6 Reflections About Local Music Scenes

To paraphrase Billy Corgan, we live in culture that puts the highest value on orgasms (even of the entertainment variety), even when it insults our intelligence.

1)      There are abundant, apparent doses of camaraderie between musicians, bands, and artists

This is clearly a good thing.  Art and music ‘scenes’ are predicated on the very notion of reciprocated support and positive reinforcement – it’s a glorious merry-go-round of recognition and fun.

2)      Unfortunately, there’s just as much fabricated camaraderie as there is genuine camaraderie

We’re all guilty of it. Music scenes naturally yield a batch of contemporaries.  You’ll see the same 20 or so bands infiltrate and over-saturate a given city over the course of a few years.  Many of these bands choose to join forces because of an artistic likeness and similar musical mission. This is the category I try to stay within.

What sometimes ends up happening is people working together as band-name whores.  For instance: you don’t really like those particular garage-rock lads because you think their music is uninteresting and personally, you wouldn’t be friends with them otherwise (plus they’ve got the smell of by-the-book rockers).  But! You wouldn’t mind sharing a show bill with them because they draw a crowd, locally.

3)      Local music scenes are just like politics

More than anything, people in powerful positions are wired to reward personal relationships and honor overdue favors.  As humans, we’re guilty of “____ that guy, I’ll give_____ to my buddy instead” sentiments.

Many successes and accomplishments are harbingered from who you know … and who you blow (Not always sexual. Think kiss-ass).  Music scenes are no different.  I know this isn’t 100% true. Surely God-given and practiced talent, innovation of presentation, creative drive and artistic vision are imminently rewarded somewhere down the line.

4)      As much as people say they like original music, they’d much rather go to a ‘greatest hits’ show

We tend to lean toward sights and sounds that we’re familiar with.  We hate being lost when driving somewhere new.  We hate not knowing songs at concerts.  Unfamiliar tastes mostly always taste awkward to us. And, most pleasures that require moments of concentration in order to realize ultimate entertainment ecstasy turn people off!  I get the feeling people would rather pay $50 to see Journey with an imposter vocalist play a ‘greatest hits’ show (what I like to call the Jukebox Experience), then support something original, local, and authentic that’s a completely foreign sensory experience.

To paraphrase Billy Corgan, we live in culture that puts the highest value on orgasms (even of the entertainment variety), even when it insults our intelligence.  For example, look at the “new” Cleveland alternative radio station, 99.1 FM. It’s the same limited-shuffle retrospective 90s staples we know all too well. 

I understand winning people over is a challenge. And challenges oftentimes take multiple interactions to overcome. But, that’s the beauty of it.  You never stay with the girl that you screwed on the first date…at least not for altruistic reasons.  The best albums are rarely understood after the first listen. Notwithstanding, there’s also a certain portion of the population that I will never win over as repeat listeners.  We as niche artists must understand this in order to be at peace. Unless of course, they happen to be finishing up their hot dog as we launch into our obnoxious opening song.  

Put a GPS on the audience that suits your genre and mindset.  They might be trying to find you, but there is a panoply of distractions along the course.

5)      This whole “how many people can you bring?” guideline has gotta go

The premiere venues need to realize that local bands don’t reach their potential-recognition levels unless they’re given the opportunity to open for like-sounding bigger acts.  The nominal reach is minimal for local shows no matter what type of show frequency or marketing cadence you practice.  And, ‘bigger’ in my mind doesn’t mean bands like The Black Keys.  It means bands that are at a comfortable and sustainable cult-status level; whose natural arty components and technical facilities far exceed the willing attentiveness of the common ear: Marnie Stern, Battles, Asobi Seksu, Deerhoof, and Tera Melos. 

Opening for a band that you consider an influence, complementary, and genre-mates – that’s the most ideal billboard you can ask for. Co-branding is the new BFF-ing. 

6)      Must stick with it, but I won’t be that guy. I can’t be that guy.

 Having only started this musical project 2 years ago, I’m jumping the gun with lemon-tongue bitterness.  But, it’s a fleeting moment of bitterness, albeit sincere.  People and bands get jealous – it’s natural in competitive environments.  Bands want to be great and also experience varying degrees of recognition and nearby-future successes. There’s no reason to quit when ideas are borrowed and someone gets recognition for something you’re trying to be known for.

 All bands get what they deserve eventually, especially locally.  You’ll get that show that you want.  You’ll get that review or feature that you want (hate the phrase ‘write-up’). You’ll be the Band of the Week in some regional alt-weekly or fledgling publication. It’s up to you what you can endure on this constant phase of band-exposure foreplay.  The splashing orgasm is around the corner. It must be, right? I don’t plan on being that guy who’s played the local scene for 30+ years. But I suppose nobody plans on being that guy.

 Life is what happens while you’re methodically shoving drums into your Honda Accord.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Wilburforce June 02, 2012 at 12:32 PM
Wishing you well.....hope you get where you want to go but remember ! That's why they call it... " Greatest Hits ! " We all remember Apple Pie ......
JC June 02, 2012 at 02:24 PM
Alex Vandehoff June 04, 2012 at 03:18 PM
Right on Joe. As someone who participated in the scene for a while, this all rings true to me. You left out one thing though - uncooperative venue owners/operators. That was always my biggest gripe, and we did our best to protect ourselves/avoid the bad ones. Good luck!


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