If you'll bear with us for a moment, we have a hypothetical we'd like to share. Say a small, no-name label in the Los Angeles suburbs enters into a joint-venture agreement with a much bigger, well-funded label. With the agreement comes expectations, of course; the bigger label wants to see results for its investment, and soon. So the small, no-name label comes up with a reasonably clever idea to drum up some talent: It calls the music editors of alternative weekly papers, like this one, and asks for demo tapes and CDs of the city's most promising bands. Here's the carrot: If any of the artists end up signing contracts with the label, then he or she would receive half a percentage point on sales. Usually around a nickel per copy, which could add up to a pretty heft sum.
During the last year or so, as we've visited college campuses more often, we've been asked several times by journalism students at SMU and UNT about ethics. Is it OK to accept free CDs? Does that make you beholden to the person who sent them to you? How do you be fair when, inevitably, you befriend the people you're assigned to write about? That kind of thing. Call us naïve, but we never thought we'd encounter a situation like the one described above. Sure, we've fielded calls from labels looking for inside information on what's going on in the D-D-FW area--just keeping their finger on the pulse, as they say. None of them offered to give us points on a record in return, however, and we never assumed any of them ever would. (We've been accused of favoring a band or three over the years, and maybe we have, but never, we assure you, because we had anything financial to gain.) You're either a talent scout or a journalist. Not both.
We still haven't received that call, but our counterparts at papers in Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina and Ohio have. The calls have come courtesy of 2K Sounds, a Woodland Hills, California-based label that's been operating under a joint-venture agreement with Virgin Records since earlier this year. (And 2K Sounds? Being a no-name label is better than being saddled with that one.) More than a few of the journalists quickly recognized how very wrong the offer was, that it was along the lines of owning a nightclub and only booking gigs for the bands you manage. It's what they call a conflict of interest, people.
If 2K Sounds does come a-callin', we know what to say. Just come to town for a few days, fellas, and you'll hear more talented bands than you could print up contracts for. Especially if you come on November 16 and 17, when the North Texas New Music Festival hosts its annual two-night shindig throughout Deep Ellum. We've given the organizers of the NTNMF our share of grief over the years, but we have to say, they've outdone themselves with this year's lineup. There's a few bands absent from the list (Centro-matic, Legendary Crystal Chandelier, Slobberbone, Little Grizzly), but for the most part, every band in town worth seeing is playing at some point. You can see for yourself at www.newmusicfestival.com, but here's a shortlist of groups on the bill: Armstrong, Astrogin, Baboon, Chao, Chomsky, Clumsy, Crash Vinyl, Darlington, The Deathray Davies, Dixie Witch, Doosu, El Gato, Eniac, Fivecat, Fruitcake-Superbeing, The Hellions, Hi-Fi Drowning, The Happiness Factor, The Hundred Inevitables, Lucy Loves Schroeder, Macavity, The Mag Seven, Motorskills, N'Dambi, Pinkston, Pleasant Grove, Red Animal War, Slowride, Sorta, The Sparrows, Valve. And that's just naming a few. There's a strong group of Austin bands making the trip north as well--Shane Bartell, Household Names, Kissinger, Pop Unknown, Prescott Curlywolf, The Real Heroes--but the real focus, as it should be, is on the home teams.
The best part may be the Saturday-night hip-hop showcase at Main Street Internet, featuring Blac Eagle Team, Mista-Mista, The Legendary Fritz, Mental Chaos and--wait for it--The D.O.C. Even if you think you don't know who The D.O.C. is, you're probably already familiar with some of his work: He was one of the main writers for N.W.A., as well as Dr. Dre's The Chronic and Chronic 2001 and Snoop Dogg's Doggystyle. Not only that, his debut solo disc, 1989's No One Can Do It Better, is a forgotten landmark of hip-hop, melding West Coast beats with East Coast rhymes. No one could do it better, at least until a 1989 car accident left him with a crushed larynx and a forever-changed voice. It's been rough for The D.O.C. since then, but it looks like it's getting better: He's releasing Deuce, his third solo disc, next year, with guest appearances by Xzibit, Kurupt and his former N.W.A. cohorts, Ice Cube and MC Ren. And this time around, with a new crew of protégés in town and his own record label (Silverback Records), he's looking to put Dallas hip-hop on the map. The Saturday showcase is the first taste.
That show, like all the others, is free if you get your tickets in advance or $8 at the door. Even if you end up spending the eight bucks, you can't beat the deal: 50 bands a night on a dozen stages. (That would be Club Clearview, Club Dada, Curtain Club, The Door, Galaxy Club, Gypsy Tea Room, Liquid Lounge, Main Street Internet, Red Blood Club, Sushi Nights and Trees.) Expect to share space with representatives from a number of record labels; last year Artemis Records, Columbia Records, DreamWorks Records, Epic Records, Farmclub.com, Universal Records, Geffen Records, Giant Records, Island/Def Jam Records, Lava/Atlantic Records, London/Sire Records, Maverick Records and Warner Bros. all made the trip. We can guarantee it's worth it if they do it again. And no, you don't have to pay us to say that.