(Original Photo By: Jason “Oh Dag Yo” Fenmore)
For those of you who listen to electronic music, then you are most likely familiar with a label called Dirtybird. The event “Dirtybird BBQ” probably comes to mind or artists such as Claude VonStroke, Justin Martin, or Shiba San. Dirtybird has been around for well over 10 years, but only recently has it acquired an astronomical amount of fans. Some might say that Dirtybird’s recent success is only a result of house music circulating back into our culture, but honestly Dirtybird is at the forefront of this movement and takeover.
So who are the brains behind this brand? While VonStroke founded the label and does a lot of the A&R, label manager Stacey Gamble has also played a key role the past 1.5-2 years. A female label manager? That’s not exactly the norm in this industry, right? Correct. However, going against the status quo is not something new for Gamble.
I guess you could say that as a youngster Stacey had her fair share of rebellion. Growing up primarily in the suburbs of Detroit, she was just a teenager and started attending a lot of underground parties. This is where she developed a real love for electronic music, specifically Detroit Techno and house. Living less than an hour away from Detroit, Stacey had access to some of the biggest Techno artists, abandoned warehouses, record stores, and recording studios. The late nights and independence that came with this lifestyle were just what the doctor ordered for the sprightly lady and it yielded an alternative sense of purpose.
While going to these underground raves was not uncommon in her area, it was obviously frowned upon by popular media. She recalls parties getting busted and shut down, people getting arrested, but this still didn’t stop her. Why? Because when you love something, you won’t take no for an answer. In fact, when she was a senior in high school she realized it was time to start an event production company and subsequently a Detroit Techno label. The label was called Fusion Technology Records (FTR). She brought some of the biggest names in Techno to her events. Her first party included headliners, Kevin Saunderson and Robert Hood. Of course, Stacey was not the only one with the good sense to take it upon herself to organize quality events for the enjoyment of her friends. This coincidence sometimes served as a fuel to the fire that burned under opposing show organizers. At such a young age, it’s difficult for people to give you a chance, but she continued to work hard to prove her worth. She learned very quickly to never take no for an answer.
High School did its part to serve as a time where she could discover the things that mean the most to her. It welcomed her most trustworthy business partner and present husband as well as further expanded her interest in music, but electronic music was still in a state of growth. Shortly after graduation came, many friends took the path of relocating abroad in places like New York and Berlin; a tempting idea to any freshly liberated graduate, but Stacey found the question, “Why would I leave?” in the driver’s seat of her future. Feeling as though she had a good thing going in her hometown, she opted to continue her education at Wayne State University in Detroit with a focus on marketing. Following college, Stacey opted to take a stab at finding a “real job” in advertising, but never abandoned her hopes of finding a place in the music industry. The location of Detroit, of course, offered a bevy of options in the automotive industry, but the beat of said drum didn’t seem to be something she could move to. Despite a rapid climbing of the ranks with big client names like Chrysler and Lincoln, the desk life could not quench the thirst of a natural event planner. With her ambition gauge showing a full tank, it was time to hit the road toward the life she had wanted all along.
Enter the more aptly titled recording studio owner, Mrs. Stacey Gamble. Alongside a few other Detroit affiliates, the group was able to establish a quality studio that would come to be of use by rap and hip-hop dons like Pharaohe Monch, Rick Ross, Jay Electronica, Slaughterhouse, Dwelle, Black Milk, Slim the Mobster, and more. The studio had a significant amount of backing from the local Detroit community. Everything had come full circle. It had all led up to this point where she found herself thriving in the world of music, but when you get comfortable the universe sometimes feels a need to throw us a curveball. After a falling out with a business partner, Stacey realized it was time to start the next chapter in her life. As many music industry professionals eventually do, Stacey packed up her bags in 2012 and drove cross-country to what is known as the “mecca” of the music industry – Los Angeles, California.
Upon arrival, it became apparent that she could not change what had happened in the past, but could only move forward. Stacey had paid more than her share of dues and her stripes did not go unnoticed in the jungle-like atmosphere of California’s entertainment scene. Soon after arriving in LA however, she decided to move up north to San Francisco. At the time she was working for Om Records (doing sales), which is home to releases from world-renowned acts like Groove Armada, Body Language, Mark Farina, and Bassnectar. She then found herself with an opportunity to work with Dirtybird and the time to spread her wings had come. After only six months of working with Dirtybird, she was asked to become the Label Manager and soon after, moved back to LA. She has wielded the title of Label Manager for 1.5 years with much aplomb despite anyone who may have doubted her abilities.
As most of us know, in recent years electronic music has taken the world by storm. Even though niche genres such as trance, house, and hardstyle have been popular for years in specific areas around the world, electronic music as a whole has recently experienced a massive takeover. Since hundreds of thousands have now discovered “EDM” and festivals, a lot of these people are now looking for something new. We humans get bored easily and are constantly looking for new adventures. The popularity of Disclosure and other deep house sounds have expedited the path for electronic music fans to find new music. This is also where Dirtybird steps in.
While the music is front and center for the label, Dirtybird has created a slew of intimate, alternative events called the “Dirtybird BBQ.” Yes, this is an actual barbeque tied in with an opportunity to groove to some of Dirtybird’s prestigious talent. In addition, the label now curates its own stage at certain festivals. There are many people who come to this stage all day and do not leave. Like Gamble’s personal life, she has ensured that the label continues to NOT follow trends. They don’t sit around trying to find the “next” big sound – every artist on the label just makes the music he/she wants and Claude VonStroke only signs music that he wants to release. If you try to follow trends, you’ll be late because it will be over before you know it. Keep things fresh. That has been the secret to Gamble’s success, along with the label’s. Surprisingly, people have now begun to distinguish house music from EDM. Who knows, maybe we will continue to see some additional interest with underground genres as people start to realize that EDM is now just an extension of pop music.
Gamble is not only a spokesperson for underground music and going against the grain, but for females in this industry as well. She is typically very outspoken and hopes that she can inspire other young women to follow their dreams and do what they want to do but according to Stacey, “It won’t happen without a lot of hard work and dedication.” You have to expect that. Be overly prepared and ready to change gears at any moment’s notice.
You need to make your own path. You shouldn’t care what other people think about you. Sure, it is important to be professional, but your view of professionalism could be completely different from someone else. She says, “Once you step out of that, you can really begin to enjoy yourself. YOU need to define what professional means to YOU and the people around you, rather than following a perceived notion of what others deem as ‘professional.’” You have to do what you love and follow your passion. For Stacey, the negative experiences that have occurred throughout her life have transformed into something positive. A lot of that has to do with the fact that when there is something going for her, she finds the best way to make it happen and works relentlessly until it does. Once you get one thing accomplished, it’s easier to get the next thing done. You’ll have setbacks and mistakes of course, but those will only help you if you can learn from them and persevere. If you do the work and follow your heart, you will get much further…respect then comes with that. In an industry dominated by men, it would have been easy to back down, but Stacey stuck to what she believed. So, men and women alike…don’t hesitate to gamble with your dreams. You never know. You may find yourself flying with the birds.
Feel free to follow Stacey on Twitter – @staceygamble
**Kiera Miller contributed in parts to this Aspire to Inspire episode.**