A recent Gray Area show in Brooklyn featuring International Star and Swedish artist Ida Engberg.
Editor’s note: Lisa Kocay is a freelance writer for Gray Area’s online publication.
With the country’s divide, Michael Julian Kovadlo, also known as MJ, saw an opportunity to unite people—that is on the dancefloor. Kovadlo launched Gray Area in 2019, an event series that brings together artists who might not typically perform together and helps launch new artists’ careers.
The former approach, dubbed Doubleheader, Gray Area, which is under the umbrella company Seers, brings two distinct crowds together as each artist brings their own fanbase. The artists are chosen based on the criteria that their music styles are not the same but similar enough so each artist’s fans will likely enjoy dancing to both. By having two acts perform together to headline a show, they create new fans for each respective artist, and they perform a back-to-back set after each of their own performances.
“We feel that if you do it this way where the artists are far enough apart from each other, where their fans don’t really cross but are close enough in style where people would enjoy the music, we essentially give the gift that one artist can introduce their fans them to another [artist] and vice versa,” Kovadlo says. “As a result, both of these core headliners can make a claim that they had a sold-out show, which they couldn’t do solo. Both of these headliners in the perfect world are going to gain a massive following.”
“We are out there to connect the artists to the real fans so that it’s not the tickets that we are selling—it’s the following that we are building,” he adds. “Then we can grow together with this artist. This is where this ecosystem we’ve created really helps us.”
Gray Area’s founder Michael Julian Kovadlo and partners Joseph Sutera and Dmitry Petrov at Electric … [+] Zoo, a New York electronic music festival that the team has been a part of since its inception.
In addition to Doubleheader, Gray Area also boasts another component named Debut. The event series identifies up-and-coming artists that it wishes to bring into specific markets, and the artists are booked for either their first performance or headline show in a new city.
Gray Area also hosts its own radio show, OCHO, on SiriusXM with Diplo’s radio show, Revolution. The show features eight sets by eight different house artists from around the world, which has led Gray Area to have opportunities with Spotify and SoundCloud to curate house music playlists.
“The way we’ve programmed it was specifically to bring in as diversified of a lineup as possible, having male and female artists from all over the world who play completely different styles of house music,” Kovadlo says. “Essentially, it does the same thing as to what we meant to do in the dancefloor, which is to allow people to connect to different artists, learn different sub-styles—sub-genres of house music—and have more conversations.”
elrow at New York City’s The Brooklyn Mirage.
Gray Area was also approached by a Chicago-based music group to help with talent and programming for a festival called ARC. The goal of the event sticks to Gray Area’s ethos of bringing different styles of house music to fans, creating a proper house music festival, which isn’t common in the United States. The largest partnership the event series has is with elrow, an immersive Spanish house music mini-festival, and the New York City elrow was hosted by Gray Area at The Brooklyn Mirage. Kovadlo is a junior partner and advisor for ARC, and he’s the head of North America for elrow.
“It was very rewarding to see how people who normally would not necessarily be on the same dancefloor ended up to be on the same dancefloor dancing to all the artists on the lineup, even though it wasn’t the kind of obvious lineup,” Kovadlo says of elrow. “It was innovative and created specifically to become a discovery platform for the fans and for the artists.”
The latest Gray Area event will take place Friday, December 9 at Superior Ingredients with Franky Wah headlining. Franky Wah is a melodic house music producer who Kovadlo believes is a rising star who will be “one of the biggest electronic music artists in the world really soon.”
“I think our longer vision for Gray Area is to fit into a place where we can truly identify the areas where we can create value and really contribute in a model that doesn’t exist today,” Kovadlo adds. “We’re not the promoters, we’re not the management company, we’re not the venue, we’re not a website, we’re not a media company. We come from a dancefloor ourselves. We are true house music fans.”

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