dj playing and crowd dancing in front of camera at elevator music live in Chicago

Interview with Elevator Music, the platform lifting music and art in Chicago

Going up one floor has never been this epic! The city of Chicago has a long time reputation as one of the dazzling spots of the history of house music, and to this day, it continues with a living legacy via concepts such as Elevator Music. The streaming platform has become an essential piece of the city’s music puzzle by amplifying the local sound in an unparalleled setting. Its home is literally an elevator, where artists get to showcase their vision without genre or form boundaries.

If you want to meet the ins and outs of this unique project, its next steps and most memorable highlights, read on!

How did the platform come about and what inspired the idea of having DJs perform in an elevator? 

We were trying to help a friend book more shows outside the Chicago market. We
wanted to communicate his performance to promoters and people outside of our own
circle. Our office building has a big elevator, and one day we decided to shoot a set
inside it – not with Elevator Music in mind, but just to do something cool and different.

This shoot turned into a success and it got him booked on for a tour in Mexico. We
started to speak to markets outside of not only our city, but also outside the country. A
lightbulb went off – this was a fun and different take on ‘elevator music’. We built the
platform around that, showcasing DJs first, because we have a huge talent pool in
Chicago, but with the goal of expanding to all styles of music.

What was the name of the first DJ who performed and what was the general direction you went first for?

His name is Tommaso. He’s actually one of the founders of Elevator Music, and he plays
a lot of genres – from Italo disco to afro, funk and house. He wanted to travel as an
international DJ. We put him in the elevator, filmed, and once we sent it, bookings
started rolling in. We realized then what Elevator Music could become.

Is it a real elevator? If yes, where is it based? Did you ever get stuck?

It is a real elevator in a huge building used for film and TV production. It is very big – we
can fit a car in there. We set up four or five cameras and shoot the episodes when no
one else is in the building.

But to answer your question. No, it’s never gotten stuck. We realized it can hold two
elephants. Several. It depends on the type of elephant. But it can hold two male
full-grown African elephants or a Mercedes-Benz G wagon or something equivalent to
that, around 15,000 pounds.

If you had to describe the essence of your concept in the time it takes to ride an elevator, what would you say?

We would say it’s cool. Elevator Music is about bringing some of our favorite artists into the elevator to share with the world and creating an entirely new meaning for the phrase ‘elevator music’. The name makes so much sense. If you hear the name, or you see our logo, you can understand what it is. Then, when you actually see what it is, it’s literally musical artists in an elevator. It couldn’t be a more perfect idea, concept and name.

It’s a neutral environment. What makes it cool at the end of the day is the artists we feature. It’s a unique space to shine and express their own idea of what ‘elevator music’ could mean.

That’s appealing to artists, especially in a day and age where the number of publications that are covering artists is out of whack. Artists usually have to rely on TikTok or making their own content, but this is a place for artists to speak to a wider audience.

In terms of booking, you also have a role as headhunters. Can you walk us through the process of selecting DJs for your platform? Is there a specific musical direction or style?

It all started with our roots. Our foundations are in the City of Chicago, we’re a young company of less than a year, and we started by highlighting the community and people here. There are so many legendary house DJs in Chicago who are still very active but may not have access to an international audience. We are trying to pay tribute and respect to our community here. And now, it has started to expand.

We eventually want to feature every type of music and all types of people. Not just DJs, but all styles of music. This includes live performances with instruments. We have a great team that analyzes a variety of international artists we want to book. We’re not New York or LA. We have to create our own industry here. That’s been Chicago’s charm and story for ages. We have so much talent, some of the most original in the world, and yet Chicago artists are hungry for platforms to feature and amplify their work.

As a platform that speaks to the world, we have audiences in Tokyo, Mexico City, Paris, Spain, and more, so it is also about booking a wider range of artists. We’ve been privileged to have a huge talent pool in our backyard that we can call upon. The goal is also to host artists that are coming to town from different countries, and that could range from DJs or live bands to songwriters from all different genres: reggaeton, folk, classical… It’s music in an elevator. There are elevators in every corner of the world, just like music.

We receive messages from artists around the world. It’s a matter of getting them here, scheduling a date, but also about their performance style. The audio lives on our SoundCloud, but a lot of people enjoy the visual version on YouTube or on our website. Each artist performs differently.

How profitable is a project like Elevator Music? What would you recommend to those starting something similar within the industry?

Right now, it’s not profitable. We’ve been doing this for less than a year, and it takes a lot of time, energy and money. That said, this year we’re talking with a lot of partners and sponsors in a wide range of industries. We’re trying to find the best partners for the future that can help us grow and contribute to booking the best artists, higher production value, and to grow the world of Elevator Music.

We would not recommend this to someone who’s in it for the money or the fame. Our mission is about love of music, for Chicago, the world, the community and culture. You have to do it for the love. The first year of any business is about investing time and resources. But in terms of the time and love poured in, it’s been very profitable. We’ve been seeing our featured artists grow, and our friends are calling us saying “I’m getting booked in London now!”

Electronic music is home to many streaming platforms, with HÖR and Cercle as headliners. What would you say is the key differentiator of Elevator?

What separates us from other streaming platforms is that we’re not limiting ourselves to one genre or just DJs.  Though we’ve had DJ’s so far, we’re going to be booking touring bands, singer songwriters, instrumentalists, and so on moving forward. It could be an opera, a mariachi band, anything!

The elevator is one of the most intimate shared spaces in humanity, where you’re shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers. Everyone can relate to that experience, and we want to heighten it with music. The setting that we’re shooting in is relatable to all, and we’re trying to refresh the space and give it new meaning. We see this in action when we shoot episodes, with real people walking in and out of the elevator. Adding that element is to just remind the audience that this is a shared space.

Elevator Music seems like more than just a platform—it’s a movement. How do you ensure it serves as a voice for inclusiveness and diversity?

In our bookings, inclusiveness and diversity are at the forefront. From Elevator’s inception, it’s been key to our ethos. It’s our job to elevate artists of all kinds, no matter their race, gender, orientation, etc. Some of these artists are well-known legends, some not so well-known. But that’s the whole point of Elevator Music, you can share the space with anyone.

Not all artists have the resources to promote their work in the industry. We want to make sure everyone has an equal platform, equal voice. You could be whatever and whoever you want. We welcome you. In an elevator, if you hit the button, it will open.

What has been the most acclaimed story for Elevator Music, a moment that resonated with your audience and team alike?

A really great moment was when we shot Umru Volume. That was the first volume where we started to experiment with the elevator itself, the lighting and how we go about presenting an episode. Umru has these two lamps on his hat, it’s a key feature of his performance. We started messing with the lights and it unlocked another tier of production and what artists are able to do when making their own space for that hour or 30 minutes, depending on the set.

There’s been multiple situations where we hear from people around the world that know about Elevator Music. We got a write up in Japan, another in France, and we didn’t reach out to these people. It’s very rewarding knowing that other people, brands and similar projects are discovering us in such an organic way.

Let’s look into the future. How do you wish Elevator to be in 5 years?

Given the rate of our growth, We envision having music for everyone and anyone. Whatever genre you’re into, Elevator Music has something for you.

Another plan is to have the same exact elevator, but as a set piece that we can travel. We can bring it to Miami for Art Basel, to festivals, to a beach, put it in the middle of an auditorium, etc. Fully functioning, doors opening, LED screens. But an elevator we can transport.

While we love our iconic elevator, we are also in the process of collaborating with other elevators around the world. We’re obsessed with elevators now and every time we go in one, we’re taking photos of the stickers, the doors, the floors, the lights, the mirrors, everything. We are even asking friends of ours around the world to send us photos and videos of iconic elevators that they come across. Our personal favorite is the elevator in Fondazione Prada in Milano.

We hope to be partnering with some of our favorite brands. Brands with the same vision and values as us that can help support our goals. After all, this platform was created because of our love for music and artists. It’s been amazing to see a community of people who share the same love and appreciation for music, going up together in one elevator.

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