Uncommon Approach: Yule Prog

Uncommon Approach: Yule Prog

One of the better things that’s kept me busy is throwing an event called “Yule Prog”. I’ve been doing it for 3 years now. Organizing it is a beast. Let’s start at the beginning. In 2007, I wanted to throw a show- pretty simple. I ended up getting a date close to the holidays, so I decided to make it Holiday themed. I came up with “Yule Prog”. I wanted to create a show that featured the best of NYC’s Progressive Hip Hop scene.

‘Uncommon Approach’ is a column written by Paul “Nasa” Loverro, owner of independent label Uncommon Records. With this frequent column, he gives readers an all access look at the ups and downs of running an independent Hip Hop label in this day and age. An in-depth column from the perspective of an Indie label owner. 

One of the better things that’s kept me busy is throwing an event called “Yule Prog”.  I’ve been doing it for 3 years now.  Organizing it is a beast.  Let’s start at the beginning.  In 2007, I wanted to throw a show- pretty simple.  I ended up getting a date close to the holidays, so I decided to make it Holiday themed. I came up with “Yule Prog”. I wanted to create a show that featured the best of NYC’s Progressive Hip Hop scene.

By the time that first show was taking place, I had already decided that I wanted to turn it into an annual event in NYC.  New York really needed something like that, I thought. I had seen other annual events in other places like Scribble Jam and even Mr. Lif’s “Lifmas” shows up in Boston, but NYC never had anything resembling either event. The only example I can think of is Rocksteady, which is also an influence.

I wanted to cater to the scene I was a part of, and really make it like an Uncommon “Holiday Party” and reunion. Over time, I can feel from people that they look forward to the event. No matter how large or small the circle is from year to year, just knowing that certain people mark it on their calender and put a lot of effort into their sets for that particular show really makes me feel good. 

The shows are crazy! Usually, I book like 13-15 acts to rock. This started as a way to bring out that much more people to the venue.  Times are tough, you literally have to fill cards to get all the small amount of people each act can bring to add up to something. It’s just part of the reality in 2009. 

In 2007, it was insane. I had never done anything like that before EVER. I had barely even thrown many regular shows, much less something on that level.  Balancing the time, egos and personalities was totally new to me and at times I shined under pressure, and at times I fell flat on my face and made some mistakes. Honestly, after that first year, I said to myself “I’m never doing that EVER again!” haha. But as the year passed, the hunger grew again to make something that could become a landmark in NYC.  So I pushed on.

In 2008 (as well as this past year), I worked with Backwoodz Studioz co-throwing the show. Sharing the weight really helps. The second year we did Yule Prog, we did 2 nights!! We did an emcee battle with two performances and then we did a full on 11 or so act show the next night! We took over 2 different venues in 2 nights and tore it down both times! The emcee battle, won by Chaz Kangaz, was honestly one of the best Battles I had ever been to. It was fun to be a part of. Then we rocked at Southpaw for the first time the next night. Southpaw is one of the best venues in NYC, and clearly the best venue in Brooklyn. It’s an honor to have done the last two Yule Prog’s there.

What ends up happening with these things is you end up trying to top yourself each year. You have to resist that. I think we started out trying to do that this year after incredible success last year. We were putting ourselves in bad spots trying to get bigger and bigger acts. Eventually we decided wisely to keep 2009’s event primarily in the family.

In 2009, we had to X the battle. There were 2 main reasons for this, as I said earlier, some personal issues got in the way, and in turn also kept me from putting the time into booking a battle night  and organizing it. But, with that said, when we did the first Yule Prog Battle I think there was a huge void for emcee battles. In that year since, I feel like they’ve come back into vogue and me throwing one, just ads to what’s out there instead of standing out. That’s not to say we won’t bring back a Battle, but it is what it is.

We just did our 3rd Annual event last night and it was a blast as usual! I’ve gotten a lot more used to balancing a large amount of artists, keeping my cool and getting the job done. It’s tough when you have to rock too, but I think I’ve gotten better with that too. 

I think once you do something this many years in a row, people start to get used to it. Hearing “Yule Prog” used as slang really warms my heart, for real. Knowing that I’ve created something that means something to people is amazing, no matter how far reaching it is. We’re in year 3 and have lots of room to grow, and that’s fine, that’s what it’s all about!

Over the 3 years we’ve had Beans from Anti-Pop Consortium, L.I.F.E. Long, Megalon from M.I.C., Homeboy Sandman, Despot, Vast Aire, Brown Bag All-Stars, Elucid and many more rock our stage.  Besides all that, it’s a platform for all of our NYC based acts on Uncommon to rock. A few artists have done all 3 events and that’s amazing in and of itself. Bottom line is, it’s a great way to end the year with an event like this and always gives me a boost heading into the new year to make shit happen.

I would suggest doing an annual event to anyone in any town. It doesn’t have to be around the holidays, it can be any time of year. I think it’s something that can really rally a city’s scene, and it’s great to see the same people every year, it builds bonds that hopefully don’t ever break.

My top lessons
Work with people you know (for the most part).  You want to reach outside of your circle a bit to bring other crowds in, but don’t over reach.  Some people are just not fun to work with, for real.
2) Be VERY CLEAR with people and be HONEST.  Make sure you communicate well.  If you only can give someone 15 minutes, TELL THEM!  If you aren’t looking to pay them up front money, make sure that’s implied or TOLD.  If you need certain acts there early, TELL THEM.  The more acts you book for a “Festival” styled event, the more can go wrong with timing.
3) Always be appreciative with the club, shout out the bar tender, sound man, etc.  Keep that relationship solid, cuz you may need a favor.  You may run late, etc.  Who knows?
4) Build hype and fan fare.  Name your event, let it rep you and what your doing to the fullest you can.  Make sure that it’s the kind of event that people that are there will talk about afterwards and that’s it’s the kind of event that if people weren’t there, they feel like they damn well should have been.  They’ll remember next year and come out.

Read all columns by Paul “Nasa” Loverro HERE

Just an ordinary guy always on the hunt for extraordinary music. Not just as the founder of The Find Magazine & Rucksack Records, but also as a freelance music journalist (bylines at Tracklib, Bandcamp, Wax Poetics, DIG Mag, among others) and—above all—out of love for all kinds of good music.