Hells A-Poppin'

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New York's Hells Kitchen Music is out with a 12-CD package called Street Level that's billed as the world's first music library of songs. But it could also be in the running as the world's biggest library of songs. "It's massive; I just know more bands than anyone else," shrugs Donald Siudmak, Hells Kitchen founder and exec producer. Street Level, available for no charge but by-request only, features 30-second versions of songs from 140 mostly indie label albums, with bands like Carbon 9, Magnet and the Evin Rudes, though the best-known artist in the bunch, according to Siudmak, is Jools Holland. In any case, "they're all writers of mine now," he says with satisfaction. A key selling point of the package is that these are real songs, most with vocals, and "the sound and soul of them are immediately apparent," he believes. Siudmak, 36, credits his street coup to "having always been connected to the indie band scene." He was trained as a classical pianist, but he played drums in bands like Platinum and Vendetta and he also worked at a German record label called Rising Sun. Accompanied by an illuminating 56-page booklet, Street Level's "object is to get the total feel of a track in 30 seconds, which usually requires editing," he says. "Only in about 25 percent of the tracks can we present a straight 30 seconds." The base price for a track is about $12,000, a real bargain by commercials standards, he notes, and of course all kinds of custom additions are available. Did any prospective Street Levelers refuse to sell out? "Nope," Siudmak happily notes. "There's a certain commercial savviness among young people nowadays. Having a national TV spot just isn't going to hurt your career."
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