Meet Spencer Ludwig, a 21 year-old entrepreneur, event promoter, teacher, student and philanthropist. While he was in high school, he created $2 Shows -- events connecting the best of undiscovered Los Angeles art with local nonprofits and fundraising causes. Now a full-time trumpet teacher at Oakwood School in North Hollywood, he's also studying Jazz Trumpet Performance at CalArts and still finds time to perform with bands across the city.
HuffPost Los Angeles sat down with Ludwig to chat about the growth of $2 Shows, the music scene in Los Angeles, and his upcoming event this Thursday.
What inspired you to create two dollar shows?
It all started when my mother went out of town one weekend in June. Instead of charging $10 at the door to make a little profit after alcohol expenses like most of the other party events around town, I thought it would be better to make the shows more affordable and therefore accessible. I also wanted to add a twist and share the profit with a charity or person in need -- like a new kind of Robin Hood culture. Why not?
The shows grew so large that they grabbed the attention of New York Times writer Jennifer Bleyer who came and called my shows a "junior version of Coachella." We were eventually reaching audiences of over 800 people.
Images courtesy of $2 Shows and Spencer Ludwig. Story continues below.
How does the organization differ from when you started out?
$2 Shows has grown from one person's idea to an established 501(c)3 nonprofit that functions in both Los Angeles and Austin. We have an office located in the heart of downtown Los Angeles and a nine member board of directors. We also have three incredibly talented and dedicated interns. This team is the reason that $2 Shows has seen so much growth.
We are now partnered with Royal/T, an incredible venue in Los Angeles where we are scheduled to host our monthly multimedia events. We plan to expose the diamonds in the rough. When people leave our events, [we want them to think] it was unbelievable that it only cost $2 and that they are certain they saw something that night that will be making headlines or selling millions of records in the near future.
Is there any show you have put on that is especially memorable for you?
I’ll never forget the first show, mainly because we were raising money for Richard Dalton. He's a man I still do not know, but only read about on a piece of paper in Twain’s Café in Studio City the week leading up to the event. Richard was apparently a regular customer at Twain’s who had been jumped and beaten to the pulp one night. Unfortunately he did not have the finances to pay for the much needed facial plastic surgery he needed. After reading this news, I decided to dedicate the show to him. After the event I dropped off $105.62 in a plastic bag to Twain’s to be delivered to Richard the next day from $2 Shows, Inc.
Has there yet been a show that is your favorite?
There was a brief time when I was hosting $2 Shows out of a warehouse downtown known as the PDG (Poor Dog Group) Warehouse. A traveling band from San Francisco called Battle Hooch arrived in their dilapidated Sponge Bob tour van filled with more fun things than Sponge Bob himself could dream of. They had brought with them a bucket full of hats and costumes that were worn and danced in by all the lucky attendees that night. That night we partied hard and danced in full costume. It was truly an unforgettable event. Even the Cobra Snake made an appearance.
What should we expect from $2 Shows in the future?
Eventually we plan to expand to every major city in the country. We have constructed a model for $2 Shows so that it can be adopted by anyone and adapted to any environment. Why not host a monthly affordable charity event that exposes the art that is happening around your community?
If you had to pick one musician or group to come play a show, who would it be?
Many of our friends and past performers such as Belle Brigade and Baths have started their fan base with $2 Shows and are now signed to major labels, touring the world. We hope to have them back soon! Other than that, we’re still waiting to hear back from Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros! What’s up guys??
Aside from the price what sets a $2 Show apart from other concerts?
You feel it in your heart the moment you set foot into a $2 Show. We include the charity in as many creative ways as possible, making sure that they are able to fund-raise and inform the audience. We are grassroots yet extremely professional, undeniably showcasing the most unique, untapped talent that’s out there. On top of that, there is a meshing of artists’ worlds and mediums that diverse and cohesive tastefully providing the atmosphere for the events. Best of all, you leave feeling great, knowing that you were just exposed to some of the most innovative and creative art of our time.
What are your thoughts on the state of the arts/music scene right now in Los Angeles?
Creativity is up and the economy is down. This is a perfect time for an organization like $2 Shows to come into play. The Internet is losing its touch due to the inflation of information and a growing number of individuals trying to have their voices heard. Therefore, the success of an artist depends almost entirely on their live performances.
What: An Electric Bath
When: Thursday, July 28th at 7:30pm
Where: The Royal/T Cafe, 8910 Washington Blvd., Culver City
Why: All proceeds go to the Harmony Project, a nonprofit that provides music lessons to at-risk youth in Los Angeles.
Cost: $2 per ticket. Accepting donations of new/used CDs (jazz, classical, and Latin preferred, must have kid-friendly lyrics), music supplies like reeds, rosin, strings and sheet music.
Interview was edited for length.