Studio Spotlight: The Creamery Studio Celebrates Its Diverse Brooklyn Artist Base With a Mixtape Series

With close to three million residents, a constantly evolving music and arts scene, and a virtually indescribable pace and overall vibe, Brooklyn has remained a magnet to creative types looking to find ‘their people’ and start a career. It’s a place to collaborate, a place to celebrate art, and a place to find inspiration (among high rents, a borderline cut-throat job market, and an urban environment that appears to be its own force of nature and cares little about its inhabitants).

Sitting at the base of the Pulaski Bridge at the northmost point of the borough in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn lies The Creamery Studio. A lofted space hidden among auto repair garages and other industrial buildings, The Creamery offers a large live room that would make most musicians drool, and a writing/lounge space that might make them want to move in permanently. Named one of the “Top 11 Brooklyn Studios” in Brooklyn Magazine, the Creamery opened its doors in 2008, and the studio is currently run by Quinn McCarthy and Jeff Fettig.

In an effort to highlight the amazing variety of bands and artists they’re happy to call clients, Fettig and McCarthy released their Creamery Mixtape last year. To follow up on that, they’ve tapped TuneCore on the shoulder to release The Creamery Mixtape 2.O on Friday, January 19th! It’s a 12-song compilation that was put together in a four-day recording sprint and, “like a subway car at rush hour, it crams together an eclectic group of New Yorkers into harmony.” You can check out this diverse array of music – ranging from afrobeat and alternative pop to singer/songwriters and garage rock – on Spotify and Soundcloud.

We got the chance to spend some time at The Creamery Studio and Quinn and Jeff were kind enough to answer some questions about the space, music in Brooklyn, and the mixtape series below.

First and foremost, tell us a little bit about your foray into the world of production and engineering, and how you came to open up The Creamery.

Quinn McCarthy: For both of us, engineering and producing originated from the most important source: an obsession with listening to and playing music. We’re musicians.  We play in bands.  We like a lot of different types of music.  Recording and producing has been a way to become more broad than we ever could have as singular artists.  I play bass, Jeff plays guitar and we both dabble with other instruments.  

We started a studio because we wanted to make magical recordings, not because we wanted to open some kind of sound motel.  People pay us to record and mix and use the studio, so sometimes I get a funny look when I say, “I’d rather listen to a crappy recording of a great song than a great mix of a crappy song.” When I first started listening to hip hop and electronic music, I realized there were other ways to create music other than just playing in a band.  

That curiosity of making sounds and sonic worlds and combining it with instruments and performances led us here.  We’re both collaborators and facilitators and when we share a goal with bands, great things happen.

In a music city – or borough, for that matter – it can be tough to stand out as a recording studio. What efforts have you made to make sure that The Creamery and it’s offerings stand out to artists?

QM: When it started, we couldn’t compete with anybody.  We had minimal gear and no business plan.  My buddy I wanted a place to record our music and our friends’ bands. We both had about $5,000 saved, so we found a forgotten building in Greenpoint and started framing and drywalling.  We lived in the studio for many years and worked all types of other jobs while pouring ourselves into albums that were earning us nothing.  

Some of those albums sounded cool and our friends’ friends started hitting us up.  The lifestyle was like that of a musician, not a businessman.  Because of that, the studio has always been about our community and what we can create from our tenacity rather than by owning a bunch of fancy gear.  At this point, we do own a bunch of fancy gear.  The reason we have two pianos, a Hammond organ, and an MCI console is because people who have worked with us have donated them.  

This is New York City and people don’t like storing big stuff in their tiny apartments.  We have a timpani drum!  The Creamery isn’t just just a space you come cut a vocal.  It’s a place to fill with musicians and be inspired.  In NYC, that’s just not the usual business model, so I suppose we hit some niche that has been very true to who we are.

Building on that, how do you feel that The Creamery fits in with or contributes to Brooklyn’s diverse music scene?

QM: New York is the greatest melting pot on earth and it’s part of what makes it fun to run a studio here.  I love making a salsa record one day with a bunch of Dominicans, the next day tracking an all-Hassid girl band, and the next a room full of classical musicians.  We listen to a lot of different music so it’s great to live in a place that has it all. I guess in any business, there’s an argument to specialize, but we don’t want to. It’s too much fun.  

We’re dining at the musical buffet of the whole world!

What inspired you and Jeff to release the studio’s first mixtape last year? What was the reception from the artists invited to partake?

Jeff Fettig: It’s a celebration and expression of our community and we make it a really fun event for everyone involved. Part of the conception grew out of the extremely challenging concept of it; can we actually record 12 bands in four days?  

But it also came from a place where we were trying to remind ourselves that a recording doesn’t always have to be precious in its process.

We used the tape machine to help unify the process and the sonic architecture, and we made it entirely about the moment and having fun. I think for listeners, it’s cool to hear all this music and imagine it coming from the same place.  It has that cohesiveness of a mixtape with a really diverse blend of bands.

As you continue the series this year, paint a picture of what it was like to record 12 bands over the course just four days!

JF: I don’t think we could do it without each other. To get even 1 band in and out with a complete recording in under four hours is almost a sport. We did this 3 times a day for 4 days in a row. I think it speaks to an unspoken communication between Quinn and I, and is a real lesson in people moving and organization. It becomes all about instinct, and embracing anything that comes out unexpected later.

Some days we had fifty musicians in and out, with cultural influences spanning the entire globe. The studio meets its full potential as a beacon of creation during these times.

This mixtape feels like more than just a promotional device for both the studio and the artists involved – what are you hoping to tell the world about what’s happening in music right now?

QM: Ha! It is promotional – just in an honest way.  The mixtape is a reflection of life here at the studio and in Brooklyn.  The Creamery is all of these genres.  It’s really cool to hear it all in the same room, through the same tape, and with the sensibility with which Jeff and I bring to it.  

We work on a lot of cool records each year, but in a way, this culminates the experience.  If there is a message, it’s just to be open to music.  Anyone who is going to enjoy this mix is already on that level  This is about having fun and celebrating what’s around us.

You’ve got a lot happening in those three rooms – tell us about some of your personal favorite recording gear and instruments that The Creamery boasts.

JF: There are two live rooms, a little booth, and a control room.  Everyone wants more gear, but I really think we’ve got it all: pianos (upright and grand), Hammond, Rhodes, Whurlitzer, Farfisa, Tympani, Synths, over 20 guitars and basses, a couple dozen amps, and a hundred pedals.

We can really make any sonic dreams come true. One of the newest additions to the space is a 50’s Deagan Vibraharp.  It sounds like you’re entering the dream sequence of a movie every time you play a note on it!

What kind of advice would you offer to independent artists who are getting ready to step into a professional recording studio for the first time?

QM: Make it about music.  If you can start with a great performance, that’s a hundred times more important than the rest.  Write a good song with good lyrics and practice that shit.  

Play it for your friends and people you trust to help refine it.  Demo it with whatever tools you have and listen back so you know what you really want the studio, producer, or engineer to enhance.  Put yourself around good musicians and start collaborating!

Why Your Band Doesn’t Need To Move To Brooklyn To Make It Big

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Patrick McGuire. Patrick is a writer, composer, and experienced touring musician based in Philadelphia.]

 

There are countless examples in film, TV and music of young, ambitious people moving to dense urban areas like New York or Hollywood and becoming big pop stars or famous actors. Patti Smith’s incredible story of meeting artist Robert Mapplethorpe and becoming a music icon in 1970’s New York portrayed in her incredible memoir Just Kids features this idea, albeit with more nuance, meaning and creativity than most stories.

If you’re a band stuck somewhere like the midwest, it might seem like moving to a place like Brooklyn, home of seemingly countless amounts of bands who’ve either “made it” or are in the process of “making it,” is the only way to achieve notoriety, but you’re probably wrong.

The Rent

By far, the largest and most obvious challenge of picking up and moving to a place like Brooklyn is the ungodly amount of money you’ll need to generate every month to simply have a place to sleep and store your stuff. Let’s check some numbers. If your band hails from a place like, let’s say Cedar Rapids, Iowa, you’ll pay around $700 a month for a 1-bedroom apartment. Being a serious band in the middle of Iowa has its challenges, but the cost of living is not one of them. For the same apartment in Brooklyn, you’ll be paying about $2,600 a month on average.

In Cedar Rapids, you and your bandmates could all have part time jobs, play music six nights a week and have money to spare for things like putting out albums and touring. Unless you or one of your bandmates has a ton of money, you’ll all need to work long hours at multiple jobs to simply be able to live and breathe in a place like Brooklyn. All that non-music related work doesn’t leave too much time for music. Sure, you can tell everyone on Facebook that you live in Brooklyn, but your band probably won’t have time to do things like write songs and play shows.

The Competition

In music scenes like Brooklyn, Austin and L.A., young bands trying to make a name for themselves are a dime a dozen, even with the insane challenges of being based in a dense urban area. Rather than moving to one of these scenes, your band might be better off putting your energy towards touring as much as possible. The segments of the music industry who might actually have the power to do something meaningful for your band take notice of bands who are consistently on the road perfecting their craft, not bands who move to big cities, burn out and stop playing music.

If you look at your band like a business, what you’re producing is songs, live performances and records. You should make strategic choices as a group that allows you to make music as possible. Maybe your band has outgrown your hometown and needs to do something else to accommodate its growth and ambitions. That’s completely understandable, but putting yourself in an all-or-nothing situation like picking up and moving to a big expensive place is a risky option that has the potential to sink your project.

Staying home and touring more is way less sexy than a dramatic move to Brooklyn, but it’s probably smarter. This way you’ll be able to maintain the momentum and relationships you’ve formed at home while introducing your music to new people across the country. And even if you come from a small city like our example of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, your hometown provides tons of resources and support that you’re always going to need as a band.

Another option is to move to a location based near where you want to be musically active that doesn’t come with a $2,600 monthly price tag for rent. If you love what’s happening in the Brooklyn music scene, maybe moving to a cheaper suburb close by is the better choice. Sure, New Brunswick, New Jersey isn’t as ‘cool’ as Brooklyn, but average rent is about $1k cheaper there and it’s located a quick drive or train ride away. If your band is in it for the long haul, you’ll have to make smart compromises for the sake of your goals.

Decide What “Making It” Means

For some bands, success is purely measured in dollar amounts, play counts and views. For others, the very act of writing music and sharing it with people is more than enough of an incentive to keep going. But no matter what your goals are with music, it’s important to sit down with your bandmates and have a discussion about what it is you’re hoping to get out of making music with each other.

Getting on the same page about your goals might inspire your band to make some drastic changes like quitting your jobs and moving across the country or a boring one like scheduling one more practice every week. But if your goals involve writing tons of music and playing it for fans night after night, picking up and moving to Brooklyn probably isn’t the best way to go about doing it.

Studio Spotlight: Degraw Sound’s Ben Rice On the Brooklyn Recording Landscape & Degraw Fest

Creating, releasing, and promoting your music as an independent artist requires a lot of moving parts and team members. For artists who are at the stage in their career when they’ve moved out of the home studio and are ready to dedicate some of their budget to sessions with an engineer, there’s plenty to take into consideration.

That’s why we’re opening up the floor to highlight some recording studios in our backyard of New York City and beyond each month on the TuneCore Blog! Studio owners and engineers work with indie artists who use TuneCore for distribution and more every day, so it only makes sense for us to give them a platform to talk about the cool stuff happening in the control room.

To kick it off, we chatted with Ben Rice, owner of Degraw Sound located in the Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn. Ben’s been active in the music scene since he was in his teens, and the studio is in it’s fifth year of existence. Next weekend, on June 3rd, Ben and his cohorts are throwing the inaugural “Degraw Fest” – a mini full-day music festival taking place at Littlefield just down the road from the studio to be filled with bands, beer and food.

Learn more about what makes Degraw Sound special, and if you’re an NYC-based TuneCore Artist, make sure to check out Degraw Fest and say hello!

First, give us a little bit of your background as a musician/producer in New York City.

Ben Rice, Owner:I’m originally from Brooklyn — like I actually grew up here. My family lived in Park Slope in the late 80’s and early 90’s and then we moved out to Ditmas Park. Growing up I was obsessed with baseball and music and as luck would have it, music won out!

The first job I ever got when I was a teenager was working in a recording studio. It was this place called Clinton Recording Studios which was

Ben Rice

one of the last major facilities in New York. I did all the fun jobs like cleaning the bathroom and making coffee and that was my introduction to studio life. I loved the feeling of being in the studio, going in and turning on the lights in the morning and watching their huge live room light up. The old console and racks of gear fascinated me. I would work there during the days over the summer or after school and then go home and play with my Tasman 4 track and make demos of the songs I was writing.

I played in bands and toured and got to experience the early 2000’s music scene here in NYC, which was really incredible. During that time I started producing records for other bands on the scene, and at a certain point I decided that I wanted to focus solely on producing and went all in on building a studio.

If I may say, it’s a beautiful studio. What went into it’s design and how did you keep artists in mind during its construction?

Thanks Kevin, I appreciate that man. When I set out to build Degraw Sound I wanted to create a space that artists would feel inspired and comfortable in. I wanted it to feel warm and inviting —kind of like an extension of the whisky bars that me and my friends liked to hang out at, almost like there was a secret back door that would lead you into another room that somehow magically was full of sick gear.

I met with a few different studio designers and through a couple different friends I got connected with a guy named Dave Ellis who had built some beautiful spaces around Brooklyn. When I met Dave it was instantly clear to me that he understood my vision for the studio and he just seemed like a cool guy — he had a sick car and liked a lot of the same music that I did. I put a lot of trust in him to take my idea and turn it into a reality. In a lot of ways I think of him as the studio’s “producer”, meaning he had the experience, skills and tools to turn my idea into something tangible.

How do you feel that Degraw Sound contributes to the Brooklyn/NYC musical landscape? In what ways do you collaborate or connect with artists outside of production and engineering?

I think after five years of making music here we’re starting to feel that we’ve become part of the city’s musical landscape, which is a really cool feeling. Growing up in New York you learn about all the different studios in the city and to have Degraw get to the point it has where it’s become part of that conversation and musicians think of us as a place to come make records is pretty special.

The artists that we work with here have become like family. When you spend countless hours in-studio with someone collaborating on a creative project you wind up getting pretty close with them.

One of the things I appreciate most about producing records is you get to be a part of significant moments in other peoples’ lives. That often extends beyond the studio; for instance, I just got back from Austin, Texas from my buddy Will’s wedding. He’s in a band Elliot & the Ghost and we’ve made some awesome records together at Degraw Sound.

Tell us more about how you came to organize Degraw Fest, and what are you looking forward to most about it?

A couple months ago Harper and I were breaking down gear after a session and somehow we wound up riffing on the idea of putting together a show with a few of the artists that we were working with. When we’re brainstorming the ideas can grow pretty quickly and before we knew it the idea had evolved into a full day mini music festival!

The timing just felt right to do something like this. This month is our fifth anniversary so it seemed like a fun way to get everyone together that has been a part of building Degraw and putting it on the map. Now that all the heavy lifting and planning is done I’m just looking forward to hanging with everyone. When I think about the perfect early summer Saturday it involves good friends, music, beer and food – and I think we’ve got all those boxes checked! (Ed. note – buy tickets for that here!)

Given that as a business owner you’re always looking to foster a community with your neighbors, do you feel Degraw Fest will help enhance those efforts?

Oh yeah definitely. Julie and Scott over at Littlefield (where we’re hosting Degraw Fest) have always been great to us. They were super welcoming when we moved into the neighborhood and we’ve built a great relationship with them over the years. They’ve been here for a decade now and are such a big part of the scene and community that is growing here in Gowanus so we’re really pumped to be working with them on this!

Everyone that we’ve talked to about Degraw Fest has loved the idea. Marshall and Eric who own Braven Brewing in Bushwick jumped on board to help sponsor the festival. Cheech A Cini’s, a local Italian food truck and Yankees fans, are going to be joining us, too!

A lot of the artists already know each other from seeing each other around the studio or meeting at some of the other parties that we’ve thrown, so I think getting everyone together is going to feel like a really fun family reunion.

How do you recommend that your fellow studio owners/engineers take steps to connect with artists in a similar fashion as you have with Degraw Fest?

For me it’s really about having fun and doing things that you’re pumped about. I have a ton of respect for all the studio owners in this city. It’s a tough business and we all put in long hours, so anytime there’s an opportunity to do something like this that’s a little different and can help the artists that you make music with I think you have to jump on it.

What do you think makes Degraw Sound unique in terms of how studios in New York operate?

To me the thing that makes Degraw Sound unique is the people who work here. Gian, Harper and myself… we’re a bunch of weirdos who love making records and are obsessed with every aspect of it.

I think that we’re bridging the gap between commercial studios and independent producers. We can each function independently as producers and collectively as a team. We have a really beautiful and well-built professional recording studio here that is flexible and can accommodate whatever type of project people bring to us.

What we’ve found over the past few years is that the majority of the projects that we’re working on are those where the artist will hire one of us, or a couple of us, to produce their record and help them take the project from start to finish. This just seems to work out best because it allows us to really invest ourselves in the records that we’re making and help artists create music that’s authentic and realize their vision and potential.

If you HAD to choose, what’s your favorite piece of gear or recording equipment that Degraw Sound boasts?

Oh man, that’s a tough one… I mean I have my “desert island” list of toys… I love our Trident console, it’s a great British desk and it’s super fun to work on. I’d box that up and put it on a boat and take it with me. My rack of 1176 compressors and Pultecs has become a staple. I have a couple Jazzmasters that I’ll never get rid of, and we just got a Mellotron which is probably the coolest instrument ever!

What inside advice would you give to independent artists who are getting ready to step into a professional recording studio for the first time?

Find a producer that you dig and who loves your music and let them help you. No matter what stage of your career you’re at I think this is key.

Whether you grew up listening to The Beatles or Michael Jackson one of the key ingredients to those records is that there was someone who helped foster the artists’ creativity and develop those sounds.

TuneCore Heads to Mondo.NYC 2016!

New York City has long been a hub of creative talent and technological innovation here in the States. Between the thousands of artists and bands, the amazing music venues, and headquarters of music industry brands, it only makes sense that organizers have chosen Manhattan and Brooklyn as the landscape for Mondo.NYC 2016!

Mondo.NYC is kicking off it’s inaugural business summit, festival and digital platform from September 14-18, 2016, and TuneCore is honored to be a part of the action as a sponsor and contributor. We’re of course honored that almost 50% of the artists scheduled to perform use or have used TuneCore as their digital distribution partner!

A multi-day event filled with panels, showcases and performances, Mondo.NYC is a celebration of music, technology and the entertainment industry among fans, artists, and tech/music professionals. If you haven’t grabbed a ticket, we worked with the staff at Mondo.NYC to make sure we could offer TuneCore Artists 20% off their purchases. All you’ll need to do is enter promo code TUNECORE2016 when you purchase online.

By day, New York University will serve as the setting for discussion, networking and education. By night, live music across Brooklyn and Manhattan hot spots will be raging.

Join us on Friday, September 16th from 10:00-10:50am in room 914 the Kimmel Center at NYU for “Under the Hood: Get Your Music Heard and Get Paid for Doing It” – a panel about distribution for independent artists.

In this  featured panel discussion, Scott Ackerman, CEO of TuneCore, will discuss TuneCore’s digital distribution platform and how we help thousands of artists of every size and genre get their music heard around the world, get paid for doing so, and keep 100% of their rights and earnings.  Scott will help artists better understand the process and value of independent distribution.  In addition to his valuable insights, there will be a panel of successful TuneCore artists to give first hand accounts of how they have leveraged the digital distribution platform to enable and enhance their careers.

As psyched as we are to talk about the value of digital distribution, it’s not all about us! Panel discussions topics will range from the roles of music management and the use data to track/manage audiences, to synch licensing and public policy around music – and everything in between. Learn more about the extensive list of panels here.

If you’re an indie artist, a music entrepreneur or music fan looking to learn more about the industry, grab your tickets today – and don’t forget to nab that 20% discount code using promo code TUNECORE2016.

As with any event TuneCore’s staff is hanging at, we always encourage artists to come up and introduce themselves. You can find members of our team taking notes by day and rocking out at night – we hope to see you out in person!

Recap: TuneCore at the 2016 Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival

The borough of Brooklyn and the genre of hip hop are two things that we here at TuneCore have a whole lot of love for. So when we were invited to participate in the 2016 Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival, you can bet we were all over it.

Celebrating it’s 12th year in a row, the multi-faceted festival takes place over four days, with the daily events being The Hip Hop Institute, The Dummy Clap Film Festival, The Juice Hip Hop Exhibition, and closes out with a big bang at the Finale Concert. This year’s Finale included Nas (featuring the Soul Rebels), Rhapsody, Fabolous, Talib Kweli and others.

Brooklyn Hip Hop Fest

Our Senior Director of Artist Relations Chris Mooney was invited to sit on the panel alongside Ibrahim H. ( Dreamville Records) and Hovain (Troy Ave’s Manager) to talk “Independence in Hip Hop” at Medgar Evers College. Moderated by Wes Jackson (Brooklyn Bodega – presenters of the festival), the panelists discussed and  answered questions about music career foundations, getting your music featured in stores and placed on playlists, and at times, TuneCore.

It was an honor to be able to connect with a crowd full of talented up-and-coming artists, producers and entrepreneurs right in our backyard.

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To make the music distribution circle complete, we went from hanging with artists to hanging with one of our awesome digital store partners. On Saturday, TuneCore staff were helping to hold down the Tidal Tent at Brooklyn Bridge Park from 11am through the last song performed onstage.

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Despite a brief rain scare, the day was gorgeous and hip hop fans were everywhere. TuneCore Artist Taylor Bennett was rocking in the St. Ann’s Warehouse and the main stage was bringing the heat, showcasing artists like Rhapsody and Rob Swift. By the time Talib was set to perform, a good sized crowd had packed the fest.

Native Fabolous was showing love the Brooklyn way, bringing up guests like Smiff n Wessun, and Nas capped off the evening perfectly with the amazing Soul Rebels backing him up. To top it off, Tidal was streaming the whole thing live online.

Positive vibes, great food, and amazing hip hop – classic and fresh – made for a pretty epic blowout. A big thanks to the festival’s organizers and Brooklyn Bodega, as well as our friends at Tidal – it was definitely a highlight of our summer.

We’re already excited for next year. Take a look at some pics snapped by TuneCore staffers below.

Event Recap: TuneCore Live Brooklyn @ Living Room 11/18

Our TuneCore Live Series had a short stay in Brooklyn compared to LA in 2015, but we are proud to have made a big impact! In our final TuneCore Live: Brooklyn of 2015, we invited ZuliDead Stars, and LODRO to share the stage for the evening at the Living Room in Williamsburg, and they did not disappoint.

In what ended up being our most rock-heavy line up of the year, show goers were treated to three bands who covered the spectrum of the genre: from psychedelic, to fuzzy and nostalgic, to dark and eery. You want variety? TuneCore Live brings it!

With the help of our pals at Swisher Sweets, CeleBuzz and Mirrored Media, we were proud to put our signature on the final event of the year in the Borough of Kings.

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Getting the party started was four-piece Long Island-based Zuli, fronted by the charismatic and impressive Ryan Carmenzuli. As the crowd grew, Zuli whirled in and out of melodic choruses and psyche-induced breakdowns. It was awesome to catch a band who can sound so clear on record really bring a raw live show that keeps the audiences’ attention.

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The tone was set and the crowd was ready for more tunes, and unsurprisingly, Brooklyn-based Dead Stars delivered. Channeling influence from Dinosaur Jr., Nirvana and Teenage Fanclub, the trio roared through a set of songs from their full-length Slumber, and treated the room to some newer cuts. The vibe here was loud, sonic guitar and drums complemented by catchy hooks and relatable lyrics.

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Wrapping up the night was the critically acclaimed LODRO, hailing from the other side of the borough. The three-piece were coming off a 24 hour-long movie shoot, but you wouldn’t know it if you just stepped into the venue. With Lesley and Jeremy sharing vocal-duty, LODRO’s echoey, film-influenced ‘neo-noir punk’ sounds kept the crowd hooked in a trance throughout their entire set.

We’d like to thank everyone – the artists, the fans, the venue, the sponsors – for making our TuneCore Live series in Brooklyn such a success. It’s been beyond fulfilling to be able to provide TuneCore Artists with the opportunity to play live, meet each other, and connect with our staff each month. We’re looking forward to an awesome 2016, so make sure you’re following TuneCore Live on Facebook to keep up with our upcoming events!

Enjoy a photo gallery from the night below.