Vinyl for a Cause pairs local artists, gives back

Charlie Greengoss and Adam Victorn grew up listening to local artists play in Chicago venues.

No matter the day of the week, the duo would hop on a train or in a car and go see shows — a habit that molded them for their future venture into the music industry.

The Wilmette natives, now 27 years old, are the founders of Vinyl for a Cause, a record label startup that hinges on connecting artists and charitable giving.

They are prepping to launch an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign in mid-May or early June that will help put out the label’s first three records. The 7-inch vinyl records will feature local artists covering one another, an idea that was spurred about two years ago by a YouTube video Greengoss and Victorn watched together of one of their favorite bands, Brand New.

Jesse Lacey, the lead singer, came on and said he was about to cover ‘Trailer Trash’ by Modest Mouse and what an honor it is to cover this song,” Victorn said. “It really got us thinking how much musicians really respect each other, and you don’t really get to see a lot of that.

At the time, Greengoss worked in marketing and advertising and Victorn worked in sports management. Both did not shy away from the idea of doing something that incorporated their passion for music, so they began to build a business model off the idea of letting artists cover one another.

They decided to donate half of the proceeds from record and merchandise sales to charities of the artists’ choice. The first round of proceeds will be donated to VH1 Save The Music Foundation, which supports music education programs across the country.

Their first release will feature three different groups of artists, all of whom have roots in Chicago. The Heard, a brass-infused funk group, is paired with IndigoSun, an eclectic mix of electronic, dance and soul. Railway Gamblers, a cross between folk rock and alternative country, is matched up with The Leadfoot Band, which got its start in bluegrass. Jesse W. Johnson, a rock with a touch of country artist, plays alongside Coed Pageant, an indie-folk duo. 

Vinyl for a Cause is receiving pro bono legal services from Daliah Saper through Lawyers for the Creative Arts. 

Artists are recorded at Treehouse Records in northwest Chicago. Greengoss and Victorn said they’ve enjoyed working with a range of bands and seeing different styles in action. 

Victorn recalled letting one of the bands hear the recording of the cover of one of their songs and watching their facial expressions, which he called “priceless.”

For a lot of these bands, it’s the first time they’re getting covered by anyone,” he said. “It means a lot to them.

Each record will be released online in a single batch of 500. Greengoss and Victorn hope to also partner with local records stores.

Their success depends on tapping in to vinyl listeners, who may be becoming less of a niche market. According to Nielsen, 2015 marked the 10th straight year of vinyl sales growth, with sales up 30 percent from 2014. Vinyl accounted for 9 percent of physical album sales in 2015.

“There’s always going to be that interest in kind of getting physical with the music and having that artwork in front of you and being able to listen to an album from the beginning to the end,” said Greengoss, who graduated from North Shore Country Day School. 

Greengoss and Victorn, a New Trier alumnus, said they grew up listening to their family members’ records, eventually accruing their own collections.

“It’s not perfection, like MP3 can be,” Victorn said of vinyl. “You hear the cracks and the creaks, and there’s something special to that.”

They also attribute their hometown’s proximity to Chicago to part of their success.

“We got to see a lot of great artists growing up in this area,” Victorn said. “It’s not every place that you get to go any day of the week to go see great music in the city, and we’re pretty blessed with that.”