Let’s Save Music: Local

There is a familiar malaise amongst music makers. Most of us hold very little hope for a career in music. Maybe it was always too much to hope/dream for. Myself, I can’t help but write songs. It’s an artform I’m intrigued by and I keep working at it to get better and better. It seems a futile pursuit as even minor recognition would most likely not yield dividends. But I suppose my small goal is just a little a nugget of recognition. You work at a thing, you make it and you want to share it and then you want some acknowledgement from the community of its signficance. I watched an interesting NYPL talk with David Byrne and Chris Ruen. There seems to be agreement that something is wrong with the state of music today. Artists aren’t getting paid much despite massive music consumption.

I’ve only just had an idea. Perhaps to save music we must make it smaller. The ‘We’ collective is key. I’m in New York. There’s a lot of bands here. I’ve played/play in a few of them. I know a handful of people in numerous bands. No one is complaining about not being rich and famous. Everyone knows there’s too much music. We keep making it. We won’t stop. We now have at our disposal amazing streaming apps that put the entire history of recorded music at our finger tips. A new artist has all of that to contend with, never mind the crowded field of contemporaries.

The idea. Let’s we, the listeners, focus our listening attentions. I’m into discovery. I go through A LOT of music every month. (I tend to gravitate to music with interesting cover art). What if we were to think more about our smaller local community and focus our discovery listening solely on neighborhood music? What if the social norm was an expectation to be well informed of as much local music as possible? This could only be good for artists. I think the Boss sang something recently about ‘taking care of our own’. What if we did that. Instead of trying to keep up with the latest big label albums what if our local music conversations revolved around local bands. Our bands.

How do we do this? It’s not hard, but it does require only a slight bit of homework.

  1. Go to The Deli Magazine, find your region and start scrolling through and looking for artists you’ve never heard of. Of course you can listen to the snippets the Deli provides. But you should go one step further.

  2. Go into your Rdio or Spotify and add those bands latest releases to your listening queue. When you find artists you like make a note.

  3. Go to Oh My Rockness to see if they’re playing anytime soon.

  4. Also, follow those bands on Soundcloud, Twitter, Facebook and all that stuff. Make sure to go see them. Local shows are less expensive and probably more convenient than big shows anyway.

Do this often. Many already do. I suppose I don’t do this enough but I do end up going to friends shows. But this just isn’t enough. We need to do more. I’m advocating social norm. It’s too easy to only see the big shows as the special events we give our time to. My generation and younger is at a pretty big disadvantage in that department. There are too many mammouth acts to contend with and they don’t appear to be going anywhere. Fifty years of the Rolling Stones anyone? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

A lot of what I’ve just written seems obvious. But if it is so obvious then why aren’t you doing it? Do it. I think the more people who get down with their local music will be part of a change in listening culture. Why are we, the fans, always accused of stealing music? Because we don’t know the artists. They’re these mythical beings who must be doing fine. We’re also trusting the hype on faith that this is the best the world has to offer. Well I don’t know about that. I think we’re all going to be surprised if we go local with our listening. There’s the added benefit of having a strong connection to the music. When you’ve got a friend or acquaintance whose music you hear and you like it there’s definitely a more special connection to that music because you know them. I’m admittedly not versed in the torrenting world, but if you go local there’s a good chance you won’t be finding local music there anyway. You may even be moved to buy music from these local artists. I know I haven’t been one to champion music download purchases as a viable market. But there’s something different about it when you buy local. The feeling that maybe you’re not throwing your money into the pointless abyss.

Ever since the Napster days I’ve been thinking there must be a way to save music. A decade on there still seem to be no great answers. It all comes back to the fans. The fans are the problem or the solution. Us. As fans, do we care enough to be the solution? I’m going to keep writing about this. I don’t want to add to the malaise. I want to help point the way to a new and vibrant music economy.

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