How Does 'Voices Only' Work?

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Voices Only founder Corey Slutsky says he wishes he could take credit for the idea behind his series of "best of" a cappella albums. However, Voices Only was actually the brainchild of Brock Harris, founder of the USC SoCal VoCals.

In 2004, Harris came to Slutsky about the idea of a two-disc "best of" a cappella album, and they hashed out the idea from there. At the time, Varsity Vocals' Best of College A Cappella (BOCA) was the only vehicle to showcase recorded a cappella, and it was apparent that there was enough great recorded collegiate a cappella to fill two CDs.

Voices Only 2017 was just released and its Slutsky's 13th edition (its ninth available digitally). The first album was Voices Only 2005 and was a physical double-disc album.

The Contemporary A Cappella Society of America's "Sing" had just recently been released (at the first SoJam in 2003) when VO started, debuting its first album just before Voices Only 2005.

Additionally, CD replication costs had dropped in such a way that making a two-disc album in a single, double-sided case cost nominally more than making a regular single-disc album.

Slutsky ran with the compilation idea and developed it into the Voices Only empire we know today, with Harris' blessing of course!

Now, Voices Only receives about 140-180 group submissions for the scholastic Voices Only compilations.

"Voices That Care" A Voices Only Collaboration Project


The goal of Voices Only is two-fold:
  1. To showcase the talent and skills of amateur, academic singers, and musicians along with the skills of the engineers and producers.

  2. To give recognition to those making amazing music, both individually and the groups.

Back in the early days of Voices Only, the groups were required to pre-purchase a set number of copies and could then sell them for whatever price they chose. Additionally, they were sold from VoicesOnlyAcappella.com.

Voices Only 2017


The albums used to sell digitally on sites such as Singers.com, Primarily A Cappella, and other sites that are now long gone. (We're sure Don Gooding and Amy Malkoff could help fill the blanks in Slutsky's memory.)

The albums began appearing on iTunes and Spotify starting with Voices Only 2009, and the last album that was produced as a physical CD was Voices Only 2011. The series began as strictly collegiate only but has expanded to include high school groups with Voices Only 2014.

Voices Only Forte has also recently been established to showcase pro, semi-pro, and amateur (non-scholastic) groups.

"Love Runs Out" apb Amazin' Blue
Edited and Produced by Corey Slutsky for Voices Only Productions

"I didn't used to separate the two volumes as much," Slutsky said. "I still only do it to a degree, but it became apparent after a few digital editions that people were consuming Volume 1 more than they were consuming Volume 2 (on both streaming and buying platforms).

"Popular songs on Volume 2 weren't being consumed as much as I expected. One year, I ran a test by putting more of the 'charting' songs on Vol. 1, and they did very well without seeing a dip in consumption of Volume 2, so I continued going in that direction for the most part."

"Cold Water" apb State of Fifths
Recorded, Edited and Produced by Corey Slutsky. Mixed and Mastered by Bill Hare.

How does Slutsky defend against bias? He has a team of three producers and one senior producer who listen to every song submitted.

"I can't speak for each of their individual processes," Slutsky said. "But I ask them to submit a list of nominations in three tiers: 1) must be on the album; 2) should be on the album; 3) could be on the album.

"My senior producer and I again listen to all the songs nominated. Then we discuss during a videochat and select the songs for the album based on the nominations and our opinions."

Of course, there's no way to completely defend against each person's individual bias, but you're going to have that in any subjective competition or selection, be it Voices Only, other compilations, ICCA/ICHSA, CARAs, etc.

I trust my producers to be unbiased and they have proven as such, and I do my best to be unbiased.
This year's Voices Only features some amazing songs and soloists, along with three original songs.

There are several groups appearing on Voices Only (and on any compilation) for the first time, which is always something very special.

Pick up Voices Only 2017 on Spotify, iTunes, and everywhere else digital music is sold!

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