Rich Seng started managing rock bands while he was still in high school. When the Toledo native went off to college at Miami University in the mid-'90s, he tried to book one of his favorite hometown bands, the Spragues, at various clubs in Oxford. Finding no takers, Seng hit upon an idea: He'd make a free local-music compilation CD, distribute it around campus, and use it to help raise the profile of the unknown Spragues and other regional rockers. The disc worked: Soon Seng was booking the Spragues in Oxford and beginning to work on a follow-up album.
"When it came time to do my second compilation, I didn't have any start-up money," he recalls. "But I thought, well, I've proven to the community that I can make one of these compilations, so I went to local businesses and I said, 'Hey, I need your advertising dollars; I'll put your logos and stuff in the CD booklet, then the CDs you'll have to give away for free.' I figured I could sell more in advertising than the total production cost of making the CDs."
And so Seng launched a career, putting out free compilation discs funded by advertising dollars from various clubs and shops. In 1997, he released Music of Ohio Vol. 1, for which a club each from Dayton, Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland chose three of its favorite local bands. Recently, Seng released Music of Ohio Vol. 2, on which the Grog Shop selected a trio of Cleveland's finest to kick a little mud in Columbus's eye: the DayGlo popsters Kiddo, the surly rockers Sounder, and the unrestrained post-punk bruisers Lives of the Saints. The latter two will perform at the Grog this Friday at a release party for the disc; the first 200 people through the door will get a free copy. Another album is due out later in the year.
"The goal is to build something consistent," Seng says. "It's an exciting, community sort of thing."