Creatives have always been the igniting force behind social change. Artists use their talents to express their emotions and desires for the world around them, and often design the safe spaces they need to create as individuals and as a collective. Today we have so many resources, yet the concept of the starving artist still exists. But VFiles, the style-driven social network, has made it their mission to change this dynamic.
At the young age of five, VFiles has established a reputation for embracing the youth. It's cultivated a community that celebrates creatives from all spectrums and has given them a platform to showcase their talents. Starting with fashion, they have taken on numerous young designers through a mentorship with fashion legends like Dapper Dan and promoted their business by placing their garments in-store.
Now the VFiles community is embarking on their newest journey: disrupting the music industry. They initially introduced Pass the Aux as an open mic afternoon jam session for "the kids," but it quickly evolved into a highly-anticipated event for young artists to show their talents. VFiles owner Julie Anne Quay recognized the importance of giving these gifted individuals a chance, not only to have their songs heard but to monetize their craft. Now a monthly in-store event-turned-EP, we got the chance to speak with Quay on Pass the Aux and the strides she and her team are making for this growing creative community.
How was Pass the Aux conceived? Literally, we've had a lot of kids coming into the store, like Lil Yachty, and kids wanted to do that again and again. At first, we were like, why don't we just let people come play their music? Then we didn't even have a mic [so] they would stand in a circle and play their song and we would listen to it. It was so special. The thing that really struck me [is] everyone would stop and listen. It was really, really cool. Then we thought to give them a mic and let them perform.
Was there a direct business incentive for you to create this moment? Why or why not? We spoke to Joel Madden and Scooter Braun and they introduced to this company called Stem.is. We had been talking about releasing music, but not at the expense of the artist. Stem allows you to distribute the music and collect a percentage and the artist can decide what they want to do with the rest. Also, putting them on global platforms like Spotify and iTunes from them recording in their homes and closets is phenomenal. I think we are being disruptive to the music industry and we are VFiles, so we're happy to do it.
What excites you most when being introduced to a new artist? The thing about these kids [is they] are really gutsy. To perform in front of a group of their peers alone and a song that they wrote at that, then you have guys who will come in groups and nothing excites me more than seeing friends support each other like that and that courage. In political times, the best music is built because people have things to say. When you have things to say, there is emotion and I think that is beautiful.
When you first started Pass The Aux, how did the VFiles community react to this opportunity? We felt proud after the first one. We are very humble at VFiles. We had to fight against so much red tape to release an EP. Our take-away was, this is really needed. We have a responsibility to make this happen and release this music. If we can create a platform where talent can come together, that's a great thing. We're out creating aggressive opportunities.
Do you believe by that putting artists on this platform they'll catch the attention of major labels? We have a talent for authenticating talent.
As this grows, do you think you would compete with streaming services? I would love to be able to partner with them. For any company to be successful, you have live an environment; you can't stand alone. We're only five years old; we don't have a billion users on Spotify. We want to partner with people that understand there is no glass ceiling. VFiles exists to be direct to the community. I don't see us as a competitor, I see us as a partner.
What's your vision for Pass the Aux five years from now? There will be a merchandise collaboration, there will be awards, there will be a tour, there will be a mentor system, and there will be multiple No.1 singles. And there will disruptive system where kids aren't afraid to release their music.
Listen to VFILES LOUD Pass the Aux: Volume I below.