Since its inception in 2013, We the Beat has transformed from a music blog with a pipe dream to what is arguably the most sharpshooting concert-promotion company in town. Founded by Kirk Reed, Blake Nania, and Jon Salontay, We the Beat (WTB) has been vital for the progression of the Santa Barbara music scene by bringing in artists like People Under the Stairs, Cherub, !!! (Chk Chk Chk), Flume, Goldroom, Neon Indian, Mr. Little Jeans, Bondax, and more. Through dance and hip-hop acts such as these, Reed and his rapidly burgeoning company have bucked the town’s early-to-bed habits with consistently high-BPM, hipper-than-now gigs week after week.
Reed started out as a busboy at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club and then became a server and then a bar-back. After graduating college, he asked if he could book the music at SOhO. “They asked me if I had ever booked a show, and I said, ‘Uh, no, but I think I can,’ and they politely declined,” he said. “So I called my buddy Blake, and I said, ‘I want to put on concerts,’ and he said, ‘I want to start a new music blog.’”
Party animals and music aficionados alike rejoice when they hear about an upcoming WTB concert, and this has been the company’s intention all along. Reed says that although WTB started out promoting mostly dance music, the brand has always strove to cater to every genre. “I want to do the shows that Santa Barbara really wants — which is what we’ve been doing — but I want to do it on a bigger and more frequent scale,” he said. “Now we have the experience, chutzpah, and reputation to go after bigger artists. We want to provide for all of Santa Barbara.”
WTB strives to be ahead of the curve, evident not just in the concerts they book but also in the festivities they curate. “We’re a concert-promotion company and a glorified party thrower. We’ll do pool parties at the Canary and boat parties on the Condor. Sometimes the band at the party is playing Coachella, and half the crowd doesn’t know it,” he said with a laugh.
WTB just recently sponsored an electronic four-piece band, Lemaitre, who played SOhO on January 28 and who will also be playing at Coachella. “We had [Lemaitre] out two years ago, and it was the first time they [had] ever headlined their own show in California, so to see them grow and to see our tastes get the stamp of approval from Coachella was pretty cool,” he said.
Probably the most impressive thing about WTB is that it’s really just run by a bunch of young guns, with Reed at the ripe age of 25. “Even if this fails, I’d still be happy knowing that I tried to do the music thing. You have to remember that there is always someone out there that’s younger and that is doing more than you,” he said. “I’m 25 — that’s not old, but in the game, that’s not young. But it does feel good—I have a purpose in life right now. I’m giving 110 percent of my everyday to this. My parents call it my street degree: negotiating, writing up contracts, fucking up.” [Laughs.]
He’s grateful for his partners and SOhO manager Gail Hansen — “Cool people that make my life look easy” — and expressed additional gratitude for the other venues in town and promoters including Music Is Love and RedEye. Together, he said, they are making our music scene one to look out for. “Santa Barbara is an underrated music scene, and if you take the time to look, a lot of people are doing some really cool shit,” he said. “I hate that we have to go to L.A. for every cool show — we have enough people who would appreciate it if the music came here.”
A people-pleasing cocktail crafter by night, Reed has service instincts that make for a deep satisfaction and resonance in the service WTB provides for local music-lovers. “It’s so cool when I see people’s faces after they see their favorite band for the first time,” he said. “I had something to do with that, and I love to be that person. I get to be part of something that gives back to Santa Barbara.”