Starting a record label is an ambitious project for a college student, but Ryan Sealy – who is a public relations major at USF – is an ambitious guy. He’s been singing in operas and choirs since childhood, but in his early teens he decided that performing wasn’t his true talent. While still a student at Hillsborough High School, he started managing a few of his friend’s bands – essentially making sure that band members got paid when they played a show.
At 18, he walked into former-venue the Masquerade looking for a job and looking to get involved in its scene. At the time, they were hiring only bouncers and, at 5 feet 6 inches, he took the job.
Over the next few months, he got punched in the face at an Insane Clown Posse concert, and again at a Gwar show. He also endured getting sprayed with Faygo, fake blood, and “alien semen.” He eventually asked for a transfer, and the owners decided to give him a shot as booking manager where he spent the next two years. During this time he met Drew Cutler and Adam Husarek of Lush Progress, an experimental indie-rock quintet.
When the Masquerade closed down, Sealy started doing booking and promotions for Bodog, an Internet gambling company that’s venturing into the music industry. He helped them organize a national Battle of the Bands, where Lush Progress made it to the finals. Sealy, Cutler and Husarek, however, started to become disenchanted with the contest.
Over time, Lush Progress’ emphasis moved more toward a reality TV show set to air on Fuse later this year where the band would be contestants. The trio was concerned that a reality TV show might be an affront to any notion they ever had about decency and integrity. Citing other plans, Sealy declined to renew his contract. Three days later, Morristown Records took him on as studio manager, and he started the paperwork for Copacetic Records.
Ironically, it was during the battle of the bands that Sealy, Cutler and Husarek first discussed starting their own record label. Driven by their passion for music and their hatred for the music industry, they wanted to do something gutsy and honest. Essentially, they wanted to give the Tampa indie-rock scene a jump-start.
“Starting a record label is something that, for a year or more, you’re throwing money into a dark, black hole,” said Cutler.Despite the grim analog, Copacetic artists are starting to achieve some commercial success. For instance, Eric Colville’s single, “Afraid to Dance,” has been featured three times on ABC’s All My Children.
In addition, from July 19-21, a trio of Copacetic artists are bringing their distinct sounds to Ybor City’s Crowbar in a three-night concert series. Colville will perform on the second night, and July 19 will feature Safety, a 1990’s Tampa punk outfit with a sound similar to Millencolin. July 21 is indie-rock night, with Lush Progress headlining the show. The band, which sounds like a mix of The Beatles meets Sonic Youth, will feature a cello solo.For the time being, Sealy is cautiously optimistic about Copacetic Records. With classes, the record label and late nights and weekends at the recording studio for Morristown, he has a lot on his plate. He also has a lot of hard-earned experience in the music industry where he has maintained his integrity.
“Talent only goes so far these days with your YouTube and Flickr and Photobucket. You almost have to be beautiful,” he said. “Bands need to realize this – you have to think of yourself as a product. I hate how vain our industry is.”
Although the label isn’t currently producing albums, Copacetic Records offers distribution through iTunes, Amazon.com, Virgin Megastore and many other outlets. The label’s looking for eclectic local bands, but its roots are in rock ‘n’ roll. For more information, visit CopaceticRecords.com.