Mastermind 2014 Finalist: Cheap Miami Give Bands a Voice

Miami New Times' Mastermind Awards honors the city's most inspiring creatives. This year, we received more than 100 submissions, which our staff narrowed to an elite group of 30, and finally, nine. We'll be profiling those finalists in the days to come. This year's three Mastermind Award winners will be announced February 27 at Artopia, our annual soiree celebrating Miami culture. For tickets and more information, visit the website.

If you're staring at a line of Lambos and Maseratis parked in front of the Delano, the idea of "Cheap Miami" might sound like an oxymoron. But it's not what you think.

This creative collective comprises two dedicated music lovers melding their nostalgic past with the future of rock 'n' roll. Michelle Granados and Patrick Garcia give local bands a platform to make some noise by releasing old-school cassette tapes completely free of charge for the musicians and selling them to fans for just $5.

"We love local artists, we love the struggle, we love rockin' music," says Granados, a 23-year-old South Miami native. Granados discovered her DIY passion as a high-schooler going to shows at Churchill's, and her time playing in the band Ex Norwegian taught her firsthand the struggle of releasing grassroots music in the Spotify age.

Two years ago, she met Garcia when they worked together at Aventura Mall. The 24-year-old had never been in any bands but did have some background as a painter and designer. He'd always wanted to find a way to support local music, and six months later, they teamed up and began releasing cassettes.

It's old technology, but tapes are a lot easier to carry than vinyl and much more affordable to make, which is why the format has found a resurgence on the indie scene in recent years. Each Cheap Miami cassette also comes with access to an MP3 download, so fans aren't shut out if they gave their tape player to Goodwill a decade ago. Half the fun, though, is reviving the nostalgia of buying new-release cassettes back in the day.

"We're definitely '90s kids," Granados says. "We're definitely attracted to the idea of cassettes and collecting these colorful little rectangles of plastic."

The pair's formula is also a pretty sweet deal for up-and-coming bands. All they have to do is write the songs and chose a cassette color. Cheap Miami keeps half the tapes to sell online, and the band gets the other half to offer on merch tables and websites.

"We also book their release party if they're local," Garcia says, "even sometimes not local bands. We've had a band from New York come down just for their release party in South Beach."

In fact, Cheap Miami is growing strong. The pair has helped bands release music as far and wide as France and South Africa. They've even begun to see orders for Miami music in Europe and Australia. Not bad for a couple of '90s kids making mixtapes at home.

"I think through the internet, it's been so easy now to be exposed to all the new music out there and make these connections with people," Granados says. "It's been fun shipping our tapes over there and knowing over in South Africa and France there's a little splash of Miami. It's pretty sweet."

Check out Cheap Miami on Facebook and Bandcamp.

Wanna see more MasterMinds? At Artopia, sponsored by Miracle Mile and Downtown Coral Gables, you can check out work by 2014's ten MasterMind award finalists and watch as the three Mastermind Award winners are announced. And that's just the beginning. Artopia will also include live entertainment by Bottle & Bottega, CircX, and Flamenco Puro; local art by Tesoro Carolina, Trek 6, 8 Bit Lexicon, Hec One Love, Ivan Roque, and Jay Bellicchi; and DJ sets by Main Event Productions, Phaxas, Golden San, Skinny Hendrix, and DJ Supersede. Other sponsors include Rums of Puerto Rico (Official Rum sponsor), Car2Go, El Palacios de los Jugos, Beck's (official beer sponsor), and Vero Water (official water sponsor). Early bird tickets are available through Feb. 2. Visit the official Artopia website.

Follow Kat Bein on Twitter @KatSaysKill.

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