Seattle’s own MTV?
by Tom Travin
Seattle Music TV's (l to r) Scott Mckinley, Casey Sjogren and David Reigns Credit: Photo courtesy of Seattle Music Photography
If the team behind Seattle Music TV has its way, before long we all may view the local music scene differently.
Scott Mckinley, David Reigns and Casey Sjogren — along with an ever-growing cadre of audio engineers, video personnel and other supporters with a variety of talents — are leading the charge for SMTV, a project whose goal is to sing the praises of Seattle musicians far and wide.
“The function of Seattle Music TV is to support Seattle,” Mckinley said.
At Robert Lang Studios, a renowned Shoreline recording facility that has played host to some of music’s biggest names since 1974, work is under way at a furious pace.
The studio's interior is being transformed, as construction crews turn an old indoor basketball court into a television facility. The studio will be the new home to a piece of Seattle history: the stage from much-loved Easy Street Records’ Queen Anne location, which closed up shop in January to make way for a branch bank.
“I wanted it to be known that we were going to keep the history and energy from that stage somewhere special,” Mckinley said.
To start, SMTV plans to produce one 24-minute episode every two months, each focusing on a local band. Nineteen of the 24 minutes will be devoted to interviews and background; each band will perform a full song at the end. Alternative rock trio BlackBeatBlue is scheduled for the premiere episode, whose release is still a good six to eight weeks out.
Also in the works are 10-minute webisodes, which are intended to spotlight the many national touring acts that come through town. Mckinley hopes the webisodes can help fill a role that the Queen Anne Easy Street in-store performances played, allowing musicians to showcase a few songs and generate buzz for their concerts. (Easy Street in West Seattle still hosts in-store performances on occasion.)
The webisodes are also an opportunity for fans to get some intel on their favorite national bands. Like, says Mckinley, “why they came here and why they picked the venue they played at. Where do they go eat when they’re in Seattle? What do they like about Seattle? It’s all about Seattle.”
The webisodes also will generate interest in SMTV while the full episodes are being produced. Washington-based music festivals such as Sasquatch and Bumbershoot should prove fertile ground for interview opportunities with well-known musicians.
How exactly SMTV will distribute its videos is still under discussion. SMTV could use its YouTube channel, its website (currently under construction) or a TV network. The principals have been in talks with several networks, which they declined to name.
Mckinley said that the first five episodes will be available only online, “because we want to build a grassroots network of fans before we try to shop it around.” Best case scenario? SMTV videos become part of an on-demand library, perhaps through a cable provider or a national service like Netflix. That way, says Mckinley, “it can be synched on an Xbox to somebody’s TV anywhere in the country.”
All three SMTV principals are transplants to Seattle. Mckinley moved here about eight years ago after formative years spent all over the world in an Air Force family. He honed his networking skills as a top salesman for Verizon Wireless for seven years. In 2010 he bought a still camera and started shooting concerts. That led to Seattle Music Photography, which he built into a successful operation. He also started his own record label (CaviGold), manages bands (including Lacero), promotes shows and has quickly become a major player in the local scene.
Sjogren is from Oregon and also has been in Seattle about eight years. He met Mckinley at Verizon where he, too, was a sales rep. A respected videographer and director, Sjorgen has shot everything from weddings to music videos.
Reigns, from Detroit, is an entrepreneur, a hip-hop vocalist and the guy who came up with the idea for SMTV. He’s also a director in the organization UNEEK (Unifying Nationalities by Encouraging Education and Knowledge), where he produced and hosted a low-budget TV show. He came to Seattle last spring and met Mckinley at a Pauly D show. The two hit it off immediately.
Robert Lang, whose historic studio is home to SMTV, is a well-known producer, both locally and around the world. Lang spent four decades recording bands. He started in the early 70s when he was a welder at Boeing. He worked with musicians on the side and quickly grew his studio into one of the Northwest’s premier recording venues.
When Reigns saw everything that Mckinley had going on, he was intrigued. His TV experience, however, convinced him that the missing piece in Mckinley's vision was a locally produced show: “We just went from there.”
Mckinley gave a presentation last month at the city’s Office of Film + Music happy hour at Spitfire Grill in Belltown. The next day he had 40 emails from people who wanted to know more about SMTV, or how they could get involved. Mckinley and company might harness that enthusiasm to launch an educational program, recruiting interested professionals to teach kids about filming live performances.
Everyone involved in SMTV is an enthusiastic supporter of the local music scene. Indeed, the project is less about making money than about promoting homegrown musicians.
“The talent coming out of Seattle right now is crazy,” said Mckinley. “You’ve got Allen Stone and Macklemore doing big things, Theoretics are about to pop off, December in Red, Lacero, Blue Scholars … You have so many big names here right now, and Seattle is known for producing big names nonstop."
Seattle does have something going musically. Jimi Hendrix. Kurt Cobain. Eddie Vedder. "This place is special," says Mckinley. "It has something that nobody else has."
Something worth capturing and preserving — on film. Something worth celebrating.