We’ve heard the stories about COVID-19 ravaging industries within the nation, but entertainment is where it gets personal for me. The music industry is taking a big hit, so I wanted to catch up with a friend and colleague to see how he was holding up.
I “sat down” with a local DJ and record label owner Eric Hinchman, to ask him how he’s dealing with the sudden fallout. We talked about the label, gigging, his cat, Geraldine, and how he’s dealing with everything in between.
Last week, I called Hinchman on a landline number like it was 1992. That set the tone for how the rest of the evening was going to go. Our conversation kicked off with him mentioning that he was supposed to be on holiday with his brother, but the state went into lockdown, so he was staying with his parents.
Hinchman is a DJ/ label owner originally from Detroit and lives and works in Ferndale. With an extensive DJ career that goes back to the early ’90s, when he was still a teenager, Hinchman has seen it all. With years of experience behind him, he hasn’t experienced anything like this.
Hinchman’s label Equal Recordings are taking a bit of a hit after some of their events got canceled, Hinchman said, “I was really looking forward to 2020 because it kind of marks our five-year anniversary, and so we have over 25 releases now.” Hinchman said he was planning to be more ambitious this season than ever.
On March 20, Bandcamp hosted a “Pay What You Can” with all of the revenue going directly back to the artists, but Equal was ahead of the curve. To celebrate their anniversary, they switched over to making the records free or PWYC, which helped the label move forward in sales. Hinchman also mentioned that part of their business model included releasing their work in stages saying,
“Every time we release something, we release it in stages, and we always put stuff on Bandcamp first. And that’s sort of like our little test area, or like we kind of quietly push things out on Bandcamp first. And sometimes we announce things; sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we make a big deal about it, and sometimes we don’t say a word. And, you know, it’s just an interesting little playground to test the market.”
Hinchman expressed his desire to get back to gigging soon, talking about the new mix he’s working on.
“I have a concept for a double DJ mix. Basically, it’s going to be two mixes released. At the same time, with a theme. And it’s basically going to be all the artists on the label. And one is going to be an upbeat, more dance-floor-appropriate vibe. And then the other one is going to be a completely ambient, experimental, downtempo type.”
Hinchman’s mission is to play only music from his label or that artist friends have given to him, reforming his reputation.”I won’t be playing music you necessarily want to hear. I’m playing music you need to hear type of thing.”
A few days after the interview, Hinchman called me and told me that the label has a Roku station now. This station will have performances and music. They are currently working on bringing content to the station, but they are excited to take a step in a new direction.
In the midst of this, Hinchman also rescued Geraldine to bring her back to his parent’s house.
Geraldine is busy being the unofficial mascot of Equal Recordings and is doing well during this time. She is very excited there are birds for her to watch and new couches to sleep on.
Through it all, though, Hinchman is optimistic about the future, saying, “I don’t know—my plan is to just stay healthy and be there ready and willing once the opportunities start presenting themselves once again.”
In the end, the music industry needs to act as a team, and all of us need to work together if we want to keep the industry afloat. Hinchman expressed that dedication to the craft is what’s most important.
“I’ve been involved in the music industry pretty much since I graduated high school in ’92. So, I’ve crossed paths with a bunch of really talented individuals, and it’s just been a really interesting ride. You know, watching all this unfold. But, you definitely, you definitely get to find the people that are just doing things because it’s a phase that they’re going through. And then, you find the people that are, you know, in this for life because they have to; there’s no question about it, you know.”
Hinchman’s final words gave me a sense of communion and peace and helped me remind myself that this is a journey that all of us are on together. No matter where this pandemic takes us, we are all on the ride together, and the more we can work together, the stronger we will be when this is over.
Cover photo by Dan McDonald