“Dayton is a melting pot of a lot of different genres of music. If we all work together it will be a beautiful thing,” says Ronald Blake, owner of Streetlight Entertainment Group. (Photo courtesy of Ronald Blake)
Partnerships help performers get back in front of live audiences and build connections.
By Malik Keith, Elevate Dayton
Dayton has a rich history of creating music that has both defined generations and shaped culture, from the funk of the Ohio Players, to hip-hop classics like “California,” which was co-written by Dayton natives Roger Troutman and J-Flexx. Today, Ronald Blake is looking for the next wave of breakthrough Dayton artists.
Blake is CEO and owner of Streetlight Entertainment Group, which manages musicians and media professionals in Dayton, and assists them with production, marketing and distribution. He fell in love with music at a young age. His uncle was a member of the Dazz Band, and he was a fan of Michael Jackson.
“After I saw him do the moonwalk, I knew this is what I wanted to do,” Blake says.
Blake created Streetlight Entertainment in 2003. It was originally called Infinite Records because he felt he could accomplish anything he set his mind to in the industry, and he wanted to revive the music scene in the Dayton area. He changed the name due to a story about one of the titans of the music industry he looked up to.
“Doowop came from people singing and harmonizing under the streetlight at night,” Blake says.”Berry Gordy said a lot of his artists would stand outside of his office under the streetlight and sing to get his attention.”
This is something that Blake has adopted, not only in name, but in philosophy as well. He often asks new artists to perform impromptu.
“I put them on the spot,” Blake says. “ I want to bring that essence of music back to entertainment.”
Blake says the music business was drastically different when he first started. Social media and websites for artists to share their music independently had not been created yet. A rapper at the time, he recalls having to go to record stores to get a label's contact information and then send them physical copies of his music.
“It was very hard,” he says. “They had to have an interest in you. We used to have to do photoshoots, write up bios, and mail them out. It makes you appreciate the hustle a little bit more.”
All of that hard work has translated into Blake building his own label. Today, Streetlight Entertainment is home to several local acts, including Justina Clear, Flamborghini, Queen Amazon, Sig-nechor, Luv Locz, ShyeFye Tha Don.
Even with an abundance of talent, the COVID-19 pandemic was a very challenging time for artists. Due to lockdowns, many of the venues up-and-coming talent utilized were no longer available.
“It was hard because there were no longer people in restaurants and other places where people gather,” says Jessica Sands, public relations and marketing manager for Downtown Dayton Partnership. “A lot of folks were doing really small-scale events, and virtual events became huge.”
As more venues have opened up, DDP has been intentional about helping performers get back in front of live audiences.
Blake works with DDP and its The Square is Where free lunchtime entertainment series at Courthouse Square, where vendors and entertainers showcase their work and talent each weekday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Artists are paid a small stipend of $100-$150.
DDP also sponsored “Art in the City,” a community-minded celebration of the visual and performing arts. The Aug. 6 event featured painters, musicians, sculptors, dancers and more.
“As a non-profit we work to connect artists with other organizations who will be able to provide them funding,” Sands says. “We make it a priority to make sure a performer gets a stipend for their time.”
And there’s room for growth, says Blake, noting there is a lot of local talent.
“Dayton is a melting pot of a lot of different genres of music. If we all work together it will be a beautiful thing.”
When asked about the future of homegrown music in Dayton, Blake says he thinks there will be a resurgence of Dayton’s original sound, funk music.
“Everything takes a 360 degree turn,” Blake says. “Dayton’s sound has gone to other places and visited other places, but it is coming back home. If we keep that vision, the music will flourish more here than the last couple of years.”
Disclosure: Streetlight Entertainment occasionally hires Hunter Brand Consulting, owned by Elevate Dayton co-founder Chanda Hunter, for web design and media development services.