As an eyewitness to the evolution of electronic dance music, John Tasch, known to the Midwest EDM scene as Jack Trash, has over two decades of experience in the music industry under his belt. With no plans of slowing down, Jack Trash has and continues to play numerous roles working in this rigorous, fast-paced industry we call the music business. Even more imperative is the vast amount of impact he’s had on this thriving electronic dance music community.
He is the EDM talent buyer for Pollstar’s nominated Best New Concert Venue, The Armory, since the venue first opened in downtown Minneapolis, MN in 2017. He is also the founder of EDM event production company, Sound in Motion also known as SIMshows, which is known for their affiliation with Summer Set Music Festival and their major contribution to the growth of the EDM scene throughout the Midwest. Since 2001, SIMshows has been actively bringing in EDM acts to the Twin Cities who are booked at various venues such as The Armory, First Avenue & 7th St. Entry, Myth Night Club, and Rev Ultra Lounge.
I first got to know Jack Trash when I was hired on to SIMshows’ street team in 2014. As a street team member, basic promotional tactics included passing out flyers before and after concerts, taking tickets at the door of a show, putting wristbands on concert attendees, promoting our shows via word of mouth, as well as on all major social media platforms. There’s nothing I reveled in more than riding my moped up to Jack Trash’s house on a cloudless, sun-drenched summer afternoon to pick up a stack of concert flyers. My collection would lead to a five-hour cruise around town to post flyers on any light pole or bulletin board I could find, whether that be at local restaurants, community centers, or any coffee shops within a 20 mile radius.
It wasn’t until I began writing press releases for SIMshows that I realized my work had become much more than just a job. It had become a catalyst that ignited and inspired a direction in my career path I’d never in a million years imagine taking. The most valuable lesson I learned while promoting SIMshows is how vital it is to work for a company that shows beneficence. SIMshows always remained commercially minded while genuinely caring about their employees, the music, but more importantly the fans. As an advocate for the entire EDM scene within the Midwest, Jack Trash’s achievements and passion for music are made very apparent and applauded by many. After years of anticipating a chance to interview him and showcase his industrious efforts, I was given the opportunity to dive into an in-depth interview with the music mogul.
From a behind the scenes perspective, Jack Trash provides insight into the inner workings of our favorite shows from concept to creation. He sheds light on the often unforeseen variables you should take into consideration while establishing yourself as an artist or industry professional in the music business. Since he’s been voted #1 DJ in Minneapolis, Jack Trash also DJs under the alias JT&T alongside his girlfriend and accomplished saxophonist, Tyler Alix. While he plays music at night, he’s teaching elementary school by day. Also, as a father around the clock, he continues to make time to play his part as a pioneer and, to this day, a considerable contributor to the epoch of the expanding and ever-evolving electronic dance music scene within the Midwest.
What first inspired you to become a promoter for the electronic dance music industry?
I love music. Music has been a part of my life since I was a little child. I grew up a classically trained musician and after I started DJing in college, I never looked back. I fell in love with the music and being involved with it, and this passion continues to push and motivate me moving forward. Finding that new artist, that amazing song, witnessing a passionate performance- there are so many inspiring moments with music. I am thankful that people continue to support my love and passion for this music.
You’ve significantly contributed to the growth of the EDM scene in the Midwest in a major way. What two important lessons have you learned when it comes to the EDM industry?
One important lesson I have learned through the years is to trust your gut. Sometimes my decisions have been tainted by misplaced passions, instead of solid business choices. My gut has pretty much always been the wise one. I simply do not always want to follow it. I historically have wanted to follow my passion and love for music, which has gotten me in financial trouble through the years. I wish this was not the case, but passion for music is not necessarily what keeps a business alive. A promoter needs to be able to sell tickets or drive revenue streams somehow, and if there is not something to drive this then the event is not successful.
Another key lesson I have learned through the years is to engage with like-minded and musically passionate people. Learn to trust people and value what they say and believe. I believe in the power of partnership and teamwork, well above what I bring to the table as an individual.
What motivated you to start SIMshows?
SIMshows grew from a previous company. I worked for years as a partner in a company called Mile High, with two other partners. Differences with one of these partners motivated me to break Mile High apart. Two of the three partners re-joined to form SIMshows. Nothing changed much, as the two of use had parallel visions and dreams with the music events and what we were doing, and we were the ones doing the majority of the stuff with the old company. The old company started as one thing, and simply changed through the years into something different.
SIMshows really started as a result of these changes and adaptations. A few years into SIMshows my partner (Rich Best - LOVE THIS DUDE) moved to LA for a big Live Nation promotion, where he resides and continues to kick butt in the music community.
To view more photos taken by Strykerfoto, click the images above.
What is the biggest myth people believe when it comes to starting a business in the music industry?
I think the biggest myth people believe when it comes to starting a business in the music industry is that money will be flowing freely. I honestly know very few people/companies in which this is the case. There are the obvious Live Nations of the country, but on a smaller level it can simply be so difficult to stay in business. There are so many people/promoters/companies that pour their heart, soul, and finances into events, and stay alive through passion alone.
Many people think money flows freely through events SIM hosts, yet if they knew many of the realities they might be shocked. I have my teaching job salary to keep my lifestyle moving and living. The success (or lack of) with SIM really determines how much money I can set aside for my son’s college fund and whether or not I get a sweet vacation. If I did not have my teaching job, there is no way I would be able to continue with SIM, as the money simply has never consistently been there. I am SUPER LUCKY that I have been able to stay in business in the music industry as a small company for 25+ years, and I am thankful to have the support to be able to stick to my values and dreams as a music promoter.
What can we expect from SIMshows over the next year?
SIMshows has always put pride and focus into booking diverse EDM acts and events. We love when our calendar is filled with tech-house, trance, bass music, all kinds of subgenres of EDM. The passion and energy is so different between these different kinds of ways, and yet similar as well. People get down to different music in different ways, but at the end of the day they are still cherishing and enjoying the music. We will continue to focus on bringing diverse dance music to the Twin Cities.
What’s been your favorite EDM show you’ve worked so far? Why?
Picking a favorite show or event over my many years as a promoter & dj is practically impossible. I have been putting on events since 1990, and there have been so many events through these years that have been memorable. I have continued to promote/produce events through these years because the events are magical in such diverse ways.
I truly believe that every event contains magic in some way; it just depends on what you are into and how you perceive things. In general, my favorite time of events is usually after the box office closes, the event is running on it’s own. I can wander through the venue, vibe with the crowd and just enjoy the music.
What inspired you to start Summer Set Music Festival?
I always wanted to be a part of a more diverse, multi-stage festival experience. The idea of having options for fans to explore, whether musically or creatively, has always been an interest. From personal experience, I enjoy the diverse musical festival experience immensely. Floating from stage to stage experiencing different vibes and music is so much fun.
To view the press release written by Alexa Gerard to promote Summer Set Music Festival in 2016, click the image above.
To view more photos taken by Strykerfoto, click the images above.
What are the biggest factors someone should take into consideration when debating if they should launch their own music festival or not?
Supply and demand is such an obvious answer, but even more when considering the time and money needed to produce a music festival vs. a one-off musical event. The risks and rewards are greater with a festival, so making/breaking it just involves so much more. The time commitment is also very significant, although this is relative to the general size of the festival you are involved with and what your role is.
The Armory has provided SIMshows with a major platform to host EDM concerts since selling out the 8,400 capacity persons venue’s first show featuring Seven Lions, Tritonal, and Kill the Noise. How has The Armory benefited from providing a stage for SIMshows and vice versa?
The Armory has been a grace to the Twin Cities music community. For years a mid-level venue like this has been lacking, and The Armory provides a well thought-out, well designed opportunity for events in the 3000-8000 range. The primary owner of The Armory put so much into this venue, had so many discussions with so many players in the community, the result is this uncanny venue. It is an honor to have SIMshows involved in the level that we are.
We hosted the very first music event in the venue, and the second was NYE with Above & Beyond. What a magical piece of music history in our community, and I am so thankful to have been a part of it. The Armory give us the platform to engage dance/EDM events on a completely different scale in the Twin Cities. Artists like Deadmau5, who simply did not have a viable venue to perform at, are now able to plan tours including the Twin Cities. Multi-headliner tours or concepts that draw in this larger attendance range have a place at The Armory, which opens up new creative options and avenues.
To view more photos taken by Strykerfoto, click the images above.
What goes into putting on an EDM show at The Armory from concept to creation?
Hosting, promoting, producing an EDM show at The Armory is almost like a 1-day festival. The amount of staffing, production, planning, marketing, it is simply so much more than smaller scale events. The financial investment is also significantly more than smaller scale events. It seems like many general fans think we can just flip a switch and open the Armory. It is so much more complicated and expensive than this.
How do you pick who gets booked for gigs as far as local and national acts go? Are you looking for anything specific?
Booking artists requires being able to look at a balance between passion and business. A business needs to make money to stay in business, at the same time paying bills and taking care of employees. This has never been easy in the SIMshows world. Over the years profit margins have never been what any good business would continue on with, but my teaching job allows me to be flexible with what SIM makes over the course of the year. I do not need to sustain my life, my family’s life, etc… with the music industry.
This gives me tremendous flexibility with who we look at for booking.
There are obvious bookings we target, those acts that we know will do well. There is another mid-tier of acts that usually does well, but ya never know. Then there is a tier of smaller acts that is generally more risky. Many of these smaller/newer acts are great producers and/or DJs, but they are also much more risky when it comes to paying the bills for an event. We try to balance these three tiers as much as possible, while staying in business.
As far as the local level, we try to book a range of artists that have been around as well as newer entries into the music community. Local talent deserves the opportunity to showcase what they have. We do also need to recognize that we need to sell tickets, and we do consider what an act will do to promote the event. We believe that if we give them a platform to showcase their talents they should put forth effort promoting this event.
What is an immediate turn-off or a hard “no” when filtering out whom to book?
The biggest immediate turn-off when filtering artists for booking, to me, is social media posts that are racist, homophobic, sexist, or overtly negative. There are so many talented artists out there that want to perform, it is easy for me to say I do not want SIMshows supporting bigotry. There was a very well-known headliner years and years back that did some things I really disagree with, and I have stayed away from this act as a matter of values and principal.
What three tips of advice do you have for DJs and producers who are looking to improve themselves while trying to come up in the music industry?
My advice to up-and-coming producers and DJs would be to stay focused and passionate about the music you love, yet be willing to balance this with the demands of the scene. It also depends on what the end-game goal is. If they want to earn a living then they need to play the game a bit, which can sometimes mean bending passion towards what people want and willing to pay for.
Be respectful with the people you are trying to impress and please. This may seem like such an obvious one, but you would be amazing at some of the things people say and do, even post publicly, and then they turn around and want a DJ slot or to get involved somehow. It really is a small world, and the people involved in music communities tend to know each other. 6 degrees of separation is really a thing, but in the music community it is more like 2-3 degrees of separation.
Which artists have you especially enjoyed working with while booking and promoting EDM shows? What specifically has made them stand out?
So many of the artists we have worked with over the years have incredible passion for music. This is what makes it a pleasure to work with them, and makes me want to work even harder for them. If has been fun watching some of the artists age, yet still engage with the music in such passionate ways. It is also fun watching new artists learn and grow within the music community, and bring different kinds of passion into the game. I also love the diversity of the music. The creativity and growth just keeps moving in different directions, limited only by the minds of the producers and performers.
How do you effectively manage your time?
I am also a 5th grade school teacher by day, and combining this with my music work (and being a father and boyfriend) keeps me more than occupied. I love music and kids, so I basically work all the time. I am typing up the answers to this while at a staff development training for my teaching job. I do music business during my lunch break. I was entering report cards while DJing last weekend. I basically work all the time, and use any moment I can to get something done. Task and time management might be the most important skills I have. I also work out daily, as this resets my day and helps me continue being efficient with tasks.
The rave scene has transitioned from a word-of-mouth culture to now existing in a world living in social media. How has this affected the electronic dance music scene?
The EDM music scene is alive and thriving largely due to the shift into social media and information accessibility, in my opinion. In the 90’s people found out about the music through word-of-mouth, flyer, posters, etc… Now anything related to music is a simply click or tag away. The ability to promote anything has completely changed with social media. This is very empowering to anyone involved with something they are passionate about. Producers can get their music out there, DJs push themselves, promoters spread the word on their event(s), etc People are also free to explore from the safety of their phone/laptop/tablet, so there is exposure at levels I have just never seen. As a promoter, I love having the tools to help push and grow the scene in such efficient ways.
Where do you see the electronic dance music scene 10 years from now? Do you think it will be more or less relevant than it is today in the music industry? Why?
Electronic dance music has become a central part of our music society. In the 1990’s there were so many people that tried to push it off as a “fad.” That sure has been proven wrong. Electronic dance music and it's culture is everywhere in our society. It blares at house parties, grooves in cars, pushes us at the gym, keeps us moving on the dance floor, entertains us on weekend excursions, soundtracks our workday, etc… This is no fad, this is music. Where this music lands 10 years from now is not something I really think about. It has shown a power to grow and adapt, and I think it will continue to do so. There will always be music events where people join together to enjoy the music in various ways, and I see this as continuing to grow and adapt.