My column for The Ocelot took a bit of a different turn in April. Rather than a review, I got some things off my chest in a bit of a rant. Still think I am right though…
Whilst planning what I was going to be reviewing for this column this month I saw a few online threads about certain aspects of the local (and national) live music scenes that really struck a nerve. So I thought I would say my piece.
The last five or six years have been tough for the local music industry, as Joe Public’s disposable income has shrunk, and bland, generic music has taken over the airwaves. Audiences for live music, especially for new, emerging original talent have dried up. But this is the breeding ground for the music we should be listening to on the radio and TV in the future. Strangle the development of this fledgling talent and you damage the future of music. Imagine if, twenty years from now Oasis, Coldplay and Foo Fighters are still the most popular bands on the planet, dominating radio airplay and festival line-ups (providing a certain Mancunian brotherhood get it together again) and nobody else has done an Arctic Monkey’s and come in to upset this nepotistic plutocracy?
To battle the socio-economic reasons for dwindling interest, those involved in live music need to make things more interesting, something I will come back to. Firstly though, it needs to get its house in order. Everyone involved has a responsibility for getting an audience to a show, as everyone has a vested interest in as many people as possible coming – at a basic level the venue for bar sales, the promoter for ticket money and the band so they have a crowd to play to and convert into fans.
Unfortunately, too many bands seem to feel that all they have to do is rock up and play a few songs, have a few drinks and go home again having basked in the adulation of a full house and with a few quid burning a hole in their pockets. Equally, too many promoters seem to think booking a couple of bands for a show and putting a Facebook event up will be enough effort to fill a room, and too many venues think everyone else will do their jobs well enough all they have to do is open the bar and rake it in. All of which is wrong; everyone needs to work as a collective to ensure gigs are full and people once again get the habit of coming to see new and emerging bands play live.
The bands, promoters and venue should all be working hard to raise awareness of what is going on. Yes, social media is a valuable tool for doing this, learn to use it properly and do it regularly, but it is still highly effective to go old school and poster and flyer everywhere, to badger the local press into running a piece on the show or the band, getting bloggers and music sites on board to raise awareness and build profile. And, as illustrated to me recently, go and push tickets. This is especially true for the band. You are the ones with the link in to your fan base. In the early days this may mainly be your family, friends, colleagues, but they are people you know. Go and push tickets to them. No one will give a shit about your band if you don’t!
Additionally venues need to make themselves attractive to gig-goers. Gone are the days the metaphorical toilet-circuit could be akin to actual toilets. Get the place looking good, keep your facilities clean and fresh, ensure your drinks are good, your sound system is fit for purpose and make sure you are advertising all your up and coming shows – manage your external promoters to ensure they provide all the material you need for their show to go alongside any of your own.
Promoters also have to really think about how they put a bill together. I see too many panic line-ups of completely unsuited acts. If you make a bill complementary, even if laterally, your artists stand the best chance of increasing their fan base, and you improve the possibility of the crowd hanging round to the end. Take a chance, bring in talent from outside of your town, mix up the musical gene pool a little, it only makes things stronger in the long run. Local artists can see what other people are up to and gain inspiration. They can also make contacts for out of town gigs of their own. I know this is a risk for promoters, but only in the short term. Once audiences get used to it again, never will they be able to claim nothing exciting ever happens, and they will lap up your taste-making abilities to find the next big thing.
And finally, if you are just a music fan, you can still help. Be more open minded about your music, take a chance on a gig. Yeah it may not be to your normal taste, but equally you could discover your next favourite new band.
And this works. I had the pleasure recently of attending a few shows put on by Sheer Music featuring the likes of Gnarwolves, Moose Blood, Creeper and Boxkite, all buzz bands on the national circuit, along with some local supports. These shows were full, people came from far and wide for them, the music was incredible and the local bands played to busy rooms, made a hatful of contacts and gained valuable experience. Everyone made money, had a good time and went away talking. Job done.
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