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Death of the Local Music Scene and The Artists Trying to Save It

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Death of the Local Music Scene and The Artists Trying to Save It

Brandon Montemayor, Author

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“We’re definitely losing the local music scene.”

Admits Jet TacuBoy, 22, drummer for aspiring local band Muted Color. This quote highlights a popular opinion among not only those interviewed but mainstream culture as a whole. Gone are the days of local areas and cities going through, what electric literature refers to as a, “clear and special artistic moment”. The era of artists like Nirvana and Soundgarden reinvigorating the sunless Seattle skies to the cultivation of an entire region with Nashville’s 1950s country music scene is behind us. For many Americans today the local music environment may be one that they, chances are, have not even heard of.

The local music scene was once an impassable obstacle for any aspiring artist, gaining a local following that would carry you to bigger shows was as much an important stepping stone as buying the instrument. The local music scene today however is one that is practically non-existent with the rise of today’s technologically based world. This is for better or worse due to mass streaming services such as Spotify, Soundcloud, Apple Music and YouTube breaking down the geographical location for artists. Artists now have to compete on a global scale, as they are now sharing their product with the world thanks to the internet.

One of the groups currently coming to thrive in today’s local scene is the aforementioned, Muted Color, an indie-shoegaze group formed from members from the surrounding Northwest suburb region of Chicago, Illinois. This eclectic group is made up of four twenty something year olds, on lead guitar there is Tyler Gargula, 25, with his quaffed hairstyle that compliments his 80’s era throwback style, David Bieshcke, 23, who in his muddy Vans high tops and hipster esque get up slaps away at the bass, the rhythm guitarist and back up vocalist Tom Aparici, 24, dawns the post-punk all black attire complete with black leather combat boots, and finally Tom’s younger cousin and MC’s drummer Jet Tacuboy, who wears an array of thrifted pieces that he pulls together to assemble a unique one of a kind look. Each member of the ensemble started their journey into music for a variety of reasons ranging from the ordinary familiar pastime to watching school of rock and feeling inspired to play music. This inspiration to play music was one that each of them continued to carry on for considerable amount of their lives if not all of it. Each member has gone to and played in local shows the members in fact even met one another through the local music scene in the area. Tom and Jet played in the band SPIT which put them in line to meet Tyler and David the likes of which played in a locally famous, nationally touring hardcore group Evelyn.

 “Me, David and Tom kind of knew each other through bands Tom hung out with our old band and traveled with us same with David, Jet was later in a heavier band with Tom and me and starting muted color was just an easy transition.”

Says Tyler as he describes how the local surroundings brought them together.

Muted Color, agrees that the local music scene is coming to an end. However they arrive at a split decision on whether or not the idea of the local music scene leaving is good or bad. With  Jet and David agreeing that it is dying , whereas Tyler and Tom proposed that perhaps it is not coming to an end but growing to meet the standards of the world we are living in today.

“Yea, the local music scene is deteriorating for sure. I mean even we can kind of see that like I feel like you can kind of noticed this shift, or at least I can, where not as many people are coming to shows or like it’s not as talked about as it was even a couple years ago. It just is not as gratified or held in the same regard as it used to be where bands would have to build a foundation with its local fan base in order to like carry you to the goals the artists have.”

David relays as he explains his thoughts and what he has seen in his local area. On the other side of the spectrum within the same group of people and scene we have Tyler’s perspective one that is a more glass half-full view of the death of the local scene,

“It’s just the ways things are nobody and even myself as a consumer, I think it’s much better for me to have every new artist for a monthly rate as opposed to having to buy every album. Its (purchasing physical music) just an outdated process no and people just need to know how to grow outside of it. For example, think of VHSs or now even DVDs and how those are dead and gone because these types of media are just becoming outdated. This is just that for the music industry as its evolving to how fast paced society is.”

This notion strikes the core beneficiaries of streaming services, the audience. As most services cater to a consumer friendly landscape one that provides customers with a plethora of music for a fraction of the cost. Unlike the days of old where listeners purchased physical copies of albums with the risk that the entire disc will actually be worth the monetary value. It also makes it easier for the listener as they can now globally search for any artist at one click of a magnifying glass. They even help the listener find similar music to what they are currently listening to as the majority if not all of these services also implies an algorithm that infers what other artists the listener would also enjoy.

Outside of the consumer however, music services are essentially killing the independent and local music industries.  This is because streamers pay a fraction of the price which in turn makes artists revenue become a fraction of what it used to be the.

Courtesy of DigitalMusicNews.com

The above DigitalMusicNews.com graph depicts this situation with the numerical statistics from, not all, but a vast majority of differing streaming services. Shown are (left to right) the streaming services themselves along with what their the total users, the percentage of users who use the service for free, the amount of “plays” necessary to accumulate minimum wage, and the annual losses per payout, and the annual loss per user. These numbers are a clear piece of evidence that streaming services do not compensate the musicians using them correctly. Aside from the graph’s information there is evidence as late as 2017 that Apple Music even caught

“Music streaming services are not the friend of the local artist but it is an absolute necessity because it’s a friend to the bigger artists. I mean you make a fraction of cent it’s an absolute joke you even have to pay to put your music onto some of these services essentially this is helping turn music into something we just expect rather than a commodity. We expect it to not cost a dime if anything at all, streaming services have effectively devalued music. We now don’t have to spend $15 dollars for an album anymore these days we have Spotify for $9.99 a month for an endless library of music. Which is why bands need it the exposure is there, fan bases are now more accessible than even beyond their locality”.

Says experienced local music aficionado John Gallione providing his take on today’s industry that is dependent on these internet services. Gallione not only books musical acts for the local park district he also does so for bars, local festivals, he’s played in, produced, and written for his share of local bands as well as his own solo projects and today he currently helps book and manage a former contestant of the hit television series The Voice. John’s right as now a days streaming services are a necessity as it’s the way the industry is turning towards “streaming makes up more than 60% of music consumption” according to a 2017 Business Insider article that puts the industries shift to the reliance of music streaming services into perspective. Showcasing that it is a necessity for most upcoming artists to put their music out onto these providers in order for consumers to hear.

Exposure seems to be, for many, the main asset streaming services provide for upcoming artists. While this is a reasonable assumption given the fact that fan bases are now more accessible than ever as the majority of people listen to music via streaming, this too seems to be a false concept. The logic seemingly is there however because these services pay artists next to nothing exposure does not level out. Let us take into account the previous graph, Napster pays the most out of the services per play at .0167 this multiplied by its total number of users, 5 million (the second lowest listed) comes to a total of income of $83,000. That’s if every single listener streams one of your songs each only once. Putting the exposure theory to the test the same logic can be applied to the statistics of YouTube the services with the most consumers at a hundred-thousand, this multiplied under the same circumstances the artist would earn $60,000 well below that of Napster even though YouTube has more eyes and ears on the product. Safe to say that exposure is not the always the key idea behind the revenue for artists.

What is the majority revenues for these artist then and how can we safely support local artist? The graph below is courtesy of a vice news video titled “Do Music Streaming Services Help or Hurt Artists?”  The video goes into detail about these services their pros and cons,

Courtesy of Nielsen Music, via ViceNews

The graph shows how millennials spend their money on artists broken down into percentage values. The main avenue for artists to take seemingly should be live performances this includes their merchandising tables and ticket revenue. Again those interviewed agree on this aspect that supporting your favorite artist is in large part about going to see them and buying their physical merchandise. For instance Brad Keil, 37, longtime musician and guitarist for a local Schaumburg area hardcore band Crusader also an all-around music instructor attributes that this indeed could be what saves the local scene.

“Selling the experience as a whole is what artists need to do. That’s how you do it, that’s how you save the music industry, nothing not even streaming can compare to the feeling of live music. The bass echoing against your chest seeing your favorite artist or band perform with others who you share an interest in. From personal experience with my own band we just try and make the most immersive experience for our fans and friends.”

The members of Muted Color also agree that the live performance aspect is going to ultimately determine the local scenes fate

“I definitely agree that live performances have the potential to change the outcome for bands and if they ultimately make it or not. As far as supporting the bands that you care about, I know myself personally if I like a band I buy anything they put out I buy their cd’s, merchandise, I’ve even bought vinyl to say I have, like obviously tickets to their shows I support them through every avenue I can.”

Admits Bieschke when they were proposed with the questions as to how they can save their local music scene and continue to support local bands and how necessary it is to revitalize and sustain the local scene.

“In the end the most important thing is just maintaining the local music scene and its culture making sure it doesn’t die. Because at the end of the day like we all grow and learn and push one another to get better. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met or how many just tricks of the trade I have picked up from being around and apart of the local scene. It was crucial to kinda my evolution in music as an outlet.”

Says Jet essentially encapsulating the main idea and how important it is to not let the local music scenes die. The days of the local scene are numbered though as streaming services are now bigger than ever and bands are seemingly attempting to rely on these services as they adapt to survive. However they do not have to be, the local scene could still be an important step that brings people together through for the most part a system of comradery that pushes an honest output of quality media through sheer work ethic. All these reasons and more are why we cannot let the local musicians and other smaller indecent artists succumb to the likes of streaming services. Where they are continually taken advantage of and cannot sustain their aspiration. In Support of this idea please join us for the following live session filmed, edited, recorded and performed by entirely local members of the music community and even filmed at Dolphin Park a local baseball field nestled neatly on Park Boulevard in Streamwood, Illinois. As Local Artists The Underground Social Club perform an acoustic version of their original song “Textbooks” and stay for an exclusive interview where we learn more about these hometown favorites.

The Dugout Sessions: The Underground Social Club

 

 

Citations;

Dunn, Jeff. “One Chart Shows How Streaming Services Are Dominating the Way Americans Listen to Music.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 20 July 2017, www.businessinsider.com/music-streaming-in-us-nielsen-chart-2017-7.

 

Friedman, Gabe. “Will Spotify Kill the Local Music Scene? – Electric Literature.” Electric Literature, Electric Literature, 25 Oct. 2017, www.electricliterature.com/will-spotify-kill-the-local-music-scene-ab8a51968db6.

 

Sanchez, Daniel. “What Streaming Music Services Pay (Updated for 2017).” Digital Music News, Digital Music News, 17 Jan. 2018, www.digitalmusicnews.com/2017/07/24/what-streaming-music-services-pay-updated-for-2017/.

 

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Death of the Local Music Scene and The Artists Trying to Save It