A proud defender of the underdog, singer-songwriter
Adam Stengel has recently donned the hat of record label executive
in the hopes of getting his own work and that of other musicians
out into the pop music marketplace with his new label, 67 Records.
On a playing field dominated by corporate giants, Stengel, 37, feels there’s strength in numbers, so the Brooklyn-native guitarist has harnessed the power of additional musicians to form a cooperative to market and distribute their respective CDs.
"Our hope is to reach out to all talented artists of all genres, to reach larger numbers of people than they could themselves," explains Stengel. "Independent artists don’t have the marketing muscle of major labels, but if we band together, we can do it on a grassroots level.
"We’re getting the word out that this label cares about music. Instead of the label paying paltry royalties to artists, the artists will pay 67 Records a royalty for some administrative and advertising costs. I don’t know anyone else who’s ever done that. We want to appeal to people who love music that is honest and has integrity. And we want to appeal to artists who, not for lack of talent, can’t seem to get their music in front of an audience."
Although he hopes that new subscriber-based satellite radio stations may make a difference, Stengel feels his new label will be a vital tool to help diversify the "American Idol"-esque diva glut.
"For a lot of men and women making CDs like [Stengel’s release ’The Last Day of Summer’], it’s unlikely that they’ll be heard because of the homogenization of the record industry," says Stengel. "It’s nearly impossible for indie artists to be heard or seen, and the people that are missing out are the general public, and it’s a shame.
"The labels are only looking to sell stars. In 2005, if Bruce Springsteen sent a demo to a label, he probably wouldn’t get signed. Today, it’s a very different business. They’re selling stars and personalities. Bruce or Billy Joel or Bob Dylan in the ’70s were anything but stars. They weren’t photogenic personalities, and it took them years to develop their craft. Corporate record labels don’t develop artists like this anymore. They are simply fulfilling a need for instant gratification; if you don’t sell millions of records immediately, you’re left behind."
Stengel’s "The Last Day of Summer" CD is in the tradition of the aforementioned greats, as well as Paul Simon, Tom Cochran ("Life is a Highway"), Van Morrison, Lyle Lovett and Steve Earle.
Stengel says that what he enjoys most in a song is the story related by the lyrics.
"Then it’s interesting to me," says Stengel. "I strive for catchy, infectious, memorable phrasing and lyrics. I want [my songs] to be pop music, not in a Britney Spears way, but like Buddy Holly, The Beatles or U2, popular artists that can reach people on a wide scale. You do want more than one person to like your work, but that being said, I’m less concerned with sales than my desire for the music to touch people."
Fitting for a true underdog, Stengel says that one of his favorite lines on his new CD is "I was bound to let her down/ it was the one thing I was sure of" from his song "Chrissy." It’s an example of the self-deprecating observations with which the listener can immediately identify, or at the very least, enjoy the inherent humor in. Similarly, most listeners can identify with the time they waited by the phone or allowed themselves to be manipulated by a lover in Stengel’s angst-ridden "She Makes Me Wait." Conversely, the joyful abandon of "Chrissy" is just as contagious.
Although he was born in Canarsie and an image of the Brooklyn Bridge spans his CD’s notes, the liner also include images of and words describing wide-open country roads, as if Stengel was spreading his arms to embrace all of America, not just his local fans. Even the inspiration of his song "Willie Mays" was a centerfielder for both the San Francisco and New York Giants (before retiring as a New York Met).
This month, on the eve of opening day, that song won the grand prize in the eighth annual Cooch Music Amateur Songwriting Contest, run by an indie label and publishing company. According to Cooch Music President Joseph Cuccia, Stengel beat out 2,000 contestants to win the prize, which includes a new guitar and a slot on the "Buy Indie Music" compilation CD, which will be distributed to A&R reps and college radio stations, according to Cuccia.
"Adam Stengel’s songs are at the top of the game, and he will make it in the industry," says Cuccia, who compared "Willie Mays" to songs by Dylan and Neil Young. "You will soon hear his songs on the radio. If not, then there is something wrong with the music industry today."
Stengel’s label released "Willie Mays" on Monday to over 500 radio stations, hoping to capitalize on opening day fever.
"It’s very, very difficult to get played on the radio whether you’re an independent or major label artist," says Stengel. "But we figured we needed to take a chance, ’swing the bat,’ so to speak. Our team got together and determined that ’Willie Mays’ is uptempo, and it it has an uplifting and compelling story about a true hero. Hopefully that will translate into commercial appeal.
"We felt that with the anticipation for the new baseball season, this song’s a natural. For some people, opening day is like a national holiday. We want to be a part of that excitement."
In addition to his own "The Last Day of Summer," Stengel hopes that 67 Records will be able to release at least one or two more albums this year.
"This year, we’re releasing a couple of records, because we’re still building," he said. "But the more the merrier. I don’t care if it’s 10 or 1,000. If we all like it, we’ll put it out."
"The Last Day of Summer" by
Adam Stengel (67 Records) is available at www.cdbaby.com, www.towerr