By Patrick McAuliffe
Last month, I gave a shout-out in my dining hall review series to a swell C4 cashier named CJ Wachter. I was later paying for my food and struck up a conversation with him about the article. He told me that his motivation for being a “lunch lady” is much more than simply seeing all of our beaming faces every day. For four years, he has been working to get a musical nonprofit organization off the ground to improve the artistic community in his hometown area of Binghamton, NY. And he’s nearly there.
The 607 area code covers a large chunk of New York, and is home to thousands of under-the-radar, struggling musicians and artists. Without proper publicity and encouragement, they will likely never achieve their dreams of having a viable career in the entertainment industry. With no sustainable workforce in sight, the struggling musicians will only perpetuate the spiral of poverty that we all see around us. CJ is working on creating a nonprofit company named “What’s Real?!” 607 that can change the lives of local musicians. The organization seeks to set up a commercial-free internet radio station, which allows artists from the 607 to be heard worldwide.
With the right connections, the nonprofit can land high profile interviews with entertainment professionals. The professionals will appear on the station to talk about the work they do and their own humble beginnings. They can expose their own fans to 607 music by proxy. Listeners are encouraged to purchase 607 artists’ music directly from artists’ stores at the top of their web page. CJ told me, “There is music with integrity out there not typical of the music industry today that showcases true musicianship, but doesn’t have a proper vehicle for exposure. There are countless cases where wonderful artists get mucked over by record labels and are screwed out of their royalties throughout the entire 20th century. When you buy music from 607 artists, you’ll know that every dollar you spend goes directly to those artists and won’t get chopped up by record labels and distributors.” Ambitious musicians and artists in Binghamton and the 607 area around it will be able to come to “What’s Real?!” 607 for assistance in pursuing their dreams.
For CJ, this allocation of profits is very important. “It’s a vehicle to get these artists exposed,” he said. “We are NOT a record label, and we’re not just a radio station. We want artists to be their own business owners.”
I enjoy great music as much as the next person, but, sometimes, unfortunately, money is a major concern in providing this art. “What’s Real?! 607’s proposal is all drawn up, and as a nonprofit company they will charge businesses who choose to advertise with them on their web page the same advertising space they give the artists free of charge. This is an estimated value of about $50,000 a year. 100% of station profits go into the nonprofit fund which is then distributed via nonprofit board members’ determination to area schools to supplement music and art programs. The nonprofit will also have opportunities for artists who are no longer in school as well. All that’s needed is enough cash to get it off the ground. (About $2,000) CJ has considered approaching the city of Binghamton directly for a grant, and a gofundme.com page is now active if you decide that this is a valuable organization to contribute to.
CJ’s dream to improve Binghamton goes beyond “What’s Real?!” 607. With enough student interest, he will petition the SA for an official community outreach program next semester. This organization, tentatively called Binghamton’s “We Are The Scene,” will work in conjunction with “What’s Real?!” 607 to advocate for the importance of music and arts in the classroom and promote Binghamton University to local middle and high schools. They will offer scholarships and grants to up-and-coming talent and help schools that need to keep their arts programs, while focusing on cross promotion between university artists and Binghamton native artists, even co-sponsoring events with Late Nite Binghamton. With the student group’s community outreach, the artistic culture of the 607 area will continue to thrive for many more years.
I personally encourage you all to seriously consider the positive effect that CJ’s efforts will bring to our local area. As he told me, “The only thing better than being a rockstar is bringing everyone in town with you!”
If you want to learn more and are considering contributing in any way please search for “What’s Real?!” 607 Binghamton on Facebook and/or visit Gofundme.com/WhatsReal607