Repositioning local live music

Repositioning local live music

Written by Derek Manns, Co-founder & CEO, Stagehand

What is it about the term “local” in regards to music that invokes a negative reaction? 

When I started Stagehand, I was an outsider to the music business. As I became more involved in the industry, one thing that surprised me was that casually referring to someone as a “local” musician was perceived as a put-down. I can see where that perception comes from, but it seems to be out of step with other forms of culture. The notion of “local” is trending—local beer, local coffee, locally-sourced ingredients. It’s time to change this perception for music as well. 

Local music is surprisingly good!

To all of my musician friends, please know that I say that with tongue in cheek. Anyone who is a regular in the local music scene would not be surprised at the level of talent, but let's face it, most people are not regulars and those are the people we need to attract to grow the industry.

Last year, before the COVID shutdown, I was talking to one of the artists that regularly performed at the Calgary International Airport. She laughed when she told me how people would come up to her and say, “You’re actually pretty good!” Of course she’s good, she's recorded in Nashville and toured in Europe! Just because an artist is not headlining a 20,000+ seat arena does not mean they aren’t talented. That is like saying that you need to go to Paris to have a really good meal. The more you get to know the local music scene the more you realize there is only a fine line that separates the talent on stage at the local 200-seat club from the talent that plays to a sold-out arena.   

So why don’t people take in the local live music scene more often? Here are a few reasons: 

  • Competition. Competition here does not refer to other live music venues. The real competition for our attention is the multiple screens that we spend hours staring at. Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Apple TV—competitors designed to keep us cocooned at home and on the couch.
  • Ignorance. I remember talking to a woman who lived in the suburbs and whose children had just gotten to the age where she could leave them with a babysitter. She talked about how she loved jazz and wanted to get out again, but there just wasn’t much going on. She was wrong! There was lots of jazz, but she needed to know where to look to find it. This would likely involve searching multiple websites to find a show and even then, her options would probably be names that she didn’t recognize. Her choice came down to paying for a sitter so she could venture out to see a jazz performance who she wasn't familiar with, or she could stay at home with her kids and watch Game of Thrones. 
  • Perception. This comes back to the misperception that local music is somehow inferior. It is not! Yes, it is different, but it's different in a good way. It's more intimate, less costly, and you even have a better chance of meeting the band between sets or after the show.

Right now, local music is the only live music, making it all the more important to support the local music scene and local artists. Choose to see a show at a local venue, listen to a playlist featuring local artists, or purchase merch from a local band. 

Dare to celebrate local!