Buy Local or Sellout
Last week David Smooke wrote about musical locavorism, and the question of whether or not it is relevant to favor programming local music in the age of the Internet. I originally wanted to respond to David in a comment, but my comment would be particularly long, so here’s a whole blogpost in defense of local music.
One of the most powerful, if not the most powerful, things about music is its ability to unite people: whether as a nation, for a cause, or as a small community. I fell in love with playing music because of a small community of Jersey City high school kids who simply loved to jam. Playing music with others was like communicating in this whole new language.
Anybody, literally any human being that was present at Houston Free Press Summer Fest this past weekend, featuring at least 50 local bands and 300,000 or so audience members, will tell you that the Houston scene is kicking. Music here is a community, and an open community. I’ve been here only two years but everybody has been so welcoming that I already feel a strong allegiance to the city. And honestly, even though the majority of the shows I see during the school year are of the concert music variety, the shows that make me fall in love with music the most are the local shows at the small, seedy venues where you pack 40 standing people as close to a maxed out PA system as possible.
I’ve fallen in love with Houston thanks to college radio, KTRU. Working in college radio has taught me that if you don’t nurture the community, if you don’t give local bands or composers a chance to get out there, then nobody else will. It’s not like there are talent fairies that are going to magically swoop down from above and give the good musicians the exposure they deserve. And sometimes it’s not up to you to decide what good local is, because music is subjective, so at KTRU we play it all, because that noise rock band that you really hated twenty years ago might end up being the Butthole Surfers. Most good bands and composers have been around for years trying to make a name for themselves before they finally get a break and gain access to a large-scale public eye. So which side do you want to be on: the street-team in the early years, in the small, seedy venue, or the media-consumer in the late years, in the stadium arena?