Whether you call it a record label, a music collective or a loose confederacy of musicians and friends, Money Wolf Music has one mission: to promote and support independent bands and songwriters.
“We are a musicians collective,” said Christian Hankel, one of Money Wolf’s chief administrators. “We are also a record label, which is a business, but we’ve all realized that none of us is all into the idea of being businessmen. We just want to do as much as we can to support artists.”
Thursday night, Money Wolf is presenting its seventh secret show, an outdoor house concert that will benefit the out-of-town duo of Josh Harty and John Statz, plus Kansas City songwriters Jamie Searle and Thom Hoskins. The show’s lineup was announced and the $12 tickets went on sale in June, but the location — 4241 Harrison St. — was kept secret until Wednesday, 24 hours before showtime.
“We keep the location secret for a couple of reasons,” Hankel said. “By waiting until the day before, it gives us more leeway to adjust to the weather if we need to.”
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This event illustrates the role Money Wolf can take in giving a band a promotional push.
Harty and Statz are songwriters with thriving solo careers. The duo was led to Money Wolf via Tommy Donoho, one of the founders. Donoho also leads the Kansas City band Dollar Fox and is a solo singer/songwriter.
“Tommy and John have played shows together, so they’ve known each other a while,” Hankel said.
In 2013, Harty and Statz recorded “12 August,” a collection of 10 acoustic indie-folk tunes. They got it finished, mastered and packaged but had no home for it.
“They had this amazing album on their hands,” Hankel said. “It’s an odd album with no overdubs, made in one day, just two guys sitting on stools and playing music. Once it was done, they weren’t sure what to do with it. They decided it didn’t really fit with anything else they were doing and they needed some kind of weird, different place to work with. So I guess we’re kind of weird and they called us and we became the home for it.”
In February, “12 August” was released on the Money Wolf Music label, days before Harty and Statz performed at the Folk Alliance International Conference at the Westin Crown Center. The duo performed several times at the conference, including four showcases in Money Wolf’s hotel room, one of dozens that hosted private showcases.
“Their music is just gorgeous stuff,” Hankel said. “They know each other so well, yet they’re not alike. Their voices are different, their music styles are different. But their music gets to me every time. And it got to everybody in the room. They played to a bigger crowd every time.”
Thursday, many of those fans who caught Harty and Statz at the conference will see them live in an intimate setting, among roughly 40 fans. The performance will also be webcast. Hankel expects viewers from well outside Kansas City.
“We got the idea from one of their fans in Wisconsin,” he said. “He told us he was willing to pay $12 to watch a webcast. And for whatever reason, Josh and John have sold as many CDs in Belgium and Japan combined as they did in the U.S. So their fans over there can buy the webcast, too. And they’ll also see Jamie Searle and Thom Hoskins’ set, so it’ll be good for everyone.”
Money Wolf has a roster of nine bands and performers, including Dollar Fox and Hankel’s band, the Hillary Watts Riot. Both bands have performed at secret shows, which have become another way to showcase local artists. The list of secret show headliners is impressive. It includes Sam Baker and Jon Dee Graham, both national touring artists.
“The Sam Baker show was amazing,” Hankel said. “He played at Tommy’s house in front of about 40 people.”
That was in February 2013. The following September, Baker played to nearly 1,000 fans at the Folly Theater. He is returning to the Folly on Sept. 20.
The atmosphere at the secret shows is a major selling point. Audiences are attentive and respectful.
“Josh and John can’t really play at a bar, unless the bar makes it clear it’s a sit-down-and-listen show,” Hankel said.
All the proceeds from the show go to the performers, even the money from donations at the bar. Hankel said Graham took home about $600 from his show, including sales of merchandise.
Money Wolf has other projects in the works. On Aug. 2, it is launching a monthly event at Coda Bar & Grill, 1744 Broadway.
“It’s a monthly afternoon day-drinkers music showcase, from 2 to 4 on the first Saturday of the month,” he said. “We’re going to keep it upbeat, just rock bands. And it’ll be all local.”
The collective is also working on a singer/songwriter series with a local record store that will involve a pressing of a vinyl record to be sold exclusively at that store. It’s all part of the broadening vision of a group of musicians and music fans who wants good music to be heard.
“Being a label is probably the smallest part of what we do,” Hankel said. “Tommy said it really well on (the radio) the other day. He said our specialty is finding unique ways to help artists connect with fans. And it’s true. Whether it’s a releasing a strange little 7-inch single or putting on the secret shows or bringing in Sam Baker or Jon Dee Graham.”
Money Wolf’s Secret Show No. 7, a house concert, begins at 7 p.m. Thursday at 4241 Harrison St. The lineup: Josh Harty and John Statz, Jamie Searle and Thom Hoskins. Harty and Statz are an indie-folk duo. This will be their second performance in Kansas City. In February, they performed at the Folk Alliance International Conference at the Westin Crown Center. Admission is $12. All proceeds go to the musicians. The show will also be streamed live via ustream.tv/channel/money-wolf-music. Cost is $12.