Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Gerstner, Universal Strike a Deal

Yeshiva Boys Choir filmed a new music video last week after producer Eli Gerstner landed a unique partnership with a Universal Music record label.

By COLlive reporter

Jewish music producer Eli Gerstner will be releasing The Yeshiva Boys Choir Chanukah CD on indieExtreme through Fontana Distribution, an independent music division of Universal Music Group Distribution.

This rare collaboration is a result of a music industry insider hearing YBC's catchy Jewish-pop tunes, and asking Gerstner to write songs for a non-Jewish label.

But Gerstner, a household name on account of his stellar solo albums and hand-crafted male vocal groups, "The Chevra," "Menucha" and "Tek-noy," had another idea.

"I told him, during the month of December, all you hear on the radio are holiday – Xmas songs," he told COLlive.com. "The Jewish population may be a small percentage of the population – but shouldn't we be represented and have holiday songs of our own?"

"The guy called Universal and pitched it to them. He played the choir's popular 'Kol Hamispalel - the Remix' and some of our other hits for them. They loved it," he recalls.

The 11 song holiday CD was primarily composed, arranged and directed by Gerstner, with the rhythm recorded in Israel, vocals recorded in New York and strings and brass recorded in New Jersey.

The choir is conducted by Yossi Newman with music by The Yosis Orchestra and the CD was mixed by Gerstner and mastered by Larry Gates.

Ahead of the release, a music video for the song "'Those Were the Nights" was filmed this week in a Boro Park home with Chanukah decor lining the walls. There were doughnuts on the table and a Menorah in the window.

The lively, rambunctious group of about 50 boys, ranging in age from 7-14, excitedly prepared for the film shoot in a local Shul, getting dressed up in costumes and singing in little groups as they waited for the filming to begin.

Lyrics written by songwriter, entertainer and radio personality Country Yossi, the song is funny, upbeat, and is all about the holiday of Chanukah. It will be launched on the Vevo music channel on YouTube.

"Already we are seeing that there is a great demand for Jewish music, there has been so much interest," Gerstner said, noting that Universal's marketing campaign will include featuring it in the AOL music section for 2 months.

"This deal for us is not about the money," he added. "We would have to sell thousands of CD's to make a penny back from the money we invested. For us it's about reaching unaffiliated Jews who are searching for something Jewish."

That is also the reason why Gerstner insisted that members of the choir play all the characters in the music video and did not hire professional actors to play the adult characters in the song.

"What Yossi [Newman] and I always worked for with the choir is to break the stereotypes of what the 'outside' world thinks of Orthodox Jewish kids," said Gerstner, who was a judge at season two of A Jewish Star singing competition.

"Our videos feature regular, happy, kids doing regular, everyday activities. And people respond to that. Most of the comments on our songs on Youtube are from unaffiliated Jews from around the world who are so excited to be watching something Jewish."

Universal's label will be releasing the CD on November 15, 2011 and will be selling it to the wider public on iTunes and Amazon.com by Fontana Distribution (UMG Distribution).

And if it does well?

"It will open up a whole new market," Gerstner said. "This could be a huge Kiddush Hashem."