By Steven M. Housman
Proud To Be Labeled Gay!
The Very First GLBT Record Label Is Launched!
Victor Lee and Rosie Lopez are no strangers to the record business. This enthusiastic gay man and his energetic lesbian partner have been working for Tommy Boy Records for over a decade. Earlier this year the two launched Silver Label, which is a subsidiary of Tommy Boy Records and deals exclusively with openly gay men and lesbian artists. In this, their very first interview, they discuss their backgrounds, the obstacles of creating the first label that caters to the GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Trangender) community, a glimpse into their personal lives, and whats in store for their future, as well as ours, the audience. After listening to these two wonderfully intelligent individuals, I feel confident that all of their hopes and dreams are imminent, and their devotion to our community is inspiring. I couldnt think of a more apropos way to celebrate June (Gay Pride Month) than to spotlight this inspirational duo.
What made you decide to switch gears from DJ to the business side of the record business?
Victor: Actually, I didnt decide, I was recruited. I was working at a club in Hong Kong and the head of BMG offered me a job. I turned him down. After three months and not able to get a job, I called him and he said Anytime you want it, you can come.
How did you become involved in the music business?
Rosie: Like most of us at Tommy Boy Records, I was also a DJ. I was 16, sneaking out and going to boy bars. I was going to a bar in New York, and the DJ, Leslie Doyle, worked with another DJ, Danny Tenaglia. I became a fag hag at an early age and was going to the boy bars to listen to great music. After Leslie and I became friends, she started a promotion company and brought me in to do retail promotion, and there it began. The music business was a very early passion and it continues to be to this day.
I realize that Silver Label consists generally of dance music. Do you see expanding to different genres of music anytime in the future?
Rosie: Yes, absolutely! Initially the Silver Label was conceptualized as a dance label. Victor: Theres a difference. We are setting up a label just called Silver Label. What some people might be confusing this with is Tommy Boy Silver Label that was releasing dance singles. That was a label set up about seven years ago that was exclusively for dance records. Silver Label, which Rosie and I have launched this year, is an album/artist label.
Silver Label is a subsidiary of Tommy Boy Records, correct?
Rosie: Yes. Tommy Boy Silver is the label we put our dance singles on, and Silver Label is a full service label just like Tommy Boy, except that its focus and specialty will be for music and culture and trends born out of the gay and lesbian community.
Victor: Also, The L Word CD is on the Silver Label and its not a dance compilation.
Do both of you share equal business and creative responsibilities?
Rosie: I would say we pretty much hand off projects to each other according to where our strengths lie. Right now Ive been more involved with the soundtrack and the singer/songwriter, and I think Victor would be more involved with anything thats more fashion driven. With band driven releases we tend to brainstorm and work together. Anything that has to do with clubs and DJs is definitely more Victors forte, so thats what he handles. Everything really comes down to teamwork.
Do you feel you need to keep Silver Label exclusively gay?
Rosie: Were really trying to represent the gay aesthetic. Initially, our focus is to get support from the gay community because we know that we need their support before we even think about trying to market to the straight community. Its really important for the gay community to own us and to feel that this is a label that represents them properly.
Where do you go to check out new and exciting artists that are without a contract?
Rosie: We both get lots of music sent out. I go to live shows, Victor goes to clubs. We both seek out talent at these venues at all times. Our poor strengths are that were both information junkies, so we both do a lot of our research online, we read magazines, and we have a lot of friends that bring us fantastic leads.
Victor: Over the years weve developed a lot of relationships, so were open. A lot of labels have a lot of restrictions with demo submissions. If we hear of something good, or we hear a good idea, we listen.
Do you feel competition from other labels that promote dance, house and circuit music?
Victor: We dont because we are the first label that is openly out about what were promoting in this area. Were not intent to just put out dance compilations. I think there are a couple of other labels that only focus on that area and we dont intend to do that.
Rosie: I think the more competition, the more labels that are doing this, the bigger the market becomes. We are the first to be doing this and Im sure there will be a lot of other labels that will follow. One of the really important clarifications is that a cosmopolitan isnt just a gay drink; it was born out of gay creativity. Its something that became a very fabulous cocktail.
Thats an interesting analogy. What youre saying is that its the same as the success of disco music and the way its credited to gay club audiences.
Rosie: Exactly! I think what we saw and what we felt for a long time is that we were very fortunate that Tom Silverman (owner of Tommy Boy Records) said, You are absolutely right, this is what we thought when we started Tommy Boy. Its the same way that Motown started. Motown didnt start just to sell their product to black people. They were started to really sell to white people. I think its very similar where we know that more than half the people involved in creative arts - whether its Hollywood, music, fashion, styling, video production, catering, floral arrangements, you could go on and on - the people that create beauty in this world, a large percentage, have our genes. So we thought, How do we take that and market it and find a way to channel it in one direction versus having it just happen by coincidence? So, if that type of analogy works for you, thats fine. As long as people get the point.
Who were your musical influences when you were starting out?
Victor: Youre gonna give away our age! (Laughing) I started with new wave, such as bands like Depeche Mode, Camouflage, New Order and Echo & the Bunnymen.
Rosie: The first vinyl album I ever owned was Donna Summer, the one with Macarthur Park. I became an avid collector that read all of the lyrics, read all the credits, and I have to say the first genius I found in music is Giorgio Moroder.
We have that in common.
Rosie: Yes, isnt he brilliant! If we found an artist like that today, thats someone that the Silver Label would absolutely want, regardless if he or she was gay, but if we knew it represented the gay aesthetic. We also look for artists that are entertainers that we could market by way of going on the road that could sell DVDs. We are meeting with comedians. This label isnt necessarily going to be all music. Well be holistic, in some cases. We have our sister label, Rasa, which is our spiritual brand label. Deepak Chopra is one of our artists on Rasa. Our message is, What you hear is what you repeat and what you feel. Part of the proceeds on a number of our releases is going to go to different non-profit organizations.
Where do you see music trends headed?
Victor: I think Hip Hop will continue to do well. Evolving from Hip Hop there will be a lot more creative hybrids that will be soulful.
Rosie: I think Hip Hop has to start blending in order to survive. It will probably start borrowing a little more from rock and punk. Theres already something called crunk rock, which is something thats starting to happen in the South. Its something were listening to and looking at.
Victor: There was an artist this week that debuted called Cowboy Troy, and hes a Hip Hop/Country artist. Basically, a lot of the lines are blurring and many different genres are coming together.
Rosie: I also think the importance of radio will start to change because radio is scrambling right now and asking how to save their listeners. One of the things weve done is to not focus on artists that need radio to break out. It may be because theyre so fantastic live, or because their songs lend themselves to film and to advertising.
Would you compare this to the type of success that Kristine W has achieved? Shes a wonderful singer, has broken records on the Billboard dance charts, but is still not a household name.
Rosie: Absolutely! And were working on another album for Kristine now which will probably take her to where she belongs. Its going to be more of a chanteuse type of lounge album.
She has great crossover potential.
Rosie: Right, and dont forget, she was discovered in Vegas. She was Miss Washington which had nothing to do with the gay community. She was a Vegas performer that broke Elvis Presleys record. She just had the misfortune of having a HUGE hit after hit after hit in the gay community and was labeled as a gay artist because of her following. Were in the process of putting songs together for her. Kristine could have a #1 Country album if she wanted to.
What has been the biggest surprise hit on Silver label?
Victor: Queer As Folk is our biggest, so far. We put out the two previous seasons, but Season Three has been the most successful sales-wide for us.
Do either of you have a favorite all-time artist that recorded for Tommy Boy?
Rosie: I would probably say Queen Latifah. When she first hit, she hit with amazing power. She didnt use any of the simple things or any gimmicks. She was overweight, she wasnt a knockout. It was really just about her power.
Victor: I could tell you what my favorite record was. Remember a record called Gangsta Bitch?
Rosie: (Laughing) Gangsta Bitch was your favorite?
Victor: I thought it was genius because he pushed buttons. The artist was Apache.
On a personal level What type of music turns you on when youre not in work mode?
Victor: (Laughing) We are ALWAYS in work mode! I really do love all types of music. I usually dont listen to dance music at home. I like to listen to rock, R&B and Hip Hop.
Rosie: I love all types of music as well. I dont listen much to current club music at home or in my car. I love anything thats intelligent. I love Lucinda Williams, Rufus Wainwright. Im more into the lyrics.
As long as were getting personal, are either of you in a relationship?
Rosie: (Yelling) VICTOR IS AVAILABLE!
Victor: I havent any time for anyone.
Dont say that, someone might be calling you!
Rosie: (Laughing) He needs to get out of the office more. Im in a relationship thats been four years and we have two children. Both are her biological children. Im the other mom!
Can you tell me of future projects that we, the audience, can look forward to?
Rosie: Besides having done previous compilations for The L Word and Queer As Folk, we also have next seasons music for them and the final season 5 Queer As Folk that were just putting to bed this week. Its their last hurrah! We did a soundtrack called Goldfish Memories, and were doing another soundtrack for the film called The Heights which is getting ready to open and has a nice buzz. Glenn Close is in it. We have a Hip Hop compilation mixed by DJ Beyond whos a very popular DJ in New York. We also have artists we have just signed and artists that were in the process of signing that represent everything from Christian Pop to many other genres of music. All of the artists that we have signed up until now are openly gay or lesbian.
Victor: We have quite a few things in the pot that were not ready to announce yet, but were very excited about.
Thank you for your support and your future plans for the GLBT community.
Rosie and Victor: You are our very first interview and we thank you for helping us spread the word to all of our GLBT friends!
For complete information, log on to www.TommyBoy.com
© 2005 Steven M. Housman. All Rights Reserved.