Industry Insider: Founder of SCENE Music Festival and Stumble Records, Steve Stumble

January 27, 2012

Music Vice Industry Insider AAA pass for Steve Stumble

Want to work in The Music Industry as a Promoter, Producer, Publicist, Executive, DJ, or Tour Manager? Industry Insider gives Music Vice readers an exclusive insight from inside the industry as we talk to music professionals. We find out the specifics of their position and how you can grab their attention. In the latest installment of Industry Insider, we speak to Steve Stumble.

Steve Stumble with The Lucky OnesSteve Stumble performing with The Lucky Ones

Steve ‘Stumble’ Levitt  owns and operates punk label Stumble Records (which has distribution through Universal Music Canada). He also fronts punk band The Lucky Ones, and is the founder of the annual one-day SCENE Music Festival, held in downtown St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. The festival features mostly alternative music and attracts increasing thousands of music fans to the city each year. Scene has hosted such groups such as Alexisonfire, Cancer Bats, Billy Talent, City and Colour, The New Cities, Cute is What We Aim For, Lights, The Johnstones, Down With Webster, The Trews, and The Black Lungs.

Music Vice’s Ngawara Madison recently caught up with Steve to pick his brain about the music industry and get his advice for bands wanting to hit the big time…

You own punk label, Stumble Records; sing in The Lucky Ones, as well as running the annual ‘SCENE’ Music Festival in St Catharines, Ontario! At what age did you get involved with the music industry and what was your first band or business role? How did you get your first ‘step in the door’?

I got involved in the Music Industry when I was 16 years old. I guess my first involvement was in my original punk band Sick Boys. I did a lot of local concert booking while I was in that band, and that got me rolling!

How many people do you work with as regards running your record label, and how did you source those people to make sure you have the right team of people around you to ensure the smooth running of your company?

Well its pretty much always just been me here! We’re now in our 15th year as Stumble Records so we’ve seen lots of things change over the years! If we do have anybody else involved in a project, they come as an outside, third party contractor. For example; we use Kerry Goulding at Rebel Music in Toronto for a lot of publicity campaigns.

You are the name behind the extremely successful and popular SCENE Music Festival. How important is it for a band these days to have a strong presence on the festival circuit?

Scene Music Fest

Scene Music Fest

I’m not really sure how important it is to be on “the festival circuit” but festivals are usually great to play, because you’re usually stacked with a pile of different bands and get to play to a larger, and much more diverse audience that the norm. You wouldn’t get that same crowd in a typical, indoor, club style environment.

What are some of the biggest bands that have performed at SCENE, and what is the arrangement process for a band wishing to perform at your festival?

As for artists that have played S.C.E.N.E. Music Festival… Man there’s been tonnes over the past 17 years! Alexisonfire, City 7 Colour, Bedouin Soundclash, Billy Talent, Del the Funky Homosapien, Down With Webster, Lights, etc. Bands interested in playing can apply through our website or if you are booked by an agent and we’re interested in you, we’ll come looking for you!

What does it take for a band to get picked for the Main Stage at Scene as opposed to a smaller side show?

Well it really depends on the hype of your band! Some spots are reserved for agents and some are for contest winners such as the HTZ FM Rock Search winner; but we mainly put in who we feel would be appropriate for the festival, and that day, and year. There really are no rules!

It seems that with the rise of the Internet Generation, we have a lot of bands that are gathering fan bases abroad that perhaps would not have had that opportunity in earlier years. Through the spreading of viral videos and social media links bands are able to reach out to would-be fans in countries all over the world. Do you use Social Media to promote your events? How important are Facebook and Twitter in the promotion of a band these days?

Social is very important these days, and I wish we were better at it… I’m pretty much a “computer retard”, haha! We do use them to promote events, etc. Actually right now I’m setting up a bunch of stuff on Reverbnation. But yeah… look at the band “Walk Off The Earth” for example. Two weeks ago nobody cared about a band from Burlington, Ontario and then suddenly 2 weeks later and 27 million views later of their Gotye cover – they’re flying out to LA and are on the Ellen show! All due to good old Youtube!

Illegal Downloads: Inevitable in this day and age? How can a band still make money when the number of people actually buying records lessens everyday?

Illegal downloading sucks! If you like a band you should support them… but really it is no different than it used to be making mixed tapes for people in the 80’s! I always tell bands: “If you’re not out playing and selling T-Shirts, CDs and binyl off stage – then you’re not selling anything at all!” People aren’t likely to go buy your music on the internet and record stores are disappearing faster than ever!

Steve and Ngawara

Steve and Ngawara

On top of all your work as a label head honcho and event producer, you also sing in the punk band The Lucky Ones. What were the highlights for the band last year and what are your recording and performance plans for 2012? What are your objectives with your music? What do you sing about?

2011 was pretty awesome for The Lucky Ones! We got to play on a bunch of great Festivals in Canada including Rock Fest in Montebello, QC…SCENE Fest, obviously… Burly Calling, Rebel fest.  But the biggest highlight for myself had to be opening for Stiff Little Fingers on their only Canadian date! I’m a huge fan of theirs and it was amazing to meet Jake Burns because he is one of my biggest influences! We also got to record a new record with producer Steve Rizun which was awesome too! As for 2012 – our new record Heartbreak, Hangovers & Punk Rock comes out Feb 8th in Canada and we’re doing some dates around that, including Canadian Music Week.

We’re in talks to license our record to a label in Europe and try to make it over there in late summer/fall! The objective is to get out there, support our two releases, and play as much, and to as many people as possible!

There is a lot of organisation needed in the production and promotion of a music festival. What is your schedule like in the weeks running up to SCENE? What is the reality of your position for someone looking to do what you do?

Its pretty crazy! Our festival team is usually running around like chickens with their heads cut off! But we always get it all together and pull it off. We’ve been working with the same team of people for years now so everybody knows their roles and what needs to be done in order to pull it off in time for the day of the festival.

What was the musical highlight of 2011 for you and who should we look out for in 2012. Who are the ones to watch, in your opinion?

Well the musical highlight for me was definitely the Stiff Little fingers show! But seeing The Specials again was pretty awesome too. Also hanging out with Lars Frederickson of Rancid again and checking out his new band The Old Firm Casuals was awesome. Check em out!

Hmmm bands to look out for???…The Lucky Ones of course silly! You can check out our drummers other band, USS – they’re really popular these days. Apparently Jay from USS is gonna remix one of our songs so that should be interesting to hear.

© Ngawara Madison, Music Vice

Internet links:

SCENE Music Festival
The Lucky Ones
Stiff Little Fingers

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