Welcome to Local Music 'Mericans, where we meet some of the people behind the local music scene -- those who aren't necessarily members of local bands, but more the people who make the scene move.
When you consider all that Lance Yocom does for local and regional indie music, you have to wonder where in the world he finds time for his family.
Then it all starts to make sense.
Spune Productions, Yocom's all-things-Texas-indie-music operation, which finds him backed by only a few staff members, is wrangled like only a family man could. It is, for a lack of a more affectionate term, a one-stop shop for practically all things local-indie. Shows, artist management and booking, record releases -- you name it, Spune does it.
And it would seem that Yocom's secret ingredients for Spune's enduring success are the same that go into being a good father -- persistence, tirelessness and lots of patient nurturing.
You see, since 1997 Spune has been quietly working it's fingers to the bone behind the scenes of some of the area's most prominent and successful indie acts, and some of its more interesting and lovingly-assembled live shows.
Yocom's operation started out innocently enough on the radar: First, on campus in Abilene, then eventually based out Arlington to work with a few area artists and national tours; then, focusing on filling a variety of metroplex stages, some of which would have seem risky to try and generate patronage in at the time -- like Frisco, for God's sake. Then again, it kind of makes sense: Bringing indie culture to remote suburbs should most certainly be left up to someone who puts a lot of human touch into their work. A family man, too.
Yocom clearly puts care into his work, and Spune's past and present artists roster shows off as much. The company's worked with the likes of Record Hop, Red Animal War, The Chemistry Set, Telegraph Canyon, Doug Burr and Seryn.
We couldn't resist picking the brain of such a tastemaker. So, after the jump, let's do just that.
Spune's been around for nearly 15 years at this point. First off, congrats. Second: Are you feeling all 15 of those years, or was there so much happening that it kind of zipped by?
It does not feel like 15 years at all. I'm happy with how things have progressed, but I feel like I'm just getting going! In 2012, for our 15th year, I'm sure we'll roll out, and bring back, some fun things to celebrate.
Was there one particular event/band/show/artist/song that sort of launched this whole chapter of your life at the helm of Spune?
It would be hard to pin it down to just one. I think it's been all the various things I've been involved with, worked with. It's what I have learned, and the people I've met over the last decade that's really shaped what Spune is today.
Do you find that being so close to the action makes it tougher for you to just lay back and be the music-loving-guy that started all this madness in the first place?
It is madness, isn't it? Yes, the music business can easily become more about the biz than the tunes and can suck you in if you're not careful. Also, there's just not enough hours in the day, or days in the weekend, to get what all you want done. Sadly, as simple as it sounds, that includes just listening to music.
Your crew at Spune wears an awful lot of different hats. How many of you guys are over there doing all of this?
When you're independent, you do feel like your hat collection is often bigger than your record collection. That's just normally how it goes. It's always basically just been me. Until recently. I have four qualified people who now assist me in specific areas of Spune -- marketing, booking, production, ticketing, finance, business development, etc. Among other things, I handle the label, our management and development artists, book most of our venues, concert series, events and other junk. I still wear lots of hats, and I'm still very much involved in every moment of Spune. This assistance, though, has relieved a lot off my plate and allowed me to focus on where Spune needs to be in two, five and 10 years. I'm thankful for that. As far as the various things Spune does, I don't mind that at all. I never wanted to be locked in a box. I like that we can offer clients a variety of services. It's what makes Spune work. Venues used to just ask me to book their room. Now, I have a team of people who are able to handle the marketing and operations as well as book their shows. On the artist development side of Spune, we can typically provide most of the tools needed for a band to mature and be positioned firmly with a chance to make a hard go at making music their career.
Now, in addition to everything else, Spune, sort of, has a label going too.
Yes, "sort of." Spune is not a traditional label. I don't know if that makes much sense! This one takes more of an artist development approach to releasing records. Some of those releases have also been for artists we manage, so I can see how it may be confusing for some. But the record label branch of Spune is growing strong and we're planning our tenth release soon. I get almost as many inquiries about the label as I do the booking or management services. I'm excited about where the label is headed. It's not unlikely that we'll roll out our 15th release by next year alone.
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Clubs and venues come to you guys to draw a certain kind of local music consumer into their place of business. Is that as dicey/risky/pressure-laden as it sounds from the outside? What all goes into trying to draw people out of their homes in a certain neighborhood to come to a place and see live local indie music? Do you just shoot from the hip with great bands, or is there complex strategizing?
Some clients are looking to reach a specific customer. Some just want people in their bar. We try to help them accomplish both however possible, whether it be a weekly concert series, a day party or booking their entire calendar. I think there has to be some strategic planning to each room. Most venues are set up differently and reach a different demographic. What works at a room in Dallas may not work in Fort Worth. Denton shows are very different than Frisco shows. A coffee shop in Abilene requires a specific approach. Same goes for a bar in Lubbock. We try to book what makes sense for each room, but also push the envelope a little when possible. I wouldn't say it's pressure-laden necessarily, but it can be more difficult than one might think. Getting people out of the house to do anything is hard sometimes -- much less getting them to drive across town, or to another town, and pay a cover charge to see a band they may have never heard of.
To expand on that, one Spune booking client, Lochrann's in Frisco, seems to be a case of special interest. It seems like the area's potential patrons would present a special challenge in trying to get them "hip" to great indie music. True? How are things going with the mission to bring cool indie music to Frisco?
Yes, we book a series of shows at Lochrann's in Frisco, but really it's Frisco itself that has been of special interest this past year. It's a slow process, but we never went into it trying to change things overnight. There are people there who come out to the shows that frequent Granada Theater and Dan's [Silverleaf], and are making the drive to Dallas and Denton on a regular basis. It's just a matter of reaching those people and letting them know there is good music right under their nose. There are plenty of people in Frisco alone to support a music community, but it's going to take more than Lochrann's to get it going. Main Street is growing, but it will take more venues, bars, coffee shops, independent retail, events, etc. bringing the live music fans that live around there all together. That "community" will not start or end just with Lochrann's. It will develop throughout the city over time. It may be a few years from now, but I do believe that day will come.
Whats tougher for you? Accommodating talented, sensitive local artists or making club/venue clients happy?
They both can be equally challenging in their own way. Most of the time, it's one or the other, but juggling the two at the same time makes it tougher, for sure.
Is there an artist from your expansive past client list that you feel is the one that got away? Like an act that just looked to be aimed right for the stars but then broke up. Or an artist you miss working with the most. Or look back on working with most fondly.
There was a band from Dallas called Lewis that broke up in 2002 after not being together for all that long. I only had the opportunity to work with them for a short time. If they got back together, they would, for sure, be welcome at a Spune Family BBQ.