Couple hopes to create sonic connection

Sound Valley builds community through collaboration

After more than a year of limited activity, Zac Pitts and Ashley Karsten recently announced their first live event since March 2020. On Saturday, Aug. 28, the couple presents the Sound Valley Summer Music Festival at Yellow Cab Tavern in Dayton.

“We all take music for granted sometimes and we certainly did,” Pitts said. “Now that it’s been gone and we haven’t had those experiences to share, all people want is that connection. They want to be able to scream at the top of their lungs to their favorite songs with their friends and we’re excited to be back out doing it.”

For this one-day event, Sound Valley is partnering with local nonprofit, the Greater Dayton Brain Health Foundation. The lineup has yet to be announced but will feature 12 performers and two stages.

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“We have about eight acts confirmed,” Karsten said. “We have a few people we’re waiting to hear back from but everybody has been pretty thankful and excited we would even reach out to them to be on the lineup. It seems like everybody got the vaccine pretty quick and people just seem excited for live music to be back.”

The relaunch

Pitts and Karsten, who got married in June 2019, recently took a working vacation to Louisiana to plot the return of Sound Valley, which they launched in 2018.

“We had a ton of momentum for the longest time,” Pitts said. “Then literally, this big roadblock came and just crashed into it. It was hard for me to get this thing moving again. We came to a dead stop after having so much momentum but I’ve been working on Sound Valley nonstop the last couple of days. After a year of feeling like this dream I’ve been building kind of crashed and came tumbling down, it’s been good to get that fire reignited.”

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Despite being re-energized, the couple didn’t rush back out with a big festival.

“For safety reasons, we didn’t want to start anything too early when it still wasn’t safe for everybody,” Karsten said. “With it being an in-person event, everybody is kind of on edge because everything has completely changed. It was important for us to wait to make sure the world was at least somewhat starting to right itself.”

A call for collaboration

The announcement of the summer festival is just part of Sound Valley’s relaunch.

“I locked myself up this past year and took different marketing courses and online workshops,” Pitts said. “I’m figuring out how to apply that to Sound Valley. We have this powerful asset in Dayton, which is music, and the only way it’s going to see the light of day outside of the area is for people to work together. It’s all about the need for collaboration.

“We’re going to focus more on how we make Sound Valley that connection source,” he continued. “Ashley came up with this line we threw on our website, ‘Sonically connecting the community.’ Sound Valley is this umbrella and everybody just kind of works underneath it and creates together.”

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For Pitts and Karsten, it’s about building the Gem City’s music community by crossing over from a competitive mindset to one of collaboration.

“If you’re being competitive and you’re leading with that, you’re almost acting and leading out of fear,” Karsten said. “If you’re collaborating, it’s like you’re leading out of love.”

Local affiliates

The couple is expanding the concept of collaboration with its new affiliate program, which will provide interested participants with opportunities to earn cash for promoting events.

“If somebody goes on our website and enters their name and PayPal e-mail, they can sign up to be an affiliate,” Pitts said. “If they share our advertising and sponsorship page on their Facebook and then a business-owning friend sees it and decides to be a sponsor for this music festival, they’re going to get 20% of that. We want people to get paid to help us grow the music scene.”

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Call it incentivized promotion.

“It will help the music scene for sure because it will have more eyes on it if people are able to promote shows and share shows,” Karsten said. “It benefits everybody because it gives everybody the option to promote each other’s shows. It also gives the fans the option to promote shows too and possibly get a small commission off of it. It’s a lot more promotion, so I don’t really see much negative that could come out of it.”

In many ways, Sound Valley is working to provide an infrastructure that will not only attract a larger audience for local music but also help increase the financial viability for area acts. However, it will take teamwork.

“We always wanted Sound Valley to be something the community felt like it built,” Pitts said. “Ashley and I got the ball rolling, but we want the community to kick the ball around and kick it down the field with us. Our vision has always been the three C’s: create, collaborate and community. If we can get those three things working together, then we have something powerful.”

More info: www.soundvalleydayton.com.

Contact contributing arts and music writer Don Thrasher at donthrasher100@gmail.com.

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