I love to dance, and back in the day, my friends and I would dance the night away at a variety of nightspots throughout the city. The memories of places filled with laughter and fun times. All of these places shared one common denominator….LIVE MUSIC!
I hadn’t really thought a lot about this until a few weeks ago. Hubs and I were out to dinner with friends and as dinner was winding down, I said, “Let’s all go listen to a band somewhere and maybe even dance?” Where could we go? Of course, we all pulled out our trusty smartphones and contacted our good friend Google for “places offering live music.”
I wish I could say that I was surprised by the search results; however, having been married to a musician for the past 34 years, I was very well aware of the decline of live music in the area. As I suspected, there were only a handful of places promoting live music. To make matters worse, the few bands that were playing were from out-of-town, not local musicians! How could this be? After all, isn’t “Buy Local” a modern-day mantra and “Support Small Businesses” a resounding theme? The thought process, with regard to local musicians, seems to be, “they’re good enough to hire here and there, or on a weeknight; but apparently not respected enough to hire on a busy Friday or Saturday night.
So with heavy sighs, we left the restaurant and headed to our respective homes to turn on the TV and call it a night.
I couldn’t quit thinking about it. What happened to live music in this town? What changed? After all, it wasn’t that long ago that you could find a venue in town where a band was playing your favorite genre. Whether you loved country, rock, oldies, blues, jazz, or a mix, live music was alive and well. Live music was once part of our culture, a big city mindset encapsulated within a hometown environment.
The music business (even locally) can be a cutthroat industry. It’s difficult for musicians to speak their mind because their very livelihood depends on it. When my husband retired from playing this year, I knew that the window of opportunity had opened and it was the right time for me to try to be the voice that sounded the clanging cymbal (pardon the pun), and possibly shed some light on the problems, expose some of the corruption and maybe offer some tips on how venues and local musicians could work together to bring about change.
The music business is competitive, the pay is lousy and making a living as a musician is tough anywhere; however, in a small town, it’s next to impossible. When I decided to blog about this topic, my goal was to simply to explore why live music was once a thriving, booming industry, and today, appears to be dying a slow death. I really thought this would be an easy blog to write because I knew where to place blame….or so I thought.
In an effort to understand the present, you must research the past, explore the results from every angle, and find the truth. What I discovered is that the struggle is real for both venues and musicians.
There isn’t a definitive cause; many factors have contributed to the decline:
Could it be that musicians and venues alike have become complacent and accepting of things being “the way it is”? Here are some ideas that may help change the focus, redirect, and be a catalyst for change:
Just imagine, with dedicated and intentional efforts from venues, musicians and, the community, the live music scene and the arts in general, could grow easily. Together, we can make it happen!