The Durham Bulls and Merge Records: A match made in downtown Durham
Tonight’s Bulls-Pawtucket Red Sox game will feature “walk-up” music for Bulls batters curated by the path-breaking, independent record label Merge Records, which is based just a few blocks from the stadium. Each Bulls batter will walk to the plate accompanied by a fourteen-second clip from tunes recorded by bands on Merge’s adventurous roster. It’s a fitting partnership. The Durham Bulls Athletic Park opened in 1997; Merge moved their offices from Carrboro to Durham in 2000. Both were way ahead of the curves of downtown development. In many ways the Bulls, the whole American Tobacco complex, and Merge form a symbolic axis around which the changes in downtown Durham are turning, a mix of hip culture and visionary investing that has some people calling Durham the Brooklyn of the South.
The Merge-Bulls collaboration was the brainchild of Bulls’ Director of Marketing, Scott Carter. He described how it came about:
“I’m a big Merge fan and one of the first things I wanted to do when I got this job and moved here two years ago was figure out a way to work with them. It turns out they’re big Bulls fans, so it’s been a pretty easy relationship to form. We’re looking forward to doing more with them in the future.”
“I grew up in Los Angeles County, in a city called Downey… just in the thick of L.A. sprawl. I moved here from Fresno, where I headed the marketing department for the Grizzlies, the S.F. Giants Triple-A affiliate. These aren’t exactly hotbeds of indie music.
“I consider music the lifeblood of the ballpark experience: it is incredibly important to the atmosphere. But I also believe that if you can mix in some new music that may not be as mainstream, like that which Merge produces, you can make your ballpark into a place where people feel cool. That’s huge. You want people to feel like coming to a game is cool. And we’re lucky to be in a market like this one where indie music is so widely appreciated. So it’s not as out of the norm to hear some of these artists at the DBAP as it may be in some other minor league towns.”
Merge General Manager, Keith Artin, is just as enthusiastic about the new partnership: “When the Bulls approached us, it was a no-brainer that we’d do this. Many of our bands and musicians are huge baseball fans, huge sports fans in general. For example, the band Wild Flag has a baseball-themed video, and Mikal Cronin is a huge baseball fan. We also wanted to represent some of our local bands such as Mount Moriah, the Mountain Goats, and Superchunk.
“We felt we could bring a different musical angle to the ballpark experience. So many times when I’m at games, or when we’re all at a games, we’re thinking, ‘What music would you choose as your own walk-up music?’ This project gave us a chance to fantasize a bit and to bring in some of our favorite music that some Bulls fans may not have heard.
“This is a unique situation, in that Merge Records has bands from all over the world on our roster, but we’re associated very tightly with the Triangle and Durham. Most record labels aren’t associated with such a specific place like we are. It’s also important that our local team is a AAA team, not a major league team like if we were based in New York or Los Angeles. A minor league team is more likely to take chances with marketing than a major league team, just like Merge is more likely to take more chances with music than a New York- or LA-based label.”
Below is the list of tracks curated by Merge for tonight’s game. You can hear these songs in their entirety on the Durham Bulls’ website.
• Arcade Fire – “Wake Up”
• Bob Mould – “Silver Age”
• Divine Fits – “Would That Not Be Nice”
• Hospitality – “Friends of Friends”
• Imperial Teen – “Runaway”
• The Love Language – “Brittany’s Back”
• M. Ward – “Requiem”
• Mikal Cronin – “Change”
• Mount Moriah – “Bright Light”
• The Mountain Goats – “The Diaz Brothers”
• Polvo – “Heavy Detour”
• Redd Kross – “Researching the Blues”
• Shout Out Louds – “14th of July”
• Spoon – “The Underdog”
• Superchunk – “FOH”
• Telekinesis – “Wires”
• Wild Flag – “Romance”
• Wye Oak – “Civilian”