Chris Rizik: SoulTracks turns 10 - A Decade of Discoveries

On May 24, 2003, at 11:00 p.m., I sat in my kitchen with my eleven year old son, staring at my wife’s computer and wondering what I was about to get into.  I had been thinking for a few months about creating a website dedicated to Soul Music and its “unsung” heroes, the talented artists who had made brilliant music but were getting the cold shoulder from radio and the major media.  I spent the next few hours reading an instruction manual on how to build a website and by 2:00 a.m. I had created a single web page that had to be one of the ugliest ever made. But SoulTracks.com was born.

On May 24, 2003, at 11:00 p.m., I sat in my kitchen with my eleven year old son, staring at my wife’s computer and wondering what I was about to get into.  I had been thinking for a few months about creating a website dedicated to Soul Music and its “unsung” heroes, the talented artists who had made brilliant music but were getting the cold shoulder from radio and the major media.  I spent the next few hours reading an instruction manual on how to build a website and by 2:00 a.m. I had created a single web page that had to be one of the ugliest ever made. But SoulTracks.com was born.

Over the next ten years, SoulTracks developed in ways I could never have imagined. What began as a site that featured biographies of classic Soul artists developed into a resource that included news, reviews and information of all kinds about Soul Music, the first awards dedicated exclusively to independent Soul and, always, provocative articles that questioned the status quo of popular music.  In 2003, few people beyond my family and friends visited SoulTracks. Now, in 2013, SoulTracks will be viewed over 3 million times by music lovers from well over 100 countries around the world.

What’s the biggest surprise I’ve experienced over the decade? It has been finding the depth of Soul Music talent that exists in virtually every city.  While the 60s-80s were halcyon days for Soul, when it dominated the radio, the SoulTracks era has been one where Soul has largely been ignored by broadcast radio; but, like water, Soul Music has flowed through the cracks created by internet radio, social media, and websites like ours, ultimately reaching its audience.  Those cracks have allowed us to discover and write about immensely talented artists creating brilliant music. Some are stars of yesteryear who are still going strong without the support of corporate America. More are talented singers, musicians and songwriters who have been making it on their own from the beginning, without the benefit of deep pockets and major media.

I also found an entire underground of music professionals who have kept the genre alive and thriving in new ways. Upstarts who formed new independent record labels and courageous dissenters at major labels who have fought for Soul against dysfunctional corporate cultures; radio entrepreneurs, publicists, managers, concert promoters and so many more, all reinventing themselves and the landscape because they love the music. I have also had the great pleasure to work with smart web people (thanks Jeff) and a group of talented, knowledgeable writers (you can read more about them here) who are passionate about their music and are committed to providing opinionated, intelligent views and reviews to our audience.

During this period I also discovered (again) how blessed I am to be able to do what I do, with an incredible support network behind me. To my four kids, all of whom spent their teen years working for SoulTracks and listening to hundreds of albums playing in the house at night and on every family vacation, thanks for putting up with me. And to Colette, who told me ten years ago that I “had to” create SoulTracks to scratch an itch in me, and who has given consistent support to this crazy idea even as she watched me in front of the glow of my laptop on nights and weekends, yours is a love truer than any I could have imagined, and 27 years together is just the beginning.

But probably my biggest discovery over these years has been the thousands and thousands of SoulTrackers I’ve met in person and online.  People for whom music is more than something that plays in the background while they live their life; it is an essential part of their life, something in their DNA. People who get it when we talk about the emotional impact of that song; those for whom memories of love, of family and of life events are all associated with the music that surrounded them. They – you – are the ones who have made the past 10 years the biggest joy. You’ve celebrated with us the arrival of a brilliant new talent and have mourned with us the loss of a great artist to death. You’ve applauded us, scolded us, cajoled us; but you’ve always come back and made me feel like I have friends in every town in the world.  Thanks for the past ten years. We’re looking forward to the next ten with you.

By Chris Rizik

 

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SoulTracks Choice Cut - Toni Redd - "Underneath My Skin"
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Pre-order now! - Norman Brown - Let It Go

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