Op-Ed: Creating Valuable, Unifying Connections — On the Dancefloor and Behind the Decks

Gray Area founder Michael Julian Kovadlo discussed Gray Area’s new Doubleheader event series, building synergy between artists and fans in a high-energy back-to-back showcase

Think about last time you stumbled across an artist you’d later grow to love. An unknown opening act at a concert who completely blew you away. A DJ at a local bar that you dropped into on a weeknight. Discovery is fundamental to how humans experience the world. It applies to music, art, food, careers, relationships… the list goes on. I believe these “happy accidents” are the magic of the music industry. Sonically, we’re always searching for new and inspiring sounds, and tend to gravitate toward things similar to our current tastes but with a slight twist.

I’ve written before: Building a bolder and more vibrant dance music ecosystem means fostering a lifelong sense of wonder and discovery, for everyone. At Gray Area, our mission is to create opportunities for fans to discover new music and new artists intentionally. We do so, first, through digital content. Then, we connect the dots with live events where diverse audiences can naturally cross-pollinate — exposing fans to new artists, and artists to new fans.

With our new Doubleheader event series, we’re doubling down on that mission.

Doubleheader is our new series based on an old concept: There is power in partnership. “Double header” is a term likely familiar to American audiences. In baseball, it’s when the same teams play two back-to-back games on the same day – one game flowing seamlessly into the next.

We’re bringing that same ethos from the stadium to the club. Doubleheader will pair together two artists with similar styles but distinct fan bases. One artist will play, the second will follow, then they will close out the party with an epic back-to-back (B2B) set.

Doubleheader stems from a lessen I’ve learned throughout my 20+ years in music: B2B sets are a recipes for sonic gold. When we bring together best of both artists, magic happens. I’ve been enjoying and booking B2B sets for a long time, but I’ll never forget one that blew me away and forever made me fall in love with the concept of back-to-back sets: I recall the pervasive energy at BPM Festival 2013, when tech house icon Dixon went B2B with German deep house juggernaut Henrik Schwarz. Despite the rain and winds in Playa Del Carmen, these two artists were a match made in heaven and delivered an incredibly memorable set.

Our love for B2B influenced us to curate an all B2B lineup at Awakenings Debut in North America at Manhattan’s legendary Hammerstein Ballroom. Open to close, it was only B2B sets for this Dutch techno powerhouse festival, including Adam Beyer B2B Ida Engberg and Nicole Moudaber B2B Victor Calderone. In 2018, our first open air elrow at Brooklyn Mirage saw an entire lineup of B2B sets. Yes, for 10 hours straights. Even more recently, we’ve been inspired by labels like PIV Records and their multi-artist “B2B2B2B2B2B” closing sets rotating through their entire roster.

With Doubleheader, when we put two artists with similar style but divergent fan bases on equal footing for a headlining show, they both win —introducing them to new fans and bolstering their reputations through playing a sold-out show as a co-headliner, which will create more and bigger opportunities for both Doubleheader artists. This fall, we’re proud to be kicking off our Doubleheader series with a pairing of two stellar artists, with elrow resident De La Swing joining forces with Cuttin Headz producer and DJ Jean Pierre.

Exposing people to new experiences and new music creates value for everyone. From fans keen to discover new artists adjacent to their interests. To venues eager to pack rooms and sell tickets. To DJs who can intermingle audiences to ultimately sell out venues. We want to lead in building a bigger community and a stronger dance music ecosystem, for all.

Because the reality is: The same love, camaraderie and unity that happens on the dance floor happens behind the decks and in the green room. Mutual respect. Beautiful friendships. And, above all, a love for delivering dance music to fans eager for discovery.

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