NEW YORK (AP) — Actor Kurt Deutsch didn’t intend to become the Clive Davis of Broadway when he converted a second bedroom into the headquarters of a new record company. He was just hoping to help friends make rock ‘n’ roll albums.
That was back in 2000, and the first albums he made were on analogue tapes. There was no iTunes or Spotify yet. Some hurdles on the horizon included Napster and the dwindling number of recording studios.
Now, Sh-K-Boom Records, the little boutique record label he co-created with his then-wife Sherie Rene Scott — she’s the “Sh” and he’s the “K” in the name — is celebrating a milestone: Sweet 16.
“I didn’t think I’d ever have a record label but I knew I wanted to be involved in the theater in some way. It just happened that this is what happened,” said Deutsch in his offices, a stone’s throw from Broadway.
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An anniversary concert is planned Thursday at Symphony Space with artists the label has recorded over the years, featuring the voices of Hunter Parrish, Brittain Ashford and Rebecca Naomi Jones.
The concert will celebrate such writers as Jason Robert Brown, Michael Friedman, Amanda Green, Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey, Michael John LaChiusa, Dave Malloy, Alan Menken, Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater, Stephen Schwartz and David Yazbek.
In 16 years, Deutsch’s Sh-K-Boom and its cast-album imprint, Ghostlight Records, has created almost 200 albums, and won Grammy Awards for “The Book of Mormon,” ”In the Heights” and “Beautiful — The Carole King Musical.”
Deutsch champions cast recordings not just for financial gain but also for preservation and as a tool for licensing. “Without a cast recording, it’s as if the musical didn’t exit,” he said. These days, 60 percent of his sales are digital and 40 percent physical CDs.
He and his wife entered the recording business trying to help theater stars break into rock ‘n’ roll, armed with little more than the book “All You Need to Know About the Music Business” by Donald S. Passman.
Their first album was for Scott, who at the time was starring in Broadway’s “Aida.” Other artists soon jumped aboard, including Adam Pascal and Alice Ripley.
Soon, cast albums were added, including ones for “Next to Normal,” ”Hair” and “Legally Blonde,” and more recently, “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,” ”The Bridges of Madison County” and “Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella.”
Theater artists and cast albums are enjoying more attention, and Deutsch credits their upswing to TV shows like “Glee” and films like “Pitch Perfect” and “Les Miserables,” as well as the re-emergence of live theater on network TV.
“I think there’s a larger, younger audience that is much more open to musicals than in the past. It gives me hope, actually,” said Deutsch, who also has a music publishing business and a theatrical development arm.
The future is streaming — he notes that when his 12-year-old son listens to music, it’s on YouTube — and he would love to get cast albums to everyone who sees a show. “My dream would be anybody who buys a ticket gets a record,” he said.
Deutsch may have initially stumbled into becoming a record producer, but he said he now loves capturing history and promoting the artists he admires.
At his confirmation in St. Louis when he was 16, he recalls reciting the lyrics to “Corner of the Sky” from the musical “Pippin” — “Everything has its season/ Everything has its time” — and then, years later, working with Schwartz, the legend who wrote that song.
“Getting to work with your heroes is unbelievable,” Deutsch said.