Located behind the concert venue Soma, next to the Valley View Casino Center, Pacific Records was founded in 2004 as more than just a label, or just a means to release a performer’s music. Artists currently signed to Pacific Records include hard rockers Sprung Monkey, singer-songwriter Steven Ybarra, soul singer Rebecca Jade and country combo, The Morgan Leigh Band.
Under Witkin’s direction, the label brings many different aspects of the music business together under one umbrella runs its own studios, helps in promotion as well as artist management and books the artists non-exclusively. They also book the talent at the Stellar Artois Lounge, a smaller venue located within the Valley View Casino Center, which is open as a side bar to a main event or for standalone shows such as singer-songwriter Howie Day, who will perform there on July 10. Meanwhile, beginning on July 22, Pacific Records will also be providing the opening acts for the 2016 post-race concert series at the Del Mar Race Track.
It was perhaps inevitable that Witkin ended up so deeply involved in music. “My father, Joe Witkin, who now runs the Stella Artois room events for me, was a musician, who even played Woodstock in 1969, alongside Jimi Hendrix, as an original member of (’50s themed combo), Sha-Na-Na,” he said. As a high school student he started up a small label, Real to Reel. Unable to secure a trademark on that name, Pacific Records was born. Keeping the Sha-Na-Na connection going, Witkin points out that his entertainment lawyer is the band’s original guitarist, Elliot Cahn.
Part of his success is the range of artists he works with. “We’re open to all types of music, we’re happy to work with any artist who has what it takes, especially beyond the music. You can look at our roster, that includes everything from classical guitar with Lito Romero to rock from Sprung Monkey, there’s a range.”
That range allows him to pair opening acts for a wide variety of performers, across genres.
“We don’t just book our own talent at the Stella Artois, because our goal is to make it a standalone venue where we have national and international acts. We put in a new sound system in the last year and that’s what we’re ramping up towards,” he explained. “But for the big concert nights, we try to match one of our artists with the night’s headliner, playing before the show, during the intermission and afterwards, such as last month, when Super Groupie performed there while Justin Bieber played the main room.”
For his part, Witkin is happy with the local music scene and hopes to help nurture more talent to the next level. “There is so much happening here in music, it’s amazing. There is also a real sense of community amongst the artists. If we get together on projects and help each other, there is no telling how far things can go,” he said.
That said, the music business is very much in turmoil, what drives him to continue? “It’s in my blood,” he said good-naturedly. “There is so much wonderful talent in San Diego. I like the fact that we have such a diverse group of artists on our label and we’re still able to break through and provide them with unique opportunities. It’s something that I’m very proud of.”