What I’m about to write may upset some people. In fact, I think at the very least, I may make someone miffed. So be it.
Being a musician, I think about music all the time. Being in a band as a musician, I also ponder on bands, the music industry, and every nook and cranny in between that makes up the crazy world of western music. I’m certainly not alone. It takes about ten seconds on FB, blogs, or a visit to the internet music community to see that everyone is sharing quite candidly, regardless of whether anyone wants to hear it, their thoughts on what is right/wrong with the music industry. I’m about to do the same, but in as genuine and honest a tone as one guy can muster.
The world is a vast place, filled with music scenes that range from outstanding to horrendous, so to blanket every scene with the same statement about it’s shortcomings, in my mind, doesn’t cut it as an informed opinion. There are widespread problems that hit every scene no matter the strength of support and and health of artistic activity. With that said, what I am going to speak on is the west coast, and the many local music scenes I’ve seen while on my travels and tours. And of course, I’m going to heavily include the Northern and Southern bay areas, because it’s my front porch and back yard.
Some things that have really blown my mind as of late are the mindsets I see in the local music scenes. By music scenes I include every demographic you can get actively working in said scene. Shop and Venue owners. Bands and musicians. Fans and show goers. Although each group is vastly different in how they play into this thing we call Rock, I’m beginning to pick up on this mindset that seems to cover the whole gamut. Namely this really silly and retroactive mindset which causes said individuals to complain about how bad their scene is, but yet do nothing at all to help that out. Without getting extremely detailed, I’m not in any way suggesting that you are a useless complainer if you don’t open your own four star venue. What I’m getting at is a much more simple to explain concept.
Lets get real people. This is not 1964. Band can’s just play a residency at their local hometown club and have some eager, wild eyed A&R man stumble upon them, call up the head office and get that band signed. This also isn’t 1964 in the sense that the general music loving, show going, culture and fan base wont head out to random shows just to hear new bands and take a risk with their ears. People have gotten picky, and lazy to boot. If you think this is how the music industry works these days…you have many disappointing experiences ahead, and a lot of lessons to learn. I know this because I learned many of them already. It takes a lot more hard work and elbow grease on a bands part to get seen or heard.
With that as the ground base for what I’m about to say next, think about how you hear about bands in a local setting. I’m going to go out on a limb here, that the way you find out is either via FB, or you simply had a friend/acquaintance/family member show/tell you about the band. Speaking personally, in all my experiences, this is how I find out about bands (and also mainly because I am in a band I end up playing with new acts and get a pretty picture for who is out there playing music. If I wasn’t in a band, It would be up to my friends and the internet).
Now compare that to my statement about it not being 1964. Let me spell it out for you in this way: Local music gets heard by people telling other people about local groups. Local media does VERY little to help spread this. You and your show loving, rock adoring friends are the front line to helping good bands get seen and heard. And in more ways than one.
We have this lovely joke amongst bands. The Joke is that most music scenes are filled with lots of people who complain “The scene is dead”, but never head out to shows. I’m not talking about going to EVERY show. That would be daft. I’m talking about supporting that band that you think deserves it. Bands that truly stand for something. Bands that have something to say. Bands that are truly talented. That is all that really needs to be said about that. The bands you love.
I’m gonna call some people out. I’m also gonna praise some people.
If you are constantly scratching your head in serious frustration and saying things like “Why does our music scene suck?” and not going to shows to support the bands you love, then the scene sucks because you aren’t doing anything to support local music. If you are saying “Why isn’t this local band I like bigger?” Then you need to burn that bands CD and share it with your friends. It’s what my parents did, except it was called ‘trading vinyl for a week’. It made a lot of bands huge.
If you are a band saying “Why does our music scene suck?”, it could very well suck because you aren’t taking active part in your music scene and owning your own home town by playing with other bands you think rock, building a music community, and pushing past the hurdles. If you are a band saying “Why aren’t we bigger?” then maybe you need to think about how much work you are putting into getting yourself out there. Remember, that label A&R guy lives in LA/Seattle/New York now and isn’t going to come to Southbay Town, USA to sign you that $500,000 recording deal. Trust me…they don’t even have that much money to spend right now anyways.
And to the praise-worthy
If you are the guy or girl busting your ass doing an indie record label trying to get everyone to hear a band you think just makes your spine tingle and shake, then ten thousand kudos to you.
If you are the music fan who shares local music you dig, with all your friends and family, ten thousand kudos to you. It’s people like you that get bands on the radar.
I find that simply, bands that work hard, will get places. Without segwaying too far, I think the quality of music will determine what those places are, and how far those places may be places. The fact remains though, that hard work yields results. Don’t mistake my context and tone for a purely business/financial one. Even the act of recording lots of music reaps artistic and musical rewards. Basically lots of ‘X’ + ‘Hard Work’ = Results. X can be whatever you want it to be.
We need to get rid of this American Idol syndrome we have. That syndrome where everyone is nice and tells their clearly untalented song or daughter that they can hack it on American Idol. Those are the kids in the blooper reels. Even though Simon Cowell is the villian, that villian is right about %80 of the time, and he has the guts to say it. At the end of the day he is still a huge colossal wanker though.
We need to take that mindset to bat. If you like to invest your money and time into local music, invest it well and wisely. Just because someone is up on stage playing guitar and shaking their hips doesn’t mean that by default you have to give them attention. I’ve seen half a crowd walk out on a band that they thought was bad. It’s harsh, but it’s a tough love that in the end does a lot of good for the scene, and maybe is a good wake up call for said band.
I think it’s time to put our money where our mouth is, really take ten seconds to think about what we are investing our time, money, energy, and hearts into when it comes to local music. And that doesn’t go for just the bands. Promoters, blogs, and venues should fall under this scrutiny too. Our passive nature has hurt our local music scenes more than we know.
In a manner of speaking, the music industry has fooled us into thinking that bands just appear in LA out of the blue without any foundation or basis for logic (which happens sometimes. Look at One Direction). This is not true. The reality is, we are the shot callers. And I think that scares them. We are the egg. Lets hatch the chicken.