Cultural Vision Awards 2016: Music

 

The story of Secretly Group is the the thing of Bloomington legend, and rightly so. The tale of college friends who got together and started a little label that, 20 years later, puts out music by Grammy winners and Academy Award nominees is an indie rock fairytale. What can't go unsaid in that fairy tale, however, is the incredible hard work and strong ethical base that goes in to the label group's day-to-day dealings. The central lesson is this: when the labels in Secretly Group work together, they are stronger.

"We have a large staff that for the most part work across all four of those," label manager Nick Blandford says. "We have the shared expertise and the advantage of a big group of people working together with some specialists with particular focuses on parts of the label. It allows us to present music in different contexts and work with a wide range of artists."

This year, Secretly Canadian turns 20. How are they celebrating? By staying busy as ever.

"Our release schedule is as busy as it's ever been, and we've had a lot of big records this year. We're putting a lot of our emphasis on those records. In general, we're using this as a time to reflect, figure out ways to better engage our community," Blandford says.

In 2016, Secretly Group (Secretly Canadian, Jagjaguwar, Deal Oceans, Numero Group) released or plans releases by Mitski, Damien Jurado, Suuns, Whitney, Julianna Barwick, Kevin Morby, Ryley Walker, Dinosaur Jr., Black Mountain and Small Black, plus many more. When asked for an artist that defines the label, Blandford and label group co-owner Ben Swanson name the same ones immediately:

Anohni and Molina personify a label group that balances the challenge of any small business – that it's constantly in flux – while maintaining a focus on lasting, impactful art.

"Like some labels, we're not out there really exploring new technology in a big way, at the bleeding edge or anything like that," Swanson says. "What sets us apart is that we're constantly looking at, what do we and what do our musicians look like 10, 20, 30 years from now?"

The word for that? "We're looking for timelessness," Blandford says. "And that can mean a lot of different things. It doesn't mean that something has to sound like classic rock or classic American songwriter; it can sound very forward-looking and modern. But we're not interested in chasing trends."

RELATED: More Secretly Group coverage 

Part of the focus on a sustainable, long-term artist catalogues means the label emphasizes fairness and equity in its deals with artists.

This is highlighted in Secretly Group's push for the Fair Digital Deals Declaration, a document signed by Secretly Group pledging to convey financial terms directly and comprehensively to their artists.

The timelessness Secretly Group seeks is borne out in new artists that are inspired by early artists on the label.

"I think some of the biggest rewards that we've seen is really just seeing some of the artists we've worked with and how they've affected people," Swanson says.

When Darrin Snider started local podcast network and streaming radio station Indy In-Tune 10 or so years ago, the podcast boom was years off. Now, he's a local scene godfather who estimates he's hosted and interviewed upwards of 400 bands and 1,000 local musicians in his home studio.

Snider, an analyst and project manager by day, offers 24/7 streaming local music on indyintune.com, and programs a huge variety of podcasts and streaming shows, broadcast out of his studio and from locations all over Indy. Indy In-Tune features shows like Local Is Our Genre, The Chris Brake Show, Brother, Brother Beer Cast, Blind Pig Confessions, Whiskey On The Rails, Music and Martinis for Mutts, Live From Studio B, and an ever-growing list of more. Indy In-Tune coordinates local live music shows, like Radiothon. The 2016 Radiothon featured 14 hours of live radio broadcasting and 18 live acts on three different stages at Sinking Ship II, all in support of the Talitha Koum Women's Recovery Home. Indy In-Tune's network of connected musicians, broadcasters, bloggers and bookers is vast, energetic and hyper local-focused.

To get inside the Rhythm! Discovery Center, you have to go underground. Literally. Walk in through the doors at 110 W. Washington, hop on the escalator and cruise on down. But, as Daniel Hoffman, the museum's Marketing, Membership & Events Coordinator says, in 2016 the museum is ready to for the spotlight.

The 7-year-old percussion museum is the physical, year-round educational space of the Percussive Arts Society. So, once you're inside, what do you do? You play. Rhythm! hosts multiple interactive programs during the week, coordinates tours for schoolkids and puts together stunning displays of historic, exotic and inventive instruments. It's a museum where visitors want to touch everything, and a museum that encourages it (to an extent – hands off Neil Peart's kit, kids).

RELATED: See the rest of your CVA honorees 

It's likely louder than any museum you've visited, thanks to scores of kids experimenting on all kinds of drums, boom whackers, marimbas and more. And if you're lucky enough to get a tour behind the glass and into their archived collection, a world of historic percussive delights awaits you.

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Editor of NUVO Newsweekly since 2016; formerly Music Editor. Lover of justice, cats, local hip-hop, axe-throwing, sailing and pies. Hater of fake news.