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Alexandra Daugherty, Fall 2011, Past Students

Beliefs in music culture stay strong

By Alexandra Daugherty

The culture of music is one filled with passion. Whether it be music’s effect on people, the overtaking of the iTunes company and mp3 formats making hard copies of music irrelevant or the new era of music that benefits independent bands, those with an affection for sound will endlessly explain why they feel the way they do.

The Northstar Session shares independent success

Scoring a record deal used to be what bands in garages across the world dreamed of. But now, becoming recognized and being able to tour nationally is a dream many unsigned bands have already realized.

The three members of The Northstar Session pose for a photo

Los Angeles-based band The Northstar Session has been very successful despite having no major record deal. Photo courtesy of The Northstar Session.

The Los Angeles-based trio The Northstar Session is an example of this trend. The has achieved its fair share of successes despite being completely independent of any record label.

“I could talk about how we’ve been able to record three albums … in just less than four years, how we’ve been touring nearly three weeks out of every month for the last two years, and all the while haven’t lost a cent,” Dave Basaraba, keyboardist and accordion player for the band, said.

He is appreciative he is able to do this in a tough economic time while still sustaining himself financially.

“Perhaps our greatest success is that we’ve been able to do all of this without the backing of a record label, and still pay our rent … There’s a lot to be said for being independent in today’s music business,” he said.

Forgoing “The Man” means less expenses

Members of The Northstar Session mess around during a rehearsal.

The band is able to sell its CDs and other merchandise for less expensive prices because there is no middle man to pay. Photo courtesy of The Northstar Session.

The fans benefit from an independent band as well. San Diego resident and avid concert-goer Courtney Rogin said the best thing about independent bands is the inexpensive prices for CDs and fan gear because there’s no big corporation looking to make a profit.

“Usually, the CDs are much less expensive, and you know the money being spent is going directly to the band,” she said. “The shirts are also either more unique or better quality because the bands are paying to get them made themselves.”

This appreciation for the do-it-yourself movement carries over to the way music is distributed.

“Actually holding a CD, being able to see the artwork and feel what the band has created, means so much more than an mp3 from iTunes,” Rogin said. “The quality is also way better. In an mp3, you lose out on the quality you get from CDs and even from vinyl.”

Basaraba recognizes this and knows the music industry has changed. He, along with fellow band mates Matt Szlachetka (guitar, vocals) and Kane McGee (drums, percussion, guitar, vocals), is taking advantage of the new trend toward quality instead of mass production.

“We also differ from a lot of bands out there in the way we approach success,” Basaraba said. “We are not looking for overnight fame, or the hit single that most bands spend all their time grasping at.”

Szlachetka also said the band’s passion for music and performing for people has helped with the success.

“But we also understand that our goal is really to reach as many people as possible with our music, and the harder we work at keeping this project on the road, the easier it will be to accomplish that goal,” he said.

This approach has earned The Northstar Session rave reviews for its latest album “Late Bloomer,” which the San Diego Troubadour said “shows an expanded palette of pop-rock ideas at work. The level of polish and craft in the ten tunes continues to impress with crisp harmonies, arrangements that enhance the songs, and smooth musicianship.”

Taking care of business the right way

A member of The Northstar Session plays his guitar during a rehearsal.

The Northstar Session bandmates know this independent era won't last forever, but want to take advantage of it while they can. Photo courtesy of The Northstar Session.

The success of this album and the talent within it also netted the group a spot on the NBC show “Parenthood” this fall, even though the band had no corporate support or connections pushing for the extra publicity. But despite the victories the men have had on their own, they know they can’t do it forever. Still, they continue to enjoy what they have now.

“We realize there is a time and place for a band to actually need the size and relative efficiency of the ‘machine,’” Basaraba said. He also said he knows that at some point their style of marketing will no longer work.

“We realize that 3 guys cannot do everything forever,” Basaraba said. “But for now, we are a fledgling company, with the decision-making authority as well as the creative authority being split between the three of us, and we like it this way.”

Basaraba also believes the group’s success stems from the fact that the three treat the band as a business that allows them to make art, and not the other way around, which he believes most other bands neglect.

“If they don’t treat their work like a business, they better be the greatest band in the world, or have a truck load of luck coming their way,” Basaraba said. “That’s not to say that the latter doesn’t happen, but in the somewhat flooded music market these days, we’re just being realistic.”

Basaraba and his band mates are also seeking a strong business foundation for the future.

“We’re looking for a career that builds over time, with quality that consistently grows, and a fan base that becomes a part of us as we grow,” he said. “All I’m saying is that we work so hard in rehearsals, writing songs and recording them, that we feel it’s only right that we work just as hard on the business side building and cultivating the brand.”
Fans can check The Northstar Session’s website for tour dates in order to see Basaraba and The Northstar Session doing just that.

Other music culture stories by Allie Daugherty:

At MusicWorx, music is more than just something to dance to. In this therapy session, patients who have suffered a traumatic brain injury, such as a stroke, work together to create music and help with recovery.

Ruth and Beth have been groovin’ and rockin’ as owners of Nickelodeon Records on Adams Avenue since the early ’80s. Their passion and knowledge of vinyl has allowed the store to survive the invention of tapes, CDs and digital downloads.

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