Amateurs get a bad rap, but KamranV believes they are key to creating the future of new media. Contrary to the members-only major-label system, with today's tools everyone has power. It's easier for artist and amateur alike to make music and cut video, easier to master Photoshop, and easier to do everything that visionary music and video producer KamranV loves.
Most of all, he loves the challenge of live recording.
“The most genuine art comes from amateurs,” KamranV insists. “Whether you're superpoor and have nothing or you're superwealthy and you're bored, amateurs make the most interesting art. They do it because they love it. And that was the whole thing with Spaceland Recordings — I wanted to do it because I loved it.”
KamranV launched the live audio and video label in 2006 with partner Mitchell Frank, founder of the Silver Lake club Spaceland. Together they developed a way to monetize the concert bootleg by professionally recording and mixing full-show albums for bands out of venues like Spaceland, the Echo and the Echoplex.
Since its now-legendary first show in early 1995, featuring then–small-timers Beck and Foo Fighters, Spaceland has become a tastemaking venue on the pulse of L.A.'s rock scene, breaking bands like Brian Jonestown Massacre and Silversun Pickups, among others, which set a musical tone for the rest of the country.
“Spaceland Recordings is not enormously profitable,” KamranV admits. “But every day that I do it, it becomes more valuable because the bands suddenly become bigger and these recordings become more meaningful. We catch bands at this rare moment. It is unique, totally not manufactured and totally awesome.”
Often those moments are pivotal in a band's career, usually right before they are catapulted into the mainstream. KamranV uses the example of Beck and how he wishes that first show at Spaceland in '95 had been recorded, right when Loser was blowing up but when few outside the Silver Lake music scene knew Beck as more than a one-hit wonder.
Producing live albums and video was a concept KamranV first tried to develop while working at major labels, having just finished USC's Music Industry program. He was Interscope's new-media wunderkind, making MP3s at a time when no one else knew how; producing the label's first On-Demand cable video; and pioneering its mobile division.
He laughs. “I remember trying to convince people that music would be on their cell phone — they were, like, 'Fuck you, don't talk to me!' Back then new media meant miscellaneous or anything that was weird. That of course worked out really great for me; I learned how to do a lot.”
By 2006 internal label politics had shifted, and KamranV left the majors to revisit what he'd always wanted to do: make meaningful live albums.
“I don't make a lot of money anymore, but I'm so much happier,” he says.
Now 31, KamranV has expanded his business to include recording and putting on music events at Bedrock L.A., an Echo Park studio compound described as “Disneyland for musicians.” His ultimate goal? To figure out a way to give fans the recordings for free.
“That's the way it should be. It's about giving people what they want at the price they want. People don't buy CDs anymore because there's music on them. They buy CDs because they have value to them outside of the music. There's a way to make music free but still maintain a business so artists can survive.”