By Anthony J. Machcinski
Discovering new talent in the entertainment industry is always a challenge, whether you’re a record label, a journalist looking to cover a new band, or a music lover who just loves some good tunes. Being in these bands, the struggle is often how to get people to come to a show, not from a money standpoint, but so they can appreciate your craft. Two Kearny residents have found a way to bridge that gap.
The pair, 29-year-old Mike Sylvia and 28-year-old Ryan Gross, celebrated the two-year anniversary of their record label, Killing Horse Records, last Friday at Maxwell’s in Hoboken.
The two friends started the label based around the idea of creating a more professional feel for the bands they had been playing with.
“I was wondering how we get this band out there. How do we get this band out to other people,” Gross explained. “I had the idea that if there was a record label attached, it might sound more serious. I went to Mike’s apartment and we figured it all out.”
With no experience, the band had to draw from their playing careers in order to feel things out.
“We didn’t have any experience, but we both played in bands growing up,” explained Sylvia. “We saw what it was like to get people in so we figured we could pool our resources and help our friends on the business end so they can focus on playing music.”
“It seems natural to help them out, more than just production, but in the day-to-day stuff to work in music professionally,” Gross added.
The young entrepreneurs started by booking shows at the Kearny Irish-American Club with New Jersey bands that had already had success with the idea of raising money.
“We didn’t make very much money, maybe 20-30 bucks a pop (after paying the bands and other charges),” Sylvia explained.
What the band would gain, however, were the necessary contacts required in order to succeed in the business.
“What we found was that we made a ton of contacts. Between bloggers, press people, all the people you need to know to stay afl oat,” Sylvia said. “It was really essential for us even though it didn’t translate monetarily.”
With these contacts, the beginning of the label’s second year saw the enterprise begin to flourish.
“With some money to work with and new contacts, we were in a place to put stuff out,” explained Gross. “We were able to put out a 7-inch vinyl record for [the band] Ben Franklin.”
While Gross and Sylvia have backed away from their playing careers in favor of other opportunities in the business, the passion to play still burns in their hearts.
“We still do [play] a bit,” said Gross, an accomplished musician in his own right who started playing music as a kid with the piano and saxophone. “I just joined the lineup of Secret Country to fi ll in the lineup a bit and work with them playing out of the area.”
As the calendar reflects Killing Horse Records’ third year, the pair are excited to continue building up the label.
“We definitely got a big year planned for 2012,” Sylvia said. “We want to put together four to five records this year. We have a couple more bands in the works, but our goal is to do one record for the label every three months.”
“I’m excited to be able to play with Secret Country and being in the fold again,” Gross said. “We’re going to start trying to play out of New Jersey more often. Nothing crazy, but going out for a weekend and hitting some places like Nashville, Philadelphia, North Carolina, it would be a great step for the band, the label, and myself.”
Whatever path life takes them down there is little doubt that the Killing Horse label will be even more successful in the near future.
For more information about the label, and the bands under it, check out their website: killinghorserecords.com.