Bootlegger's Banquet

Uploader Supreme Joly MacFie Puts Indie-Rock New York on Cable and the Web

"[Zinner] knows I pick out the new songs and put them up. But he wanted to work [them out] more and have the joy of surprising people himself with them. So I did sit on them."

MacFie knows about promotion. Back in 1976, he was the impresario of his day as the proprietor of Better Badges, a London-based badge (or button, as we say here) manufacturer and retailer. (His first badge stand was at the Roundhouse in London, on July 4, 1976, where an unknown band called the Ramones was in town to support its eponymous debut album.) Over six years, MacFie's 150,000-pound-per-year operation pressed and sold 40 million badges. He negotiated cheap prices for printing work with local fanzines, and forged symbiotic relationships with a few struggling local record labels—Mute, Rough Trade, and Factory.

After too many bands and stores reneged on owed money, MacFie sold BB. Now a destitute tax fugitive, he relocated to Los Angeles and worked for a year and a half at Goldenvoice, a concert promotion company, where he put on shows for Social Distortion, the Circle Jerks, the Dead Kennedys, Sisters of Mercy, the Cult, and Einstürzende Neubauten. (These days Goldenvoice promotes the annual All Tomorrow's Parties festival, Strokes shows, and Simon & Garfunkel concerts.) MacFie then moved to Manhattan in 1985 and revived his badge stand, selling buttons at the Ritz, the Marquee, and Irving Plaza. He also started an online zine, What's Up, when e-mail first became available. At $1 per message, though, it folded after MacFie skipped out on a bill totaling nearly $600. Then came the short-lived phone-line version of What's Up, which callers could dial up to hear interviews and scandal. The phone line also closed down due to financial constraints. In 1994, he inherited $20,000, and he later purchased all the video and computer technology that make possible.

The ubiquitous man with the digital cam, at work in the clubs.
photo: Shiho Fukada
The ubiquitous man with the digital cam, at work in the clubs.

"If you go in trying to make money, or with the mentality that you're going to cash in, you'll fail," he says. "But if you go in there and say, 'I'm going to try and build the scene,' you'll be a success.

"My mission is to live and eat and be catalytic really," MacFie muses. "And that's it."

New York Noise airs weekly on Saturday nights at 11 on NYC TV. Check your local listings, or visit

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