Outside the Mainstream

Don Thrasher

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In an age where floundering major label executives sponsor high-priced think tanks on CD pricing structures and mount public campaigns decrying the evils of downloaded music, Chicago-based music entrepreneur Rich Seng has devised a revolutionary method for distributing his products. As unrealistic as it sounds, Seng has produced a string of free compilation CDs and a DVD collection available on his website www​.sen​g​broth​ers​.com. He funds his compilations by selling ads on the CD jacket.

Seng so far has produced a series of Windy City CDs and and collections of regional music. Recent projects include an indie rock compilation featuring acts such as The Shams, Baseball Furies, The Cells and Light FM, and Music of Ohio, featuring unsigned bands from Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Toledo. While most of Seng’s musical projects have concentrated on rock bands, he plans to release his first all-rap album in March.

I’m working on Music of California and I did Music of Texas a while ago,” says Seng. I’m planning on doing the same thing in Indiana and Michigan. I’m trying to build an underground media network of free CDs and DVDs. That’s my vision.”

Seng’s first multimedia release, the 133-minute DVD Cherry Bomb, was released in late September and contains experimental shorts, music videos, mini-documentaries, comedic sketches and animation by Chicago-based filmmakers. The content of the films ranges from the silly (Doug Lussenhop’s Ice Cold Homies”) to the poignant (“Algren’s Last Night” by Warren Leming and Carmine Cervi), and the work ranges in length from less than a minute (the experimental Inflation” by Casandra Voltolina) to more than 10 minutes (Nathan Pommer’s surrealistic sci-fi comedy P‑13”). Cherry Bomb also offers such interactive extras as a splash screen with artist bios, contact information, Web site hyperlinks and more.

Seng’s free CD and DVD concept is a cost-effective way to get the work of talented and under-funded underground bands and filmmakers into the hands of consumers looking for entertainment outside the mainstream.
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Don Thrasher, a former member of Guided By Voices, is a writer and musician based in Dayton, Ohio.
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