MIDTOWN — From singer-songwriters to aspiring pop sensations, the city's up-and-coming indie acts are getting their star turn in front of music industry heavy-hitters thanks to a publicist-turned-musician who's launched an exclusive monthly music series at a Midtown guitar studio.
Jon Landers, a Danbury, Conn., resident and owner of the Creative Group marketing agency, started the Big Apple Indie Music Series last month, inviting head honchos from major labels to check out undiscovered talent at the Gibson Guitar Studio.
The venue is often used as rehearsal space by Bruce Springsteen, Lenny Kravitz and other major artists performing in New York City, and its exact location is disclosed only to those invited to be there.
"My original concept was networking with business professionals with music, but as a songwriter myself, I decided to change it up a notch," Landers, 65, said. "It's a venue for independent music artists to be able to perform live in front of mid- to upper-level music executives.
"You don't have to go to American Idol to see the talent," he added. "There's a ton of talent out there."
New York's own Tatiana Owens, an R&B singer-songwriter, and The Spanish Channel, a Brooklyn-based alt-rock trio, opened the series Jan. 17. The next installment is scheduled for Thursday, featuring rock group the Annie Minogue Band and country-inflected folk-rock singer-songwriter Jennifer Vazquez. About 60 executives from the music industry have already booked tickets, Landers said.
"It was kind of the total package," said Jaime Garamella, 28, lead singer, rhythm guitarist and songwriter for The Spanish Channel, which has previously performed in bars and top-tier small venues such as the Mercury Lounge and Arlene's Grocery.
"The space is great because it's kind of a marquee venue, in that it's a former hit factory," Garamella added. "There's that kind of vibe there, and it's also the home of Gibson guitars. So it's not just a hole in the wall. The sound is great, the stage is great. It's fun to play on that level."
At the series' first show last month, the bands each played a 45-minute set, then mingled with the crowd. About 40 industry types were there, most of whom proved far different from the suit-clad, cigar-chomping, music-executive stereotype, Landers and Garamella said.
"Music executives are still people who by and large love music, and many of them are musicians themselves," Garamella said. "If you love music, you are sort of rooting for the band, and you're hoping the band is good and that you're going to have a good time.
"So we had a very sympathetic audience," he added. "They weren't diving off stage. It wasn't a college frat party, but I thought people were really digging it."
The gig helped the band sell a few albums, Garamella said, but more importantly, it expanded the band's newsletter subscribers.
"In this age of nobody buying a CD, our main goal is to get people on the mailing list," he said.
"For us, as a band, it put us in front of people who might not have known about us. So it was good exposure."
Hundreds of bands have since applied to be part of the series, Landers said. But to make the cut, "it has to be something that sounds good."
"I'm not looking for just a start-up band that's still rough around the edges," Landers said. "If they sound good, I'll consider them. They also have to have a following."