The conversation about Baltimore’s music scene continues to evolve and morph seemingly at every turn. Several prominent advocates for local music have said countless times on several forums that what the music scene really needs is for musicians and fans to pull together and be supportive of each other. Sounds easy, but it really isn’t. Much like everything else in this moment in our nation’s history, divisive measures at least have the appearance of being in place to keep widespread unity from happening. On the individual level, most musicians you speak to on the scene publicly express support for other bands and musicians, and many genuinely do. Beyond that, it seems there are people in the media realm who don’t care too much for sharing information about good bands, multi-band shows, festivals, and even some benefit shows. City Paper has always been a good source for seeing who is playing where, but even the information they share is short, tiny, and buried underneath pages and pages of ads and periodical fluff. Local TV hasn’t been very inviting either.
Social media (like Facebook, Twitter, Google +, etc.) remains to best way for bands and musicians to reach large numbers of people to inform them of show dates, venues, locations, links to music sites, and a plethora of countless marketing strategies. It really takes a lot of time and hard work on the part of the musicians to hustle people in to see them. The sad thing is that no matter how much a band is paid (and sometimes it really isn’t much or even free on occasions), the amount of time that is put into the show really totals up to be pennies an hour just to entertain people. And to think so many couldn’t care any less about that effort is beyond comprehension.
There are few forms of entertainment out there that are cheap anymore. The cost of going to the movies is absurd nowadays. A day trip to the beach or visiting an amusement park can bleed your wallet dry. Even the cable bill has gone through the roof (if you really think about it). Yet, there is this great, cheap way to get down and have a great time by checking out some incredible local bands and performers and somehow so many people think that is too much to ask. The trek is too far, something else comes up, and the list of excuses is longer than the Florida Turnpike. What is wrong with people? Has the repetitiveness of electronic beats and over processed radio garbage become a real substitute for raw live music energy? Have people stopped believing they can engage in the vibe of large crowds, crazy band antics, ladies and liquor, and just a room booming with excitement? The music is out there, the bands are real, so why isn’t the music scene more alive?
See, the more people get involved and follow bands, the more there is to go around for everyone. It may be a stretch, but maybe bands compete with each other more because there is a limited amount of people willing to go to shows. Perhaps no one can really blame musicians for being dicks to each other when it comes to promotions. They are trying to keep what they have and scrape whatever other little following they can because it’s a cut throat world out there. It’s the American way, after all. But music is art. Art doesn’t work that way. People do.
The safe thing to do is for more people to encourage their friends and associates to join them when they go see a live band play. Let’s face it, word of mouth is truly the way to go. We live in a time when television promotes glorified karaoke shows like American Idol and The Voice. Live music isn’t just some person singing on stage with no band in the background. Perhaps there has been some warped understanding of what music really is. Songs are musical expressions interwoven poetically, and depending on the genre, the amount of energy exerted by the band can envelope an audience down to the soul. That simply cannot be experienced by listening to some drum machine, computer-generated, auto-tuned, over-processed commercial package being shoved down people’s throats on mainstream radio these days. The paradigm shift HAS to be corrected. People need to be taken back out in front of a stage and experience what live music truly is and given a good dose of the vibe. But please, for God’s sake, make sure they see a quality band. All it takes is one bad experience to turn off a would-be live music lover. Every musician knows the importance of playing well. This is a call to all music artists: PLAY with ALL of your SOUL. Making a good music scene starts with good music.