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Eyes wide shut 

Shut Eye Records turns 10, Jermaine Dupri leaves Virgin

For Pete Knapp, the 30-year-old entrepreneur behind Shut Eye Records & Agency, 10 years is a long time in the music business. It marks an evolution from a promising local record label into a profitable and diversified company that does radio promotion, publicity, and CD and DVD manufacturing. Meanwhile, the label's notoriety for countless albums and compilations such as Buzzlighter and A Low Watt Document earned Knapp the unofficial title of Atlanta's "compilation king."

"We've worked with over 800 bands in 10 years," Knapp says at Shut Eye's office in Candler Park. "I think it took that long to grow to be substantial."

Shut Eye Records originated from "Knapptime," a show Knapp hosted on Southern Polytechnic's radio station WGHR-FM. His first release was 1997's Brand New, a compilation featuring acts such as Dropsonic, Atomsplit and X-Impossibles. "They were the hot Atlanta bands at the time," he says.

Over the next few years, Shut Eye issued albums by Fiend without a Face (which featured future Mastodon guitarist Brent Hines), Wonderlust (Ken Will Morton's early pop-punk band) and the Indicators. Some of the national acts who appeared on the label's comps include the Fiery Furnaces, Matt Pond PA and Mary Lou Lord.

Eventually Knapp's tastes changed, and he shifted the label's focus from independent rock to Americana. Today, he services The United State of Americana compilation series directly to roots-music radio stations, bypassing record stores altogether. Better known as a one-stop shop that promotes Americana music throughout the music industry, the only traditional artist on its roster is Richmond, Va.'s Wrinkle Neck Mules.

"I think we finally figured out all the niches where we need to be," Knapp says. "A label this size can't survive on CD sales alone."

On Fri., Nov. 4, Shut Eye Records & Agency celebrates a decade in business with a party at its headquarters at 1526 DeKalb Ave. Some of the bands scheduled to perform are Wrinkle Neck Mules and friends such as Blake Rainey and His Demons, Sodajerk and the Blanks.

TAKE THIS JOB AND...: On Oct. 25, Jermaine Dupri released a statement announcing that he left his post as Virgin Records' president of urban music. Since then, speculation has run wild as to the roots of his departure. Some allege that he was forced out following the release of his girlfriend Janet Jackson's 20 Y.O., which has so far been a major sales disappointment. Others take his word that he left voluntarily, and say he blames Virgin for not promoting Jackson's comeback properly. There's no word yet on whether he will remain with the company in any capacity, or what will become of his So So Def roster (Dem Franchize Boyz, Johnta Austin) and Big Boi's Purple Ribbon imprint (Sleepy Brown, Bubba Sparxxx).

RANDOM NEWS: Congratulations to Gnarls Barkley. Cee-Lo and Danger Mouse picked up a "Left Field Woodie" for their "Crazy" video at MTVu's annual Woodie Awards. ... At each of its nine music showcases, Heineken's Red Star Soul has picked a local innovator to receive an Independent Achiever Award. The person who gets the honor at the Wed., Nov. 8, edition at Center Stage Atlanta is Jason Orr, the man behind the pioneering Funk Jazz Kafé parties. Artists on the bill include Disturbing Tha Peace's Shareefa, Donnell Jones and Raheem DeVaughn; the event is invite-only. In related news, Orr plans to relaunch Funk Jazz Kafé early next year. ... Stomp and Stammer, the venerable rock 'n' roll rag founded by Jeff Clark, turns 10 years old this November. The magazine is celebrating with a series of concerts. This week's shows include the Close's Sat., Nov. 4, release party at the Earl for its Sun, Burn; and post-punk icons the Slits' Wed., Nov. 8, show at the Drunken Unicorn.

CD RELEASES: Experimental hip-hop group Social Espionage brings The Clean Air Campaign during a Fri., Nov. 3, gig at Vinyl. Hostage, DJ Lord and Obeah also perform. ... Singer/songwriter Ben Wakeman debuts Waiting for the Light to Change at a Sat., Nov. 4, concert at Eddie's Attic.

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