollment in the various music classes remains as strong as ever in this harsh economic climate, and many shows held at the venue are selling out. This week, Susan Werner lends her talents, later this month Husker Du’s Bob Mould plays a solo acoustic show, and this spring sees shows by Steve Earle and Ceu.
41 James Ginsburg
Founder & President, Cedille Records
James Ginsburg came to Chicago to study law at the University of Chicago, a career which seemed inevitable given that his father Martin D. Ginsburg was a law professor at Georgetown, his sister a law professor at Columbia University and his mother, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, then a federal appellate judge, soon to be Supreme Court Justice. But Ginsburg pursued his passion for classical music by founding Cedille Records here in 1989, eventually leaving law school to concentrate full-time on the label, which has consistently released innovative and high-quality classical music recordings. Ginsburg is a true visionary who sees important voids in recorded repertoire and seeks to fill them, often engaging artists of the highest caliber and quality by doing so. His is a “hands on” approach and he personally oversees every aspect of the recording process, from choosing the repertoire, soliciting artists, securing the best acoustic environment, to microphone placement to producing the sessions themselves. Ginsburg’s extraordinary efforts won his label its first Grammy Award last year and Cedille continues to be a model of success and innovation.
42 Nan Warshaw, Rob Miller
Owners, Bloodshot Records
Chicago’s lovely label that most often dabbles in country, indie-folk and bluegrass, Bloodshot expanded into the indie-pop realm recently by releasing Scotland Yard Gospel Choir’s eagerly anticipated self-titled sophomore record. “Last year was good until about September,” Miller says, unfortunately. “Our lineup is really strong this year—I just hope people will be able to buy them in the soup lines.”
43 Bass By the Pound
For a decade, BBP helped secure Chicago’s place on the drum ‘n’ bass map by booking the memorable Seminar and Dynamite club events. Today, the crew’s efforts are focused on the stewardship of Wicker Park nightclub, Lava, and its plethora of weekly and monthly events, catering to house, drum ‘n’ bass, dubstep and techno fans alike. In addition, co-ownership of the two Small Bar venues has proven a successful venture, boasting excellent fare and a choice beer list.
44 Joe Segal
Founder and co-owner, Jazz Showcase
It was easy to write octogenarian Joe Segal off after he suddenly lost his lease to the Jazz Showcase three years ago. After all, Andy’s had picked up some of the Segal slack in the meantime and has been successfully booking some national jazz acts, a strategy that has been in place at the Green Mill for years. No, Segal and son Wayne are no longer booking “the heavies,” as could once be claimed, but mostly local acts, yet amazingly and against all odds, the Jazz Showcase is back at Dearborn Station and the Temple of Bebop lives. This is significant not only because Segal can boast the longest-running jazz establishment in the city’s colorful jazz history, but because as jazz continues to proliferate in the sterile environment of the concert hall and university, the few remaining true jazz clubs out there continue to be the breeding grounds for innovative performers as well as the last places where the deep link between performer and audience that sparked the rebellious spirit of the form in the first place can still be experienced firsthand.
45 Jesse Woghin, James Kenler
Owners, Flameshovel Records
Flameshovel had a fantastic release last year with Bound Stems’ “The Family Afloat,” one of the best releases of 2008, local or otherwise. This year looks to be another one of substance, with a new record from Chicago’s excellent rock ‘n’ roll sleazeballs, Mannequin Men, titled “Lose Your Illusion, Too,” out this June.
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