Behind Aware Records’ anniversary concert: A Kellogg faculty member’s take from inside the music industry


Photo by Andy Argyrakis

Jack O’Neill and Cary Pierce of JACKOPIERCE performing at Aware Records’ 25th anniversary concert Nov 10 at the House of Blues. Kellogg lecturer and alum Gregg Latterman founded the label.

Siobhan Esposito, Reporter

From being the kid who always wanted to control the stereo at the party to managing artists who have sold over 30 million CDs, Kellogg lecturer and alum Gregg Latterman and his label Aware Records have left a major footprint on the music industry.

On Nov. 10, Aware Records held its 25th anniversary concert at one of Chicago’s most iconic venues, the House of Blues. Founded by Latterman, the record label has been signing and propelling musicians ​—​ including John Mayer, Train and Mat Kearney ​—​ into successful careers for more than 20 years.

The concert featured artists ​JACKOPIERCE, Matt Scannell of Vertical Horizon, Brian Vander Ark of The Verve Pipe, The Stir and Isaac Slade of The Fray.

As both a professor and alum, Latterman invited Northwestern undergraduates to experience the concert and offered discount tickets to Radio, Television and Film students.

With his passion for discovering music and sharp entrepreneurial skills, Latterman founded Aware Records in 1993. The now famous record label sprung to life when Latterman made his first compilation CD.

“Pre-internet, I basically saw all these incredible bands making their own CDs and they were in the middle of the country, so it took them longer to be found by the major labels,” Latterman said. “So my idea was ‘I’m going to find the best unsigned bands in the middle of the country and put them on one compilation and help them get discovered faster by the industry.’”

Over 20 years later, Latterman said Aware Records has grown into an influential record label, collaborating with hundreds of people in the music industry since its inception. The anniversary concert is reflective of this success too.

Latterman said he featured JACKOPIERCE’s music on his first compilation, “Aware 1,” and Vertical Horizon’s music on his second.

Cary Pierce, guitarist and vocalist of JACKOPIERCE, said the concert reflected the music and bands Aware has worked with from the start. When looking back on the last 25 years of Aware Records, Pierce spoke highly of Latterman’s “belief in the NSP” ​—​ never stop promoting.

“(Aware Records) really became a family,” Pierce says. “Gregg always delivered on his promises. He never ever overpromised.”

Matt Scannell, guitarist and vocalist of Vertical Horizon, also applauded Latterman’s commitment to developing Aware Records into the community it now is. He pointed out that Latterman focused on the genuine connection between the fans and the artists instead of focusing on the numbers, something he said is rare in the music industry.

“He treats the people that he works with well and with respect,” Scannell said.

The concert was a culmination of Aware Records’ work over the past 25 years, as well as a reunion for the Aware Records family, Latterman said. He described the concert as “a melting pot” of the community.

Latterman said the concert, the record label and the success of Aware Records’ clients is a product of supporting the arts. Latterman stressed the importance of enthusiasm when it comes to supporting any art form.

“You don’t know where (artists are) going,” Latterman said. “Figure out a way to support it, your enthusiasm can go a long way to help the artist.”

Email: s[email protected]