Santa Barbara Records – The Independent of Santa Barbara

Any artist would have been happy to see the folks who gathered on the roof of the Canary Hotel on Thursday, October 21 for the Santa Barbara Records launch party. From chart-topping rockers to Hollywood stars, the cream of our creative community has been found to hear short ensembles by four artists – Tina Schlieske, Danny McGaw, Omar Velasco and Jessie Payo. They were celebrating the release of CaliAmericana, a compilation album featuring eight artists with ties to our city, including the four who performed on the launch party, as well as Hannah Siglin, Erland Wanberg, Hana Aluna and Mendeleyev.

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The liberation of CaliAmericana signals the arrival of Santa Barbara Records, a new independent record label dedicated to driving positive change in the music industry and generating cultural and economic capital for artists in our community. Music industry veteran Billy O’Connell, Managing Director of Santa Barbara Records, served as the emcee for the event, which also included remarks from Tariqh Akoni, a Santa Barbara native and renowned guitarist / music director. World, who serves as director of artists and repertoire for the new label.

It is common knowledge that the music industry has been booming at least since the beginning of the 21st century, as traditional approaches to making money from music have been disrupted by digital methods of content distribution. . With business systems for developing talent and bringing music to audiences struggling to cope with technological change, artists face changing challenges and targets as they seek to manage their individual careers. It has never been easy to be successful as a musician, but in 2021, with so many options and no clear path to success or sustainability, the task can seem overwhelming.

Enter Santa Barbara Records, with a plan. When I spoke with Akoni the day after the event by phone, he made it very clear what the purpose of this endeavor was, saying, “We are creating the support system for our artists that I wish I had when I was starting out. ” A graduate of San Marcos High School, Akoni rose through the ranks of the music world based on his extraordinary skills as a guitarist and arranger, reaching the pinnacle of success with his last gig as the Music Director of a multi-artist. -platinum. Josh Groban.


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As the A&R manager of the new label, it is Akoni’s job to find the talent and nurture their sound in a way that will not only provide them with immediate success, but also allow them to build a lasting life in the company. music. “Everything we do is dedicated to leaving artists better off than when we found them,” Akoni said.

If you detect a note of revisionism in this statement, you have good ears. Record companies do not have a uniformly positive track record when it comes to artist development. Too many promising musicians who have signed contracts with majors have been stuck with long-term deals that promise the world and end up leaving their music without the distribution and marketing necessary to reach an audience. Billy O’Connell teaches this at Loyola University in New Orleans, where he is a professor in the university’s School of Music Industry. His knowledge of the ins and outs of recording contracts, marketing plans, touring and rights ownership comes from decades of experience, first on the label side at Sire Records during his heyday of influence, then as a manager of artists such as the Pixies. and launch muses.

With Santa Barbara Records, O’Connell and Akoni are united by the goal of creating a new model for independent labels, based on a realistic but ambitious vision of what a recording contract can and should do for the person who the sign. It’s an exciting business, and with the high level of talent to be heard on CaliAmericana, he’s already catching the attention of some of the most influential musicians in the music world. For more information and to obtain a copy of CaliAmericana, visit santabarbararecords.com.


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