Just a few months ago, towards the end of 2018, music producer and guitarist Don Zimmer joined forces with creative entrepreneur Lizzie Hendrix to found Sun Valley Records, a collaborative music platform dedicated to fostering recording and performing artists in the greater Sun Valley area.
Noting the increasingly unbalanced revenue distribution brought about by digital streaming platforms, Zimmer and Hendrix hoped to create a more equitable resource for musicians, shifting the monetary balance and channeling more profits directly to the musicians, instead of segmenting funds among studios, producers, labels and countless other beneficiaries.
“The goal is to get rid of the tiers of old traditional music distribution paradigms and streamline it so more money goes to musicians,” Hendrix said.
The roots of that imbalance are widespread throughout the music industry, but Sun Valley Records hopes to bring about change by starting locally.
“There are so many talented musicians in the valley,” Hendrix said. “We help connect the dots between musicians, venues and audiences, without our own personal agendas.”
One of the company’s key initiatives to help musicians and audiences alike is its new Musician Fund, a donation-based financial reserve that benefits local nonprofits that support the musical arts.
Money from the fund can be used in many different ways to help promote music. For example, an area band could potentially tap into that fund to help alleviate the cost of renting a venue, which in turn could lower the price of admission, since ticket sales often help cover the rental fee, and therefore allow more people to attend. Increased affordability only advances an artist’s visibility.
In addition to the individual donations, a number of other events and partnerships contribute to the Musician Fund, including a signature beer from Sawtooth Brewery, from which 10 percent of the sales profits go directly to the fund.
Partly to bolster this charitable resource and partly to pay homage to a living legend, Sun Valley Records is mounting a concert by Grammy-winning folk singer-songwriter Ramblin’ Jack Elliott.
Elliott’s life is, in many ways, effortlessly summative of the folk music spirit. He left home at age 15, rebelling against his father’s wishes for him to become a surgeon. He enlisted with a rodeo, learned how to play the guitar from singing cowboy Brahmer Rogers and eventually joined up with Woody Guthrie.
Once he honed his own musicianship, and following Guthrie’s untimely death, he mentored a young Bob Dylan. Dylan is one of many accomplished musical forces—including Johnny Cash, Mick Jagger, Eric Clapton, Bruce Springsteen, Bonnie Raitt and The Grateful Dead—who have credited Ramblin’ Jack as a major influence. In addition to personal accolades and a Grammy, Elliott also received the National Medal of Arts from President Clinton.
Perhaps Johnny Cash put it best when, in a 1969 episode of “The Johnny Cash Show,” the Man in Black described his fellow musician, saying, “Nobody I know has covered more ground and made more friends and sung more songs than [Ramblin’ Jack]. He’s got a song and a friend for every mile behind him.”
Adding a few more miles to that odometer, Elliott will ramble on to Sun Valley for a concert at the Sun Valley Opera House next Tuesday, April 2, at 7 p.m.
Considering Sun Valley Re-cords’ dedication to providing equitable aid to independent musicians without the tangles of commercial pomp and circumstance, they would be hard-pressed to find a musician more emblematic of their vision than Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, who in six decades of recording and touring never compromised his own artistic values or allowed himself to be molded by the burgeoning music industry.
“He’s a musician’s musician,” Hendrix said, citing Elliott’s immeasurable impact on the American folk genre. “He’s a music legend who’s so integral and so well-respected. We want to honor him as we set out to promote musicians in the valley.”
As Bob Dylan described him, reminiscing on their time together on the road, “He was a brilliant entertainer. Most folk musicians waited for you to come to them. Jack went out and grabbed you. Jack was King of the Folksingers.”
Elliott will bring his one-of-a-kind showmanship to the valley next week. Tickets for the concert are available online from sunvalley.ticketfly.com and in person from the Sun Valley Recreational Office. General admission is $30, and VIP seating in the first three rows is $59. Ten percent of all ticket sales will go to Sun Valley Records’ Musician Fund.
Visit sunvalleyrecords.com to learn more.