Family plan: Revolutionizing pop culture

To the untrained eye, the Monkeyclaus headquarters looks like any other small roadside house in rural Nelson County. But once inside the doors, visitors may be surprised to find a state-of-the-art recording studio as well as a fulltime software-authoring business developing music and video distribution tools for the Web, a la iTunes or bitTorrent.

However, music distributor Peter Agelasto, the 32-year-old mastermind behind Monkeyclaus Music Studio, says they still wouldn't be seeing the whole picture.

"It's like quantum physics" he says of Monkeyclaus. "Our actions cause other actions. We think that in helping others, we can manifest this positive energy that we can use further down the road. We're trying to get people to join our social movement and take over pop culture."

If Agelasto seems like a dreamer, it's not by accident. But for a man who, with the help of volunteers, spent 10 years building his recording studio from scratch (and out of recycled materials), dreams can be very real.

One major part of his dream is to change the music industry, fostering a direct connection between bands and the people who dig their music.

"Currently if you look at the trends of media, everything's about reality. VH1's constantly showing documentaries about bands and their music, and people want to know the people involved in that process" says musician Matthew Clark who works for Monkeyclaus.

Eventually, Agelasto and crew hope to involve fans directly in subsidizing recordings by their favorite bands, making the process free or low cost to the musicians and rewarding for the fans.

"We want to have a fan club where someone contributes $5 toward the recording project and gets all kinds of free mp3s" says Clark.

In this way, Agelasto and Clark hope Monkeyclaus will become a name on the Web commonly associated with bridging the gap between the music industry and music downloaders. And because of the low overhead involved in distributing mp3s, Agelasto hopes they can use their revenues to do some good.

"We're gonna liberate wealth," he says, "and we're gonna channel it into a social movement. We're putting ourselves out there in the most far-out ways; it's not a traditional business."

He says the studio's mission is to transcend the commodification of music, putting musicians, record labels and fans on an equal footing.

This mission is already under way locally. Bands ranging from the noise-rock outfit Grand Banks to bluegrass musician Bobby St. Ours have had great experiences laying down tracks, and the Monkeyclaus website offers free audio and video from some recent sessions.

Of Agelasto and the Monkeyclaus crew, St. Ours says, "They're like family to me, and I think their goal is to make everybody feel that way."

Peter Agelasto