‘Occupy’ album wins music prize

‘Occupy’ album wins music prize

“Occupy This Album,” a compilation record produced by Great Neck resident Jason Samel, has won the 2012 Independent Music Awards Vox Pop poll for best compilation album.

The album, released in May 2012 as a benefit for the Occupy Wall Street protest movement, was named the winner of the fan-chosen award in August – a victory that Samel credited to a broad base of support for Occupy and the album itself.

“We have a very large network of folks from all around the world who went in and voted for us,” Samel said. “It was really exciting and a great thing I think for the movement as a whole.”

The Independent Music Awards, which also handed out awards picked by a panel of judges that included Tom Waits, Ziggy Marley and Suzanne Vega, touted the more than 80 popular choice selections as evidence of independent music’s global reach.

“Artists earning top honors in this year’s program include self-released and fan-funded projects, as well as indie label and former major label acts,” Martin Folkman, executive director of the Independent Music Awards, said in a press release. “No matter what their country of origin or style of music, IMA artists are united in their pursuit of artistic excellence and originality.”

“Occupy This Album,” a four-disc box set that features performances from artists including country legend Willie Nelson and rapper Immortal Technique, got its start after Samel first visited Occupy Wall Street’s Zuccotti Park encampment in 2011 – the site of a months-long protest against economic inequality, among other left-leaning causes.

Samel, a 35-year-old insurance professional, recruited both famous names and local performers to record, and the project soon drew national media attention from outlets including CNN, the Associated Press and the liberal magazine Mother Jones. 

Originally envisioned as a money-maker for the movement, the album is yet to recoup its $50,000 in marketing and distribution costs paid to the record label Razor and Tie. Samel said.

But, Samel said, the box set has now sold more than 6,000 copies and the “Music For Occupy” label he founded helped raise thousands of dollars for Hurricane Sandy relief efforts last fall.

“We’ve done a bunch of things.,” Samel said. “We certainly when Hurricane Sandy hit we went out there and produced a couple of different fundraising concerns.”

Among those benefit concerts were a Wantagh show that featured jam-band turntablist DJ Logic and a well-received concert at the Brooklyn Bowl with Immortal Technique.

“I worked hand in hand with Immortal Technique and his people,” Samel said. “We had pretty much a sold out Brooklyn Bowl, which was amazing to see 600 people show up on a Wednesday night.”

Samel and Immortal Technique used the approximately $6,000 raised to buy supplies for storm victims in some of the hardest hit areas of Queens, Samel said.

“We went and spent all that money at local mom and pop stores, and then took that to a distribution center set up in the Rockaways,” he said.

As for what’s next for Samel, he said he plans to keep mixing music and politics. He said he is producing an anti-fracking album expected out early 2014 – part of what he described as a need for more “movement music.”

“It’s been a great ride,” Samel said.

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