How to help your local music scene grow
By Nathaniel D’Costa
It’s hard to say whether the indie scene in the country is developing or stagnating. On one hand, you have new venues supporting live music, music festivals mushrooming across cities and new bands debuting. On the other hand, old gig venues are shutting down, festivals are running into losses and bands are breaking up as they get older. Music cannot sustain just by itself. With my little experience in the industry as an artiste manager and gig promoter, I’ve realized that while having bands and venues and festivals is good, ultimately it’s the fan community that sustains the scene. A lot of people I talk to say that they like live music and wish for an alternative to the commercial music that plays at most pubs and restaurants. But when it comes to actually helping develop that scene, hasty excuses are offered.
If you like live music and wish to see more bands and better music coming out near you, here’s my two cents on what you can do to help.
Promote the gig and the artiste — If there’s a gig you’re going to or an artiste’s song that you like, promote it. Tell people you’re going for the gig or why you like a particular song. In an industry where there’s never enough money, every shout out helps.
Attend gigs — This is probably the most obvious thing to do but there’s nothing better for the artiste, the venue or the promoter than seeing people show up for a gig. A full house is a huge boost. Even if it’s someone you haven’t heard before, come listen to what they have to sing about. Who knows, you might make a friend or find yourself becoming a fan.
Be on time — If a gig says it will start at 8:30 PM, be there at 8:30 PM. I know that most gigs never start on time but if people keep expecting a gig to start late then that cycle will never change. Be a grown up about it and respect people’s time.
Buy the Merch — It’s simple really, you’ve got to put the money where your mouth is. If you like a band or an artiste, buy their music, buy the T-shirts, buy the stickers. If you’re going to a free gig, refrain from pre-drinking outside or at least spend a bit at the bar. Artistes won’t keep making music if there’s no money and venues won’t support gigs if they’re not profitable.
Pay attention — If you’re going to a gig to listen to a band, give the band some respect and actually listen to them. Smoke your joint before the gig, keep your theories on who will become the King/Queen of Westeros on hold till the band finishes the set, and if you need to take a leak, hold the damn thing in. I’m kidding, loo breaks are allowed.
Stop requesting covers — Someone coming up to a band and asking them to play Summer of 69 orStairway to Heaven is almost as old as Jesus himself. Don’t. Do. It. Bands are not your personal jukeboxes. When they play a set, they already have a list of songs in place. They have spent time on their set list and you should allow them to do what they do best.
Value the effort that goes behind a gig — Hosting an indie gig isn’t easy. It takes a lot of co-ordination between the venue, promoter, sound guy, and artiste to make it work within the limited budget constraints. In my time as an artiste manager, I can’t recall a single gig that went through without a hitch. So if it’s a free gig, don’t be a negative Nancy and crib about how your beers weren’t cold enough or how the guitarist’s tone isn’t to your taste.
The cool part about getting involved in a culture or industry that’s not yet developed is that you can contribute and actually see the difference you make. Being a mere spectator to a cultural movement actually slows it down. So cross the line to the stage, close your eyes and take a swig. Sing till you’re hoarse and dance like the good time you’re having.