(Excerpted from the Wikipedia entry for Giant Step)
THE GIANT STEP PARTY, GROOVE ACADEMY & EARLY YEARS
The seeds of Giant Step started with the Groove Academy, in 1990, as a party in New York City. The party was a weekly production of Maurice Bernstein and Jonathan Rudnick. “The stars of the 70’s, although they were highly sampled, were not getting recognition and were not being presented in a live forum,” recalls Rudnick. The two called their events, Groove Academy with its slogan, “Dedicated to the preservation of Funk.” They literally looked their heroes up in the phone book as many of them were not working or had agents. Artists like Bootsy Collins, George Clinton, Gil Scott Heron and Ohio Players were brought to New York to play in front of new fans who only knew their music from hip hop samples.
The events were extended onto the dance floor under the new name Giant Step, after the fabled John Coltrane album “Giant Steps.” The Giant Step party differentiated itself from Groove Academy with its emphasis on mixing Jazz and Hip Hop. It was the place where artists such as Jamiroquai, Digable Planets, Massive Attack, The Fugees and The Roots all debuted, and was an international phenomenon. Giant Step would soon go on tour around the States, Europe and Japan.
From 2001 - State of Independents piece featuring an interview with Giant Step co-founder and CEO Maurice Bernstein, Macy Gray, Jill Scott, India Arie, and a club scene at Shrine, NYC.
MUSIC MARKETING & RECORD LABEL
As the events continued to expand in the mid 90s, Giant Step moved into management, signing Dana Bryant, Repercussions, and Groove Collective, securing record deals for the three on Warner Brothers. Other artists managed include Raw Stylus, whom Giant Step signed to Geffen Records. During this time Giant Step worked with Gary Katz, best known for his work with Steely Dan, to help produce the albums for Groove Collective, Repercussions and Raw Stylus. In 1995, record producer Tommy Lipuma took over GRP Records at MCA Records and invited Giant Step to set up there as an imprint label. The first act to be signed to the label was the jazz group, Groove Collective.
In early 1997, Giant Step achieved acclaim for their work with Nuyorican Soul and a partnership with Gilles Peterson’s label, Talkin Loud. The group was a collaboration between Latin house DJs, “Little” Louie Vega and Kenny “Dope” Gonzales, who were also commonly known as Masters at Work. Nuyorican Soul featured many real musicians as opposed to sampled or synthesized sounds. Musicians who took part in the project included George Benson, Tito Puente, Roy Ayers, Jazzy Jeff, Jocelyn Brown, and salsa queen, India. Three singles from the first Nuyorican Soul album made it to the top of the Billboard Charts; “Runaway”, “You Can Do It (Baby)” and “I Am The Black Gold Of The Sun.” The album, released in March 2007, sold over 50,000 units by the end of July the same year. Epic Records soon approached Bernstein and Rudnick with an offer. Although Giant Step was a music label, Epic Records was primarily interested in Giant Step’s marketing capabilities and offered the company a retainer contract where their record label was a secondary priority.
For their first project with Epic Records, Giant Step helped launch the career of Macy Gray, followed by Jill Scott and the re-launch of Sade. The company promoted Macy Gray by getting her music played in cafés, clubs, and restaurants. According to Rose Noone, VP of A&R at Epic Records, the music was “heard everywhere.” Giant Step went on to help Def Jam Records artist Musiq Soulchild by pushing his music in untapped markets. The previously unknown singer sold 55,000 copies of his debut album in its first week.
For over a decade after the closure of the record label, Giant Step's Music Marketing division continued to help break new music from enormously influential artists ranging from Amy Winehouse to Bastille, Charli XCX, Common, Corinne Bailey Rae, DJ Shadow, Ellie Goulding, Emeli Sandé, Estelle, Fatboy Slim, Feist, Fela Kuti, Franz Ferdinand, Gilles Peterson, Gotan Project, Gregory Porter, Hiatus Kaiyote, Janelle Monáe, Jessie J, Jessie Ware, José James, Katy B, K'NAAN, Lady Gaga, Lenny Kravitz, Lily Allen, M.I.A., Mark Ronson, Maxwell, Mayer Hawthorne, Michael Kiwanuka, Miguel, Neneh Cherry, Nero, Norah Jones, Paloma Faith, Portishead, Pretty Lights, Quadron, Raphael Saadiq, Robert Glasper Experiment, Robin Thicke, Robyn, Route 94, Santigold, Sia, The Knocks, The Roots, will.i.am, and Zedd.
CREATIVE AGENCY ERA
The Levi's Miles Ahead Music Series and LG series in the early 2000's were Giant Step's first forays in providing creative and marketing services for brands. The company's work with the Levi's Miles Ahead Series debuted Jill Scott, Air and Massive Attack. The series also featured bands such as Femi Kuti, Kruder & Dorfmeister, Fatboy Slim, Morcheeba, Bebel Gilberto and Terry Callier. For LG, the agency coordinated press outreach, online promotions, and venue negotiations to help launch LG's new mobile phone line. Events included performances by Jurassic 5, Thievery Corporation, The Pharcyde, Zero 7, Van Hunt, Miss Kittin, Raphael Saadiq and Everything But The Girl.
Between 2007 and 2011 Giant Step Marketing put on music programs for Morgans Hotel Group. This series included two years of Grammy and Fashion week events and featured artists such as The Roots, Common, Grace Jones, Erykah Badu, Janelle Monae, Estelle, De La Soul and The Kills. In 2009, Svedka was brought in as a sponsor and the programs were expanded into the Svedka Future Music Series. Notable musicians featured in the series include Robyn, Wale, Mark Ronson, Nerd, Fitz & the Tantrums, Janelle Monae and Daft Punk.
In 2011, Giant Step worked with music producer David Guetta to create awareness for Coca-Cola's energy drink, Burn. Later in 2011, Giant Step Marketing promoted the launch of Barneys New York's "Gaga's Workshop," a holiday collaboration with Lady Gaga. The company provided PR services, a social media campaign, and created and managed urban activations for the project including inflatables, branded taxis and circus teams.
From 2008-2011 Giant Step helped launch Steve Madden Music. The company created branded content for the Steve Madden Music website, executed social media and online publicity campaigns and produced ten experiential marketing events that aligned the brand with artists such as Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, K'Naan, Katy B and Melanie Fiona.
In 2012 Giant Step launched Absolut X for Absolut Vodka, an events series aimed at pairing music, art, & cocktails together. The series included 6 events in major markets in the form of a masquerade ball, video coverage, an interactive site and contests. The series featured musicians, creatives and mixologist including Nick Cave, Holy Ghost, Grimes, Bert Rodriguez, Bloc Party, Augustina Woodgate, Klip Collective, Santigold and others. The experiential program won gold at the EX Awards in 2013 for Best Production of an Event and garnered media coverage from trade outlets such as Bizbash.
Giant Step Marketing worked with HBO and Sony Music Entertainment to help launch Sounds of the Onyx, a promotional album to celebrate the 4th Season of television series Boardwalk Empire. Producers featured on the promo project include Pete Rock, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Om'Mas Keith, Shafiq Husayn, JayCeeoh & B-Sides and Tall Black Guy. These remixers worked off of original works by Eva Taylor, Clarence Williams, Ethel Waters, Lloyd Scott, Jim Jackson and Charlie Johnson's Paradise Ten Orchestra.
Recently, Giant Step produced a national concert series for Intel and the MTV Iggy Music Experiment 2.0. The series featured artists such as Arcade Fire, Empire of the Sun and Disclosure. Diehard fans came out to the concert, which took place on October 29, 2013, wearing reflective costumes to celebrate the band's new album.
Today, Giant Step is an award-winning marketing agency with an expertise in music and culture. Read more about our services