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Rust Belt Rock: Local Music Industry Vets Weigh in on the State of the Cleveland Music Scene

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Vince Slusarz - Owner, Gotta Groove Records

How did you start in the business and why?

I had the opportunity and the means to start a business from the ground up in 2009, something I always wanted to do.  Music has been a love of mine since I was a child. And, I am very bullish about the need to have a vibrant manufacturing presence in the city. The resurgence in vinyl records allowed me to bring these two passions together. I felt it was important to locate the business in the city, and to be a small part of helping establish the city's reputation as a favorable location for musicians and listeners. 

How has the music scene in Cleveland changed over those years?

For years we were known as a city of adventurous listeners who could, and did, break acts nationally. But those days of radio breaking music are long gone, here and elsewhere. What remains, however, is the independence of the local acts making music. Virtually every genre and sub genre is represented and can be heard in the various city venues most nights of the week.

What are your two most memorable local shows?

This is too tough, I have seen so many great shows that I would leave out some epic ones by only mentioning two.  However, to date myself, the World Series of Rock with Jesse Colin Young, Santana, the Band and CSN&Y with around 100,000 people and the  free clinic drug overdose tent made a huge impression on that then teenager. Besides the above, any show at the Beachland is always memorable, for any number of reasons.  And can't miss the Ohio City Singers annual holiday show at the Happy Dog

What are some of the challenges involved in promoting local music in Cleveland?

Getting people from the suburbs, especially older farts like me, to come into the city for shows. It's disappointing that the age bracket with the most disposable income has either forgotten about how music was once an important part of their lives or they are just afraid to come downtown.  

 What are two local success stories in any part of the business?

Jakprints has become nationally known for the print services they supply to the music community, and Alternative Press is one of the few rock print publications still standing.

A coalescence of the various segments of the scene (artists, venues, promoters, labels and music-related businesses along with the city government) into a group focused on promoting Cleveland as a music city worth being mentioned with Nashville, Austin and the like.

The most exciting local act right now is...?

Again, too many to mention, but among the few we have had the privilege of pressing: Megachurch, All Dinosaurs, Filmstrip, and Wesley Bright and the Hi-Lights.  

The local act that had the most potential but never made it or died off?

Not sure about this one, maybe Rocket From the Tombs?  Per Chris Smith [GGR employee and Terminal Lovers guitarist]: Spike In Vein.

Advice you'd give someone trying to make it?

First, define for yourself what is "making it". If it's just about fame and money, the odds are against you no matter your talent.

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