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Is The Music Scene Dead?

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The scene is dead. It really doesn't matter how you look at it anymore. There are plenty of hidden gems in each community, but thanks to the technology we have today everyone already thinks that they're stars. How many times do you want to look for a video of a band you like on Youtube and the results you get are of people in their bedrooms or living rooms with a stereo and a guitar playing along to a CD to show the world they know how to play a song. Then you scroll down and look at all the comments from starstruck internet kids praising the skill or the maladjusted internet hate crew that critique every note or explain how they could play the same song better. Does it really matter? I use to spend a lot of time at home playing along to my favorite records and learning the songs note for note. It made me a lot better at playing guitar and writing music, but it never crossed my mind to throw it on the internet. Everyone has this misplaced "look what I can do" attitude that I wish would have fizzled out when they grew pubic hair.

Now it's to the point where kids don't even start bands in hopes of making it big in their local area to establish a local scene with their friends. They think they're going to go one tour, write one heartless tune, and become the next sensation. They don't realize that there's a lot more involved in it. I don't know where the idea came from, but it's like a germ that keeps spreading. You get one pointless band after the next that buy equipment with their equipment with money from a parents piggy bank and off they go. I was more active in playing live shows in 2005 and I know that wasn't that long ago, but the bands worked together. We formed groups of kids that all wanted to put on good shows and we played together. That's all done away with now. It eventually turned into a "battle of the bands" mentality for every show.

I've talked to a lot of different people over my years of being in a band. I spent time with legends like CJ Ramone, who played in The Ramones. I also dealt with a kid who refused to play a show because he felt his band deserved to headline the show and play after CJ Ramone. That goes beyond the lines of respect and to a place of basically delusion. If you think you're terrible local band is better than a guy who toured the entire world and was involved with a band that truly changed the musical landscape then you're either completely misguided or too arrogant for your own good.

That's what people think these days though. The true death of the local scene has less to do with the fact that this people feel so entitled and more to do with the fact that everyone can be famous on the internet even if they truly lack talent. I can think of a hundred bands that I've played shows with that don't even care how they sound live. They play for likes on Facebook. In my opinion it doesn't matter if you have a million likes on Facebook if you can hardly play your instrument.

There isn't much thought put into the music anymore. There's always the fads that come and go like pop punk of the late 90's and the rap metal that followed. Now we're at a point where you don't even need to be on stage with a musical instrument as long as you have a computer and some cool lights. I personally feel like my ears are being molested when I hear what's popular on the radio these days. I just don't think people realize how truly inspiring music is. It's got the power to take you to any place. It can make you feel any different emotion depending on the topic of the song. You hear it anywhere you go from grocery stores to sporting events. If you rip the heart and soul out of it you take away its ability to move you.

There's cool spots all over the place though. They might not be easy to find, but they're out there. I've played shows in Boston in the middle of the city where you wouldn't even assume a show is going on. As soon as we stepped inside there is dedicated kids all over that not only want to support the bands playing, but the venue they're playing in. They want to see it survive. They want to spend money to be able to enjoy the shows every weekend. I understand you can save the money and watch a band play on Youtube, but you don't feel it. You don't get to breath in the stale air of the crowd. You don't get to enjoy that electric moment where the crowd is waiting for their favorite band to come out.

On the other side of the coin though you've also got a lot of promoters, venues, and clubs that make it really hard for local bands to get anywhere. They don't look at you like talent. They don't want to see you grow as musicians. They want to see you grow as a business. They want to see you sell tickets to their events and in turn will find any way to give you the shortest end of the stick. A lot of people that go to shows don't seem to be aware of the "pay to play" idea that most venues are doing right now. It is really simple and scares most bands from bothering. It's also a pretty big slight or hand trick by magician promoters to make the bands feel accomplished if they bend over backwards for them. The idea is to make the bands that want to play the shows spend money and by a large amount of tickets for the show and then they turn around and try to "make the money back" by selling them to their friends. After the bands sell those tickets and get a large lump of money they give it right back to the promoter who gives them a spot on the show. If you don't sell all of those tickets you owe the remainder of money back to the venue and in most cases you don't pla the show. If you are lucky enough to still play the show they typically put you on first before the show starts so you play while the crowd gets stamped and comes in. You usually on get about 15 minutes to play though.

A lot of bands looking that and assume that if they work really hard and sell all of those tickets then the venue will be happy and they'll keep giving them good spots on shows. That's not really the case either. They'll keep using you to the point where they are trying to make you or your band walking and performing advertisements for the club to make more money. I rarely see any venues or promoters giving a fair amount of money back to the bands that sell all the tickets. Most of the time they only make back what they had to spend in the first place to buy the tickets to sell to their fans. When you add in the money the spent on gas to drive to the show with all of their equipment and the money they spent on food and drinks before they played it's easy to assume they probably didn't even break even.

A lot of places also have a rule that if you don't sell a certain amount of tickets they won't pay you at all for the show. So if you are supposed to sell 50 tickets for a show and you get paid 2 dollars a ticket for every ticket you sell you have the potential to at least go home with something, but if you only sell 49 tickets then you made them a decent amount of money and you get to go home with nothing for being one ticket shy of a half decent reward.

I suppose at the end of the day it's up to the kids in the scene to bring it back. Maybe it's time to put the phones down while you're at a show and simply enjoy it. Maybe instead of making Youtube videos of yourself playing songs that other people wrote you should start your own band and get out and start playing. Instead of watching your favorite band on Youtube you should go see them live in person. I've been very lucky to meet a lot of the people that inspired me from members of The Ramones to bands like Against Me!, The Misfits, The Queers, and all sorts of other great acts. I know from meeting them that they enjoy your presence at shows a lot more than they enjoy seeing phones in the air at shows. You can't be a part of the energy if you're too busy trying telling the world on Facebook that you're there because if that's the case then you're not really there at all. You're not creating memories. You're simply creating videos for views on the internet and missing out on the magic that's waiting for you.


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