Performing music can be an incredibly gratifying and personally affecting skill, and being part of a band is quite similar to being part of a business. Today, we had the opportunity to talk to someone working at the intersection of music and business. Angelie Benn started her own business with her partners in the world of music, but in a different way: promoting music and artists. Benn is the founder of Capitol Sound DC, a woman-led blog based here in D.C.
ABERMAN: Very entrepreneurial, starting a business from scratch. Tell me, how did you decide to start a business promoting music here in D.C.?
BENN: Well, it started when I was in high school. I was about seventeen years old, I was obsessed with One Direction, I had just got done following them around the East Coast on tour. I was in my high school class, and I said, hey, I have a lot of time here, I need to be going to concerts for free, since I pay for them so much. I’d spent maybe between 500 and 1,000 dollars that summer. My mom was like, this is enough, you need to figure it out. So, I figured it out! I made my blog, Capitol Sound DC. I was taking a high school yearbook class, and I wrote a post actually about my One Direction concert that I went to that summer. I wrote it in February, but it actually got a lot of traction, because I knew a lot of people from when I went around the East Coast.
Then I went to college; I had a break. I went to Made in the District, which is another music blog based out of D.C., and my mentor, Nicole Pinedo, she founded that site. She taught me everything I know, from editing to copy editing to how to run a show in the future, because she opened another installation in D.C. called The Future of Sports. I was stage manager, and when I was there, I started doing email outreach, to a whole bunch of brands in D.C.. I started doing even more outreach for artists in D.C., while I was there, I learned everything I needed to learn to take the next step with Capitol Sound. Then, I started booking shows. Actually, about a year ago now.
ABERMAN: There are a couple of things I love about this. I love the creativity of music, and I think it’s a really important thing for our town, and I think we’ll talk about that in a moment. I also love that, like just about every entrepreneur I know, you started a business almost by accident, by doing something you just like.
ABERMAN: Now, let’s talk about the D.C. music scene. Capitol Sound, this is a really great music town, I don’t know how many people realize it.
BENN: I agree, I don’t think enough people realize it, and I think that’s our point. I have a partner named Jenny Ryan, she does everything with me. Ever since I started working with her, actually, the blog went to new heights. She’s our managing editor. So, I was in school at the time when we first started, I’m growing a lot, so she helped me with everything. She was a big part of why I know half of the stuff I know in D.C., because whenever I couldn’t be on it, she’d be on it. She also lives in D.C., I live in Northern Virginia, so she’s definitely more immersed in D.C., so she definitely brings a side of D.C. that I had no idea about, probably the side that you see when you go to Capitol Sound.
ABERMAN: What makes the music scene here unique?
BENN: It’s so diverse! With the DIY scene specifically, which is what I know about, the underground scene, I first started getting inspiration to do DIY shows, specifically, when I saw Twin Peaks, which is a band from Chicago, and I was really, really obsessed with them. They’re kind of garage rock, punk rock. I started studying their scene very, very closely, and how they did their shows, how they operated, because—we have a young blog, our demographic is very young. So, a lot of the people that come to our shows, they can’t get into most of the shows they want to get into; they’re 18-plus, or 21-plus. So, we definitely have a mission to make sure all these places are open for younger kids. So, we have all-ages show,s or we have shows in homes.
ABERMAN: You’re really making music accessible to young people, in a positive way.
BENN: Yeah! To everyone, exactly.
ABERMAN: Not everybody listening—I’ll admit, I’m not sure I know, so I’ll just take the bullet—what’s a DIY show?
BENN: DIY means Do It Yourself.
ABERMAN: So, literally, it’s—I’m a musician, you’re a musician, we effectively say, let’s have a house party, let’s promote our event, let’s get everybody in, so we can share our artistic expression?
BENN: Exactly. I like to think that it originated from rent parties, which happened during the Harlem Renaissance in New York, back in the 1920s, where people had parties to raise money to pay rent on their homes, which is what a lot of musicians here still do now. I think that it bleeds over into that now, where people have more events, ore community fundraisers, or supporting someone going on tour, but it’s always about building the community.
I think that’s what makes it so unique—everything is based around the creative community here. So, if you’re having a show, you may see artists, you may see people hanging up their art for sale, or people live painting, or people selling clothes. It’s so different, because everything is so combined together. It works really well. I think that’s what makes it the most unique.
ABERMAN: And it really is the hidden fiber of what makes this an interesting and great place to live.
ABERMAN: It’s deep, and there’s a lot of it. I encourage everybody to check out Capitol Sound’s site, because it’s really interesting, the kind of acts you get. What’s next for you?
BENN: Next for Capitol Sound is definitely a summer show that we’re going to do, probably in the same vein as our typical shows, where we have an out-of-town, usually East Coast—New York, Philadelphia—headlining, that’s never been here, never headlined before. We get a few local acts from around here that no one really knows, they’re not on every lineup, so that makes it really special and unique. We get them to come to and open for them. That’s probably going to happen in June or July, we’re not too sure yet. But, within the next year, we want to open a Capitol Sound hub, or headquarters, where we have a studio, basement venue for DIY shows, and we can live upstairs.
ABERMAN: There you go! If you’re looking for a place to get an idea about what’s going on in the local music scene, maybe it’ll expose to you an act that you’re not following. It sounds to me like you’re a good place to learn about that.
BENN: I think so too!
ABERMAN: I wish you the best, Angelie, I think that you and your partners are up to some great stuff. I just wish I was thirty years younger and I was still doing it myself. I guess I kind of am, but, in the meantime, thanks for being part of the rich tapestry that makes this region so great to live in.