S1 E1 | Joe Kay
“No Sleeping in the Trophy Room” is REVOLT’s digital series hosted by Carlos Del Valle. This sit-down style show is a conversation series fueled by motivation, experience and truth, where Del Valle interviews successful individuals across different industries.
Technology and music go hand-in-hand. Whether discussing the evolution of woodwind instruments or cassette tapes, the progression of technology plays a huge role in how we consume the tunes we love. Think about it. When was the last time you found yourself singing a song you only recognized because of the latest TikTok dance challenge?
Before social media, one music executive began the groundwork to build a startup that would become a fully operational, international music platform that provided opportunity to artists and producers — and he did this while still a college student.
In the series premiere of “No Sleeping In The Trophy Room,” Soulection co-founder Joe Kay recalls going from an “annoying young kid” to a Forbes 30 under 30 honoree.
Most fans of Soulection were likely first pulled in by the “vibey” sounds of familiar, yet distinct mixes of artists. This was intentional, as Joe is most attracted to the party feeling music can provide, especially the sounds from the 90s. Growing up, he studied “The Golden Era of Hip-Hop and R&B” from his parents playing Sade, DMX, JAY-Z and Erykah Badu at home. He recalls family gatherings in Los Angeles feeling like old Tupac music videos. Today, Joe aims to capture that same feeling in his mixes, live events and radio shows.
“Music is the only thing that never did me wrong. I always count on music,” he tells host Los Antonio. “There’s a song and there’s a moment for everything. So, that’s why music is really life for me. For sure.”
Joe always knew that music was his passion, but he wasn’t always sure how it would manifest into a career. He didn’t play any instruments and neither did his parents. But, his interest in radio became his way in. As Joe approached his freshman year in college, he made the bold move to trust his instinct to broadcast and started a podcast to showcase emerging artists and beatmakers between classes. In fact, Joe began to fall behind in school because he prioritized “digging” for music over doing his homework, which caused him to repeat classes.
Joe’s advantage in music curation comes from growing up as music technology evolved more rapidly than ever. His podcast became known for its quick and comprehensive turnaround. Some mixes — two to three hours long — featured 20 releases with over 100 tracks all mixed together seamlessly. He said, “It’s about taking something, being impulsive, and sharing it with the world.” The digital age certainly helped fuel this urgency.
Now, you’d turn to Tidal or YouTube for an exclusive drop. But, at that time, while iTunes did exist, it was not streaming based. In the early 2000s, fans would have to watch MTV or BET to hear a song for the first time.
At 18 years old, Joe bought his first turntables in appreciation for vinyl, but he also began collecting rare music digitally. He’d find unreleased edits, remixes or cool new beats from LimeWire or MySpace Music, then SoundCloud and BandCamp. Joe’s podcast gained 30,000 subscribers in its first year, making him a go-to staple in underground music.
He looks back: “If you were making some fire beats and you dropped something yesterday, it’s unlikely you’ll press it on vinyl. So, you’d send it to me on a file, I get it on the spot and spin on the fly.” Then, Joe would promote it on MySpace and through blog posts.
His loyal fanbase continued to grow and followed him to a new platform that would revolutionize the music industry: Soulection. The name is a play on Joe’s careful attention to hand-curating each playlist.
“The trust that people give Soulection comes from everything being hands-on. Every live show, every artist that we’ve released music with, every post on social media and merch is handpicked,” Joe said.
In 2011, he launched the Soulection platform at a college radio show at Long Beach State. He had just transferred from community college, but the success of his podcast was proof of concept for a “proper” radio show. The university station he petitioned for during orientation helped him build a new identity.
Overtime, people got so inspired by his dedication to Soulection. This is when Joe made a pivot into a businessman, as he learned the skills to take him to the next level. He had to learn how to delegate tasks, and put trust in others. He had to learn to communicate more effectively with external partners and artists to gain more respect.
Now, Soulection Radio has over 430 shows. Making use of his passion for music, knack for figuring out digital platforms, and on-demand and playback technology early on, Kay was able to build a growing empire to educate and giveback to the artist who just needed to be heard.
Check out the “No Sleeping In The Trophy Room” playlist Joe Kay created below. It’s a vibe.
Watch “No Sleeping In The Trophy Room” every Monday at 12:00 p.m. ET/9:00 a.m. PT on REVOLT.tv and REVOLT’s YouTube.