Jake Schneider, Partner and Director of Agency Development at Madison House Inc., a Boulder, CO-based booking and management company. Jake is the booking agent for some of the most successful and cutting-edge acts in electronic music, including BASSNECTAR, Keys N Krates, Paper Diamond, Lotus and more.
You began booking electronic artists at an interesting time in the genre’s history. What kind of opportunities did you see in midwestern markets that weren’t being capitalized on?
Jake Schneider: Uh-oh. This is a long answer so bear with me here!
Electronic music, like every genre, has been so cyclical in its nature. There are some legends in the electronic world hailing from places like Detroit or Chicago that have been doing this since I was in diapers. That’s actually pretty disgusting to imagine me in diapers, but I want people to know that I don’t think myself or any of my artists “reinvented” the wheel or anything here.
One of the main factors to the success of many of our clients in the midwest was the fact that there wasn’t any larger scale outlets or ways to bridge electronic music with my generation on a live touring level in the late 90’s early 00’s. I mean yes there were raves around that time, more so prior to that, and even more so in specific pockets of America, however that scene had cooled off a bit. If that wasn’t part of your world, you and the rest of the Midwestern masses maybe knew about “dance music”, and had listened to some of the big European artists like Paul Oakenfold, or enjoyed singles like “Sandstorm” by Darude, etc, but it was tough because there really wasn’t a radio format that was pushing it. It wasn’t as accessible as it was in Europe and other places around the globe. I’m from the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and St. Paul) and went to the University of Iowa and everyone that I knew just hilariously lumped dance music together and called it “techno”.
Then, it all changed for me in 2000, when I was a freshman in college, had my own PC that could burn CD’s (SICK!!!!!), Napster was JUST blowing up and I’m in a dorm with KILLER download speeds and just shredding through music to play and experiment with. I would say 2000 or 2001 was the “wild wild west” of music with the ability to so freely obtain albums and tracks from any artist, from anywhere in the world so quickly. I started listening to some dance music, but really as I began working with SCOPE Productions at the University of Iowa, where I was the Talent Buyer and Director of Operations, booking concerts for the University, my musical tastes were quickly broadening. Soon I was booking concerts that need to cater to an entire student population with different musical agendas as well as servicing the people in Iowa City, IA and the surrounding areas who wanted to see big name marquee artists. The school was essentially the main hub for the majority of concerts that could accommodate over 300-400 people because all of those venues were on-campus. That was a pretty crazy experience.
I DO remember though exactly when I first realized that electronic music had a ton going on in the background and would continue to grow, especially in the midwest where it hadn’t recently been prevalent outside of certain markets and straightforward “dance clubs” – I was DJ’ing four to five nights a week at a huge Big Ten bar (Go Hawkeyes) called “One-Eyed Jake’s” (my name was Jake so that was always fun explaining to drunk bachelorette parties that “both of my eyes are fine” and that “no, I cannot play ‘Yeah’ by Usher for the THIRD time tonight because I just played it two songs ago, and I’m sorry that the bachelorette is crying because she likes that song, but she missed it and can you please tell your friends to stop throwing bachelorette party penis straws at me.”). ANYWAYS, that got pretty unruly, and I would occasionally fill in at it’s sister club, The Summit, where there was a taste for those “four on the floor” dance tracks and if I were to DJ there I had to play some of that stuff, but at the end of the day I was much more of a Hip-Hop, R&B and Dancehall guy spinning records at those types speeds which were obviously a bit slower than the Tiesto tracks that a couple of my buddies were interweaving into their sets.
Towards the end of my tenure in Iowa City at one of our SCOPE meetings, a buddy of mine, Josh, who was working with us at the organization, had taken the time to burn me some music with The Disco Biscuits and LTJ Bukem. I didn’t know what the hell I was listening to, but I knew that there was a fan base, and it was being driven pretty heavily from the East Coast, and that The Disco Biscuits were classified as a “jam band”, but had electronic leaning sounds, and eventually learned that LTJ Bukem was a Drum & Bass electronic artist. I didn’t know what the hell to do with DnB, where to put it, and what it meant until I made the transition to the Boulder/Denver area in 2005.
I had been hired as a Booking Agent, by an amazing outfit of people running a boutique booking agency and management company, amongst many other artist services, called Madison House. The roster was very jam-band heavy then, and one of the first acts that they let me work on was called LOTUS, but unlike other improvisational jammy acts, their albums, were significantly different. The electronic aspect of the album stuck out to me more. I thought to myself, “Whoa, this is a band playing dope dance music with a bunch of ridiculously gifted musicians”. I started to go out in Denver and Boulder more and realize that there was a full on crossing over of jam bands, hip-hop and electronic music.
Then after seeing them up at JazzAspen, I picked up a band, Pnuma Trio, who were a super young threesome of kids inspired by electronic artists and other similar bands, one being, Sound Tribe Sector 9 and was fascinated with their love of these various worlds. The thing about all these bands is that they had Grateful Dead-esque followings where people would record the sets, look at the setlists every night on one of dozens of message boards and because those set lists were different every night, and the fans were so passionate about the music and the LIVE SHOW, you had kids touring across the country to see them night-after-night, like many did with The Dead, Phish, Dave Matthews Band, etc.
Because of this ability to sell “hard tickets”, it meant they packed venues, and because they packed venues, promoters starting catching on and understanding that this was a whole new untapped world and when the “multi-genre” festivals started popping up all over the US, more and more acts like these were included in the lineups. On top of that the traditional “jam” festivals started booking more straightforward DJ’s and producers, many of whom were influential for this new “jam-tronica” sound being utilized by the bands of this newer generation. It just started snowballing. Bands like, The Disco Biscuits, began throwing their own festival called Camp Bisco. It was a hybrid of anything and everything Jam, Electronic, Indie, Hip-Hop, etc. DJ’s and producers were being flown in from across the globe to the US for the first time ever (or maybe for the first time in a long while) to be a part of these events. More and more began to pop up and I realized we had a whole new scene of fans willing to dig into all of these genres.
And all the while during this time, you’ve got a whole West Coast scene, with underground parties, raves, beach “gatherings”, etc and along comes Burning Man. So many acts came out of that movement. I’m talking less about the Vegas or Los Angeles rave artists and more about these underground and grassroots DJ/producers were had cult-like followings. Burning Man also attracted some of the more free-spirited jam artists as well so there was some cross-pollination there also. One of the larger and lovable bands on our roster is The String Cheese Incident, who has been a Madison House client since day one. They did an amazing job creating awesome music and a touring fanbase, but even they interweaved electronic music throughout their sets. There was some collaboration and friendship between them and an act that I signed, Bassnectar, whose live show was unprecedented. If you asked any of his fans if it was “techno”, you might get spanked. He was playing and melding all different genres of music like Breaks, some DnB at times, later Dubstep, but could not be pigeon-holed into any such genre. He had long hair like some guy out of a metal band and he was head-banging for most of the set. This wasn’t what people thought was “TECHNO” coming from Los Angeles or Las Vegas, this was a completely different beast.
The midwest had a ton of different festivals and music fans, and because not all of the fans were raised in this rave era, they were just blown away that this type of music could be executed onstage. Moe’s Summer Camp is an excellent example of crossing the bridges between live music and electronic music. Ian Goldberg from Jay Goldberg Events was watching the trends closely and booking the stuff that these kids wanted to see! There were fledgling promoters that are now BIG promoters who took a risk on this stuff and the kids just couldn’t get enough. They wanted a “LIVE” show and they were getting it with these bands and the DJ’s and producers that were affiliated with them. These DJ’s started adopting the touring mentalities of the bands and next thing you know you have Bassnectar or The Glitch Mob going on tour and kids doing EVERY date on it. And it grew at a healthy rate. It wasn’t overnight. There were SO MANY cities to service that hadn’t been paid attention to, and now was the time to give them love. Those European “mega-club” DJ’s who were getting paid crazy money to fly to Ibiza once a week weren’t coming across the pond to play in places like Bloomington, IN or Madison, WI – two amazing college towns and just a SMALL fraction of the midwest in general. It spread like wild-fire and the adding of festivals continue to perpetuate it.
When developing, some of these acts could be touring for 8 weeks and giving THREE of those weeks to the midwest if they wanted to. So many college towns, so many underserviced markets. It was realizing and paying attention to the fans in these secondary and tertiary markets and cities that helped propel electronic music in the Midwest. As soon as this stuff started coming to the Midwest, kids just ate it up. They were hungry for a change of pace. The record industry was becoming stale and it was all about the LIVE SHOW and now there were electronic bands and DJ’s that had an actual LIVE SHOW. It wasn’t just a little guy onstage amidst pyro drinking champagne – it was something completely different.