Adam Shore is absurdly busy. The independent music promoter and manager is in the midst of coordinating 38 events in 26 days with some 236 performing artists for this month’s Red Bull Music Academy. Phalanxes of promoters, producers, managers, sound rigs, security teams and posses advance an army of underground musicians descending into the clubs and hidden venues of New York City where they aim to inspire 62 students with performances and/or lectures open to the public. And Shore is everyone’s contact person.
Many of these artists have colossal music legacies, even if they are not quite household names. Their Academy performances border on the high-concept and historical. Here, seventy-three year old Giorgio Moroder plays his first-ever DJ set; Brian Eno explains his constantly-morphing 77 Million Paintings installation at its New York City premiere; Nile Rogers lectures at the New Museum on his production of David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance;” LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy DJs, lectures and co-curates a show celebrating his DFA label’s twelfth anniversary; and Ryuchi Sakamoto and Alva Noto debut “s” for at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. And there’s others, including: Lee Scratch Perry, Philip Glass, Erykah Badu, Afrika Bambaataa, Masters at Work, Roy Ayers, Rakim and Stephen O’Malley.
Shore’s music bona fides, in much the same manner, are filled with legacy artists who when put together are similarly impossible to pigeonhole. He did A&R at TVT Records where he worked with Gil Scott-Heron, Underworld, Juan Atkins, Guided By Voices and the Brian Jonestown Massacre. He started Vice Records where he produced the Boredoms’ 77 BoaDrums beneath the Brooklyn Bridge and signed artists that included the Streets, Bloc Party, Justice, Black Lips, The Raveonettes, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Death From Above 1979. He also managed the late great punk prodigy Jay Reatard and currently curates the metal Blackened Music Series, manages Best Coast and founded piss-taking music news site The Daily Swarm. Biz caught up with Shore who discussed how to go about booking Brian Eno, championing music that is the ‘”opposite of EDM'” and the artists he wished he had gotten.
(Full disclosure: Adam is a friend of this writer)
Billboard: What do you do for the Red Bull Music Academy?
Adam Shore: I helped conceptualize the events program, booked and managed the performers, and collaborated with promoters, visual artists, sound experts, and venues.
What is your background in curating shows abnd music in general?
My background is in record labels and artist management but I’ve booked hundreds of artists over the years and produced events for Vice, Scion, Adult Swim and the Red Bull Music Academy while running my own concert series The Blackened Music Series.
How did you get this gig?
I worked on the Academy in New York City on 2001, which started on September 1. We had ten amazing days but it ended abruptly the morning of September 11.
How many artists and shows over how many days are you doing with the RBMA?
38 events in 34 venues over 26 days. Our official line has been 236 artists but in truth it’s closer to 300.
How do you stay organized with so many moving pieces–production, contracts, expenses, hotels, managers, etc.?
Mac Mail, Excel, Stickies, and Google Docs — which I am constantly referring back to.
How many students are there and what has been the most gratifying to see?
There’s 62 participants (students) from 32 countries. I’m blown away at the voracious knowledge so many of them have — deep knowledge of so much music. This is the internet’s greatest contribution to music: that anyone from any country can hear any music anytime, which inspires musicians all over the world.
What’s been your favorite events so far?
The three-stage Drone Activity In Progress event with Stephen O’Malley, Kim Gordon’s Body/Head, Prurient, Pete Swanson, Pharmarkon and others at the Knockdown Center in Queens was amazing to be a part of. It was 1,200 people traveling to a remote destination to challenge themselves with very physical, very intense, very LOUD music for seven hours. There’s an exciting intersection between experimental and electronic music right now. The New York Times called the event “a marker.” It became a starting point for new genres of music to grow out from.
Also being being able to present Giorgio Moroder’s first ever DJ set, and feel the love the room as he played his greatest hits, was just the most beautiful thing.
How would you describe the booking for this, was there certain kinds of music mandated from above?
The Academy is rooted in all types of dance music, every facet of hip-hop, reggae and dub and soul and more, while always exploring the unexplored areas within those. But this year there seemed to be a determination to expand deeper into noise, drone, minimalism and experimental music. But the focus on dance music is primary as a majority of the participants make music for clubs. Still, the music they make and the music we champion, can almost be seen as the opposite of EDM. We go very deep into disco, house, techno, global sounds and all types of abstract dancefloor directions, but we are happy to leave the corny, cartoony, overblown world of EDM and pop progressive house to others.
So Skrillex is not playing?
No, but he’s been invited to the Academy. We’d love for him to stop by.
Who are your bosses? What kind of direction did they give?
I work closely with Many Ameri and Torsten Schmidt, who created the Red Bull Music Academy 15 years ago, as well as with Wulf Gaebele who heads up booking for RBMA globally, and the local Red Bull culture department based in NYC. The instruction was only that we are not to do traditional shows. We don’t want to book an artist for RBMA in NYC that did the same show last night in Philly and will do again in Boston tomorrow. And so many branded events come off like stunts: book today’s hottest band, and then it’s over. Virtually all our shows are conceptual: debuts, premieres, label showcases, artists creating new performances around a theme, or being able to present them in a space and along with visual elements that elevates what the artist normally does. We create an original sound design and original visual displays for almost all our events.
What is an example of a concept show?
For example, the Drum Majors show featured seven of our favorite hip-hop producers, and each played a set of their own music. All have made million-sellers, but most had never performed on a stage before. Bangladesh told stories about working with Lil Wayne and Beyonce, and played his hits. DJ Mustard DJ’d a seamless set of his greatest hits, most innovative instrumentals, and unreleased tracks. For hip-hop heads, it was heaven.
How were you able to get some of the more legendary artists like Giorgio Moroder’s first DJ gig, Brian Eno’s talk, the DFA Anniversary party, Ryuchi Sakamoto at the Met?
Each booking starts with a understanding of what the Academy is all about: the participants, the studios, the lectures, the communication of knowledge from the masters to the newest generation of musicians. We find once these legends have a good feel for what makes the Academy special, creative conversations about a performance or an event flow from there.
What are you most proud of in terms of booking?
To me and many at RBMA, the greatest innovators in music over the last half century have been Brian Eno, Giorgio Moroder, Nile Rodgers, Lee Scratch Perry, and Philip Glass. These are the architects for modern music, the inspiration for generations of artists, and my inspirations as well.
How does one go about booking Brian Eno?
Brian Eno was seeking a partner to present his 77 Million Paintings light exhibition. RBMA started the discussion with him for RBMA Madrid, and when it wasn’t able to happen there, we started building toward New York City. Once the exhibition was set, discussions continued and suddenly he’s doing a talk in NYC, lecturing at the Academy, and participating in a documentary we made about this whole process.
How were outside promoters chosen?
Our goal was to team up with the best promoters in the city, and the ones that really understand what RBMA is all about, people like Brice Rosenbloom at Boom Boom, Bryan Kasenic at The Bunker, Erica Ruben at Deep Space, Jen Lyon at MeanRed and our friends at Bowery Presents. Still, most events are conceptualized and produced by us, but a lot are partnerships: with the city’s best labels (DFA, Uno, L.I.E.S.), New York City cultural institutions (the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the New Museum) and new institutions (the Brooklyn Flea, the Do Over), and the best clubs and venues in New York City.
Do artists who play also participate in the lecture/academy? Do they get paid?
Each day at the Academy the participants attend two lectures, spend time in our nine recording studios, and then go to an event or two at night. Most events are headlined by a lecturer, and opened by participants. So the participants are taught by, collaborate with, and perform alongside the masters. All lecturers are paid a standard honorarium, and we do pay performance fees.
Did Eno or Moroder actually work on tracks with students?
No, they didn’t participate in the studios, but the participants do get mentored by our studio team which includes Flying Lotus, Four Tet, Just Blaze, and others, and just yesterday James Murphy did a studio session teaching the participants how to mic drums.
How big is the RBMA production team?
It varies from show to show. At the DFA Anniversary show, our biggest event, we had over 300 people working if you include event managers, sound, tech, visuals, security and bar staff. It’s really a festival, inside an ornate, 120 year old building. For most events we work with Carl Freed of Trevanna Entertainment for sound and production, Nuit Blanche NY for the visuals, and the local Red Bull team on event management.
How does Red Bull’s other properties — record label, online radio and festival stages around the world — figure into your bookings?
The Red Bull Music Academy also encompasses RBMA Radio — we have a new radio booth in the Red Bull offices that broadcasts constantly — and 63 RBMA stages at festivals all over the world. There’s the redbullmusicacademy.com that has become one of music world’s best publications for journalism, interviews, audio stories, and video documentaries. Our pop-up newspaper The Daily Note, which publishes each day of the Academy, is an incredible resource of music writing, illustration and photography about New York City music. There are weekender Red Bull Music Academies called BassCamp, three day versions of month-long RBMA program of lectures, studio workshops and events, that are starting to happen all over the world. After 15 years, our network of 900 participants, 400 lecturers, 63 festival stages, eight recording studios, the website, radio, and hundreds of events globally is what fuels our community. Red Bull has other bespoke music properties in addition to this.
How did having the festival’s original October date moving to May help or hurt this year’s fest? Were there artists you lost? Why was it delayed?
The Academy building, some of which will become Red Bull’s East Coast headquarters, is a marvel, with nine recording studios, the radio booth, 25 art installations, the lecture room and cafeteria, but there were construction delays which pushed our original start date from October to May. We still did some events in October anyway (Grace Jones at Roseland, Cat Power at Hammerstein Ballroom, SBTRKT at Terminal 5, a Brainfeeder showcase at Villain, and Four Tet/Jamie XX at Autumn Bowl) but we are lucky that almost all our events were easily moved to May.
Did anyone turn you down because they didn’t want to be associated with the brand a la Matthew Herbert who was quoted in the New York Times as saying he regretted taking part in the RBMA?
Not a single artist.
What’s not to be missed in this last week of RBMA NYC?
The NYC in Dub show on May 30 will be very special. Adrian Sherwood dubbing out Lee Scratch Perry live, Peaking Lights dubbing out Philly dance collective Future Times, and the first NYC performance of The Congos in 15 years. And the premieres of Pantha Du Prince and the Bell Laboratory, and Sakamoto and Alvo Noto’s “s” will be very cool.
Who do you wish you could have gotten?
Aphex Twin and Ricardo Villalobos.
Did you ask?
Yes. And I will keep asking.