The late ’80’s and early ’90’s was an amazing time for live music if you lived in the Pacific Northwest.
During that time it seemed that everyone was in a band or starting a side project with members of another band. Bands like Green River, Mudhoney and The Melvins were DIY before DIY even existed. Bands like Mother Love Bone, Soundgarden and The Screaming Trees brought the Seattle Sound a step closer to the masses. And eventually the movement exploded with the success of Pearl Jam and Nirvana. There were over 80,000 people at Lollapalooza ’91 at the King County Fairgrounds in Enumclaw, Washington State. Organizers were completely overwhelmed when 4 times as many people as they had expected arrived. All pretty much by word of mouth and one ahead of the curve radio station, Unfortunately I missed Lollapalooza that year as I had only $2 to my name at the time and decided to spend it on a couple of cans of Chef Boyardee instead. “Back in the day” in the city of Vancouver, British Columbia there were dozens and dozens of bands all contributing to a vibrant local scene. Independent record labels like Sub Pop from Seattle were springing up across the city. Scratch records and Zulu records were just a couple. By the summer of 1993 my own band was ready to move out of the rehearsal space and begin playing shows at bars. Unfortunately or fortunately most bars were still mostly interested in bands that could play cover songs all night. In 1993 there was really no internet and very few cell phones. So how did bands promote themselves?? Word of Mouth and networking. If you had friends in a band, you would always make sure to go to their shows, and they would return the favor.
We would put up posters on vacant buildings, we would print up handbills and hand them out the night of our shows. Shows would be held in small art galleries, in empty warehouses, in restaurants. A whole underground music culture developed independent of the gate keepers at all of the local bars. At a decent boozecan show you could expect hundreds of people to show up, all looking for cheap drinks and LIVE music. I managed to get in contact with most of the bands in the city by placing a $20 ad in the local independent newspaper: “bands wanted” and my home phone number. I had an answering machine with a voice message to the effect “leave your band name and number’. I stored all of this information in a Rolodex.
Fast forward to 2010.
There have been huge advancements in communication technology, but I think the basic time tested system is still the way it works. Build a network by word of mouth. These days blogs are exploding in number like bands were 20 years ago. Everyone has a blog or writes for a blog, or is starting a new blog, branding themselves promoting themselves just like before. Some blogs are better than others. Content is like songs. Catchy songs helped people remember your band just like great content brings people to your blog nowadays. If you visit a blog and comment, they’ll do the same, we trade links on our blog rolls, we attend each others tweetups just like the band scene and community provided mutual support in the past. We share in each others successes, we say things like “I knew so and so before they made it’. We are building communities around the subjects we are passionate about, just like we built a fan base centered around different genres of music. In the music scene of the past eventually bands would jam with each other onstage and form side projects. The most well known side project ever is probably Temple of the Dog a collaboration between members of Soundgarden and Pearl Jam. These days bloggers regularly make guest appearances on each others blogs and many bloggers have decided to start multiple blogs.
And I have noticed that “I’m a blogger”, is the new “I’m in a band” It elicits the same response “Really? what kind of music do you play, where do you play? Do you have a tape/CD? or Really? what do you blog about? How much traffic do you get?” People are genuinely interested. They view blogging in the same way as being in a band was viewed. You are viewed as an influencer, a trend setter in the community. And secondly blogging has largely been a response to being shut out of the system by the big gatekeepers of our day. When we couldn’t catch a break back in 1992, we would rent a hall or gallery and make our own shows. In Vancouver, a whole music showcase called “Music Waste” was developed as a response to the exclusive and industry/radio friendly “Music West”.
Something else I’ve noticed is that a lot of bloggers are actually musicians too! I guess creative types are drawn to mediums in which they can create right?
What do you think? Are you old enough to remember the Seattle Scene? Was there a scene like that in your town “back in the day” ? Hows your local blogging community coming along. Are you making the effort to connect in real life as well as online?
COMMENT PLEASE 🙂