Where is the local music scene? Conventional knowledge finds it in the small coffee shops and dive bars of a city, but savvier minds find it on the internet. As social media has taken gig posters from record store windows to digital feeds over the years, the challenge to stay engaged with new bands in the Oklahoma City area has evolved. Thankfully, Circle Lotus Media is here to help.
Circle Lotus Media is a central Oklahoma-based digital platform designed to bridge the physical and virtual music communities through online showcases of local independent artists. Since launching in the pandemic summer of 2020, the multimedia group has quickly gained an underground reputation for its weekly “CLM Live!” multi-cam livestream concerts on YouTube, curated Spotify playlists, and monthly “Release Roundup” of new Oklahoma music singles and albums.
Its latest milestone, a new compilation album featuring over a dozen live recordings from the “CLM Live!” series will be released July 23 for digital download and physical cassette tape. All profits will go to the Homeless Alliance.
“We’ve got rock, heady alternative, fast-paced punk, live band hip-hop, pop vibes, smooth singer-songwriter stylings, and more,” said David Joachims, chief operating officer of Circle Lotus Media. “14 tracks from 14 different Oklahoma artists.”
The project takes inspiration from other recent local music compilations like SixTwelve’s Building Together fundraising record, Factory Obscura’s Mix-Tape cassette series, and Not Alone, OK, a suicide prevention benefit album organized by alt-punk band Grandpa Vern, who also appears on CLM Live! Vol. 1.
Late in 2020, we started multi-track recording our live shows directly, and since then we’ve had all these recordings of great local artists that I thought would be cool to use in some way,” Joachims said.
There is no shortage of source material. Circle Lotus Media has kept up with its weekly livestreaming schedule for a full year now, featuring a range of acts from established artists like hip-hop emcee Jabee to up-and-comers like indie singer-songwriter Keathley. The scope of these shows have been as intimate as the recent solo acoustic performance by Chris Jones of The Flycatchers and as extravagant as The Magic Munchbox Variety Hour. The latter featured local funk-fusion band Magic Munchbox in a bonkers livestream concert complete with prerecorded skit commercials and Eric Andre-style absurdist breaks in format.
The nuts and bolts behind these live events come with many variables which often go unseen, and that Circle Lotus Media has managed to produce dozens of them is remarkable. No other music organization in Oklahoma City has done livestreaming concerts so consistently despite arguably having more resources.
There is one major differentiating factor, though. Where most livestreams in 2020 came as a response to the COVID-19 quarantine, CLM Live! was always part of the plan.
“I came up with the original idea a couple years ago,” said Mylo Sonder, founder and CEO of Circle Lotus Media. “After being in the music scene for almost 10 years now, I started to see a pattern in how hard it is to grow an audience without some sort of online presence, so I wanted to figure out a way to not only help my bands but to build the community as a whole. I want the artists we have on our platform to walk away with a good representation of who they are so they can use that in building their fanbase, or even help with things like booking shows.”
As live music continues to return to in-person venues in 2021, CLM shows no sign of slowing its digital efforts.
“Livestreaming isn’t going anywhere but, we have changed our regular show schedule a bit from Friday nights to Sunday nights to accommodate for the increasing amount of going out,” said Joachims. “Regardless, something we always want to emphasize is that the shows are performed live but they are on Youtube forever after that - so if you can’t catch it live, you can always watch it there later!”
“We’ve also been working on content outside of just the livestreams,” Sonder adds. “We have our Venue Spotlight and Fireside series we’re looking to expand on, and also we’ve recently updated to a more mobile rig so we hope to lease our skills out to other live events, like Color of Art which we worked on with Original Flow at Scissortail Park. We also are opening up our studio for artists to come record with our in-house engineer Caleb Gray. We try to keep ourselves very busy.”
Doing all of this on what Sonder calls “a budget of duct tape and shoestring” only adds to the workload, but thanks to a dedicated team of eight and growing, CLM is up to the task.
The group’s tireless generosity for its community shows at every level, including its latest effort. When presented with the problem of how to manage the funds of CLM Live! Vol. 1, the team turned it into a selfless opportunity.
“Especially given the past year, we would’ve loved to use this to bring in some money for the artists that we’ve worked with, but on a project like this, that gets exponentially more complicated with the amount of people involved, copyright, etc.” Joachims said. “We wanted the money to go somewhere local, and we think the Homeless Alliance does valuable, practical, and tangible work for an incredibly underserved and overlooked community.”
Ultimately, whether in-person or online, community is a theme that runs deep in Circle Lotus Media.
“Our name comes from this idea of the three pillars of a local music scene - artists, venues, and fans - are all needed for local music to thrive and grow,” said Sonder. “We have so much planned for the future but whatever we do we want to raise this community along with us.”
CLM Live! Vol. 1, the debut compilation tape from Circle Lotus Media, will be available for purchase at circlelotusmedia.com and at local storefronts including Factory Obscura’s Gift Shop and Plaza District’s Dig It! Boutique July 23.