Villo Galvan also happens to be a very nice guy, a fact that may result in feelings of guilt for anyone jealous of his privilege: hearing killer new music typically before anyone else does. “We are the only record pool I know of handling exclusively underground dance music; we are also free of charge to the labels we promote, this enables us to be true to the feedback we receive from our members, and free from bias towards any payola. After almost a decade in the business, we’re still pursuing cutting-edge music and up-and-coming artists, as opposed to settling for ‘commercial’ sounds. By no means are we excluding any established musicians or labels; we are always committed to high-quality underground music.”
Balance was first conceived in 1996 by then Florida-based DJs Jimmy Van M and Chris Fortier. Van M would forge the Balance namesake into one of North America’s premier booking agencies, while Fortier concentrated on make the pool deep and wide.
However, even after a decade, Galvan says some things haven’t changed for Balance.
“At that time (when Balance began), there was no support from mainstream radio or press promoting underground dance music (in America) like there is on most of the globe – and there still isn’t.”
Balance, however, found itself a niche. Soliciting labels to send them promotional copies of their latest releases, Balance in turn put those releases in the hands of North America’s best DJs, industry tastemakers. Not only could a big record for a Balance pool DJ in turn mean big dividends for a label, Galvan says the pool also provided a bridge between the artists, creators of the music and the general public.
However, some things have indeed changed for Balance, most notably this year’s departure of Fortier from pool operations leaving Galvan as its sole director; “Chris’s career as a DJ and musician has taken off to such heights that he simply can’t put in the time and dedication he previously did,” Galvan says. “It’s been a great thing to have done this,” says Fortier of passing along Balance’s reins. “I’ve been busy with my own studio work – I’ve finished quite a bit of new music and have a new EP coming out soon. Cutting some things out has been a tremendous weight off my shoulders. I’m very happy and content with where I’m at in my life now.”
It’s been since moving to New York that Fortier’s career has most taken off. This past year, he released what he says is his most complete piece of music: the Balance 007 mix compilation out on Australia’s EQ Grey label. The critics agreed...
Emerging as one of America’s most popular DJs behind longstanding labels, Fade Records, Fortier’s reputation is profound. As such, Galvan says he knows he has big shoes to fill.
“I feel a great responsibility and honour in Chris giving me the steering wheel of the pool which has been not only his creation, but also his baby – there would be no Balance Record Pool had he not come up with the concept and energy to make it happen,” Galvan comments. “Chris still provides advice on many levels – as a personal friend as well as a mentor – and he remains a member of the pool.”
Villo never sought to run the pool, however. In fact, when he first met Fortier, he didn’t even know about it. “I walked into the Balance office one day, without knowledge of what the Balance Record Pool was about,” Galvan recalls. “I nagged Chris to the point where he let me archive reactions to labels. After that, Chris and I forged a friendship based not only on similar musical tastes, but on the way we perceived life and what we expected of ourselves as DJs and musicians.” What pool members could have once expected from Balance was a box of the best new vinyl. Nowadays, with the dance world’s technological advancements, Galvan says the complexion of the shipments has changed somewhat.
“Vinyl is still the preferred format for most Balance Record Pool DJs; you can still perceive a difference when you’re playing records and switch to CDs, no matter how good the sound system is. CDs have been played by DJs since they first came out as maxi singles in 1991. The main reason CDs are more popular now is not the format itself, but that professional CD players – with better analog-digital converters – are available in clubs.
“Even though CDs are more comfortable to travel with, and provide an advantage to promotional means, DJs who are infatuated with their craft still are and always will be partial to vinyl.”
While he concedes the onset and advent of digital media has made the music industry more prone to piracy, he says the dance industry has always contended with it in one or another anyway.
“Piracy has always been a big thing in our niche, from bootleg tapes to bootleg CDs and vinyl. Sometimes artists take the fact that they’re being bootlegged as a compliment more than an offence, as it shows their services are in such high demand that people are willing to take the time and money to illegally reproduce their music.”
Since Balance’s inception, more than 1,000 labels have released music through the pool. Of course, an ebb and flow has seen some labels go under but Galvan says blaming piracy alone is shortsighted, contending adaptation is the bottom line:
“Records were originally produced as promotional media in order to get more gigs for the recording artists. Later, the records began to create revenue by themselves. Labels, like any business, know marketing is the key to pursue sales. If you don’t let your market know your product is available, and where it’s available, you won’t move any product.”
Helping inspire interest are the Balance DJs themselves. For the kids going mental on the latest record DJs like the legendary Danny Tenaglia might be playing, chances are he got it through Balance.
When he isn’t surrounded by cardboard and packing tape, Galvan is busy establishing a following of his own – be it through his own productions (check out his Purple Star Records imprint) or by DJing, both in clubs and on the air hosting the Balance Record Pool Show. “The Balance Record Pool Show began online, with Protonradio.com as the platform, to further promote the best of the records we were receiving through the pool,” Galvan says. “When we first started, we had an audience of 120 to 150 hits. Since then, we’ve grown to an average 700 to 900 hits, weekly.
“After a highly successful event during Miami’s 2004 Winter Music Conference, with Sean Q6, Chris Fortier and myself on the tables, in collaboration with our current partners – Thump-Radio – we hit over one million listeners! We then began a monthly appearance on satellite radio (XM ch80 - The Move).”
Not unlike the pool, Villo says the show is about fresh and new music, mandated to provide listeners with material that is “up front and cutting edge, without any bullshit attitude or pretensions. We believe good music comes in all genres and styles,” he says. “We welcome all varieties of underground music that are available to the public. We don’t want to be pigeonholed in a just ‘this’ or ‘that’ fashion. We’re always looking for quality music In doing so, we’ve had many different artists and labels in the charts of our pool’s DJs. We like to challenge the perception some may have of what we’re about. If you look at the past charts (on our website) you’ll find the variety of music we’ve promoted throughout the years.”
Galvan’s good fortune to direct Balance definitely isn’t lost on him. But he stresses that whatever he’s gotten out of the dance industry has entailed investing back into it.
“I actually listen to and purchase tons of material that doesn’t come through the pool. I like to work in and for the music I’m passionate about, the opportunity that’s been given to me has never been taken lightly and is a constant challenge. I don’t think anyone involved in the Balance team thinks we are the ultimate say in the business, or that we are ‘the shit.’
“We’re just trying to convert as many people as we can to our Saturday-night-based religion. Every single one counts, and we’re happy to enable new sounds, new artists and new fans to come together through what we have to offer.”
What the DJs have to say:
Deepsky (Jason Blum)www.myspace.com/deepskymusic
“Being part of the Balance Record Pool is a great way to supplement the tunes I pick up from producers, labels and record shops. I’m out of town a lot and often don’t have time to visit traditional record stores as much as I’d like; the pool keeps a steady stream of tunes coming straight to my door throughout the month, and gets them to me at the same time or sooner than retail shops. I like how the pool represents music from a wide variety of genres in the dance scene. It’s a big grab bag of stuff – I’ve found myself playing music I never would have picked up in the store.
J. Scott G www.myspace.com/deepskymusic
“Record pools like Balance are a great way to pick up promo tunes without having to scour local shops or the Internet to pick up the latest music. DJs can count on stacks of new records to choose from each month, and labels get the benefit of professionals test-driving their new music before committing to large scale runs on vinyl or CD. The addition of MP3 and WAV downloads directly from the Balance website makes it a breeze to download music in the hotel, burn it to CD, and try it on the dance floor that night. It’s a win-win situation for DJs and labels alike.”
“The pool delivers up front quality music. There’s a good variety of styles which works well for my shows on XM80, Thump Radio, KBIG FM in LA, and Proton Radio. Everything from downtempo to house, to progressive, trance, and Techno. It's very cost effective for the DJs in the pool and allows the record companies to get early reactions to their releases.”
Spesh – Jondi & Spesh www.looq.com
“One of the coolest things about being a member of the Balance Record Pool in particular is knowing you’re one of 40 DJs across the country that are deemed right for membership. In addition to being selective about their DJs, the pool also has a focus around edgier forms of dance music like tech house, breaks, progressive and so forth. It’s a potent combination that makes the pool’s chart something to watch, and being a member of the pool somewhat of a cause and something to be proud of. “Record pools are particularly good for the industry in a number of ways. For the labels, it’s a great way to promo a record without filling so many mailers and spending so much on postage.
It’s also a good way for labels to get feedback on releases
without having to collate individual responses. For the industry at large, I think pools serve to get fresh sounds out into the clubs. Next to radio, it’s probably the best way to give the music the exposure it needs.”
Paranoid Jack www.paranoidjack.com
“I'm honoured to be part of such a prestigious roster. I'm also very impressed by the amount of European and U.K. imports the Balance Pool services for a North American-based record pool. That combined with large number of promos and the quality of the labels onboard make it by far the best record pool to be a member of. “Especially in this day and age, record sales need all the promotional help they can get. Feedback and charting from big DJs plays a more crucial role than ever, especially to the smaller and newer independent dance labels looking to make their mark. Balance in particular carries a lot of weight because of their history and the members involved, so charting highly with them makes an instant impression and builds some good hype for any release.”
Oscar G (Murk) www.murkrecords.com
“Balance has managed to stick to their guns for a decade now,maintaining a tight and impressive roster. Their ability to choose quality over quantity keeps them a relevant source for labels to promote their music.”
|The Balance Record Pool DJs are:|
|D:Fuse - Austin, TX (Website)
Deepsky - Los Angeles, CA (Website)
Deko-ze - Toronto, ON (Website)
Deviant - Cleveland, OH (Website)
Andy Hughes (Website)
Boris MD (Departure) - Seal Beach, CA (Website)
Cary Chang - Calgary, AB (Website)
Chloe Harris - Seattle, WA (Website)
Chris Fortier - New York City, NY (Website)
Chris Reavey - Boston, MA (Website)
Danny Tenaglia - New York City, NY (Website)
Eli Wilkie - Boston, MA (Website)
Glenn Bennison - Columbus, OH (Website)
Groovefire - North Providence, RI (Website)
Ivano Bellini - Miami South Beach, FL (Website)
J-Punch (Hook The Captain) (Website)
Jevne Miller - Minneapolis, MN (Website)
Jimmy Van M. - New York City, NY (Website)
John Mack - Beech Grove, IN (Website)
Jon Cowan - Hollywood, FL (Website)
Jonathan Ojeda - Oakland, CA (Website)
|Kevin Shiu and Nicky Delgado - Vancouver, BC (Website)|
Mark Oliver - Toronto, ON (Website)
Mark Pappas - Philadelphia, PA
Matt Kling - Philladelphia, PA (Website)
Nate Manic - Chicago, IL (Website)
Oscar G - Miami, FL (Website)
Paranoid Jack - Toronto, ON (Website)
Rob Lemon (Website)
Robert Oleysyck - Las Vegas, NV (Website)
Ron Levy (Shylock) - Los Angeles, CA (Website)
Sandra Collins - Los Angeles, CA (Website)
Sean Carnahan - Houston, TX (Website)
Sean Cusick - New York City, NY (Website)
Spesh - San Francisco, CA (Website)
Sultan (Jiva) - Montreal, QC
Tigerhook Corporation (Website)
Tini Tun (Website)
Tony Estrada - Chicago, IL (Website)
Victor Dinaire - San Diego, CA (Website)
Villo - Orlando, FL (Website)