We are the problem with the music scene. Our pride has crushed the industry and we’ve done nothing to rebuild it.
I’ve only been intimately involved with Michigan’s local music scene for the last six years. Before 2006, I was merely a fan, hopping around south-east Michigan in my teen years to tiny acoustic shows held at youth group assemblies, international acts at larger-than-life arenas and scummy bar-basement hardcore shows downtown Detroit. From these extremes to everything in between, I watched every show with a heart pumping full of hope, excitement and passion. I remember never attending a show without an empty messenger bag, because undoubtedly, I would return home that night with a bag full of the performing artist’s CD’s, shirts, stickers, patches, posters - anything I could get my hands on to remember my time watching and hearing them. Afterwards, I plastered my walls, my books, my journals, my furniture and my clothes with band paraphernalia. I was a dedicated fan of music and these bands meant the world to me. I would cut photos from Alternative Press, Amp, Spin and Rolling Stone magazines and add those to my collection, because I knew that when I looked at these pictures, I’d be reminded why I loved music; why I wanted so badly to reach out to kids like they did for me. I carried CD booklets around with me so at any given moment when I was feeling down, distressed, furied or hopeful, I could pull out those books, find relatable lyrics, copy them down in my journal so I could let those songs speak for me. When I couldn’t describe my feelings to my friends, family or boyfriends, I shared with them a song that could explain exactly what I needed to convey.
I continued to attend these shows because watching these musicians tell their stories, so vulnerable on stage with blinding spot lights and countless burning eyes glued to them, inspired me to be a stronger person. They taught me to be comfortable in my skin. They showed me that it was okay to be honest and open and let emotions surface. In turn, I trusted these musicians with everything I had. I gave my heart to them. They had substance and displayed dignity and I would have done anything in my power to be like them. And so I would write to myself, sing to myself, and keep my dreams to myself until I finally found the courage to chase them.
In college, after years of makeshift “bands” that played covers for parties and performing in various ensembles, I knew that singing the lyrics other’s had written would not be enough and that I finally had the means to make my own mark. So I became very involved with the local scene and joined my first “real” band. It wasn’t until then that I learned the truth about what goes on in the studio, back stage, behind the scenes and underneath the scrutiny. My eyes were opened to the politics of the music industry and I was disheartened by the underlying stigma that came with the involvement. Until I became a part of an original, working band, I didn’t feel or see the lack of support that suddenly showed so blatantly in the eyes of my fellow musicians.
I never did understand the competition.
I never understood the trash talking from fans and musicians alike. It goes right back to the phrase we were told as children by our mother’s and our teacher’s to avoid bullying: “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
We don’t make art so that everything can look the same. We certainly don’t make music if we only want to hear that same alarm clock screech each morning. Variety is so important in music - it’s astounding how many musicians bag on other musicians because they simply don’t understand a different concept. It’s downright revolting when a musician dogs another for a growing craft - none of us escaped the womb playing seamless diatonic scales or singing seven octaves with perfect vibrato with a vast knowledge of music theory to boot. We all started somewhere. Wouldn’t it be more beneficial and gratifying to teach each other than to laugh and walk away? Thanks for nothing. You’re worthless.
Before I leap off my soap-box, the most important issue that threatens to tear from my throat is the lack of recognition and compassion. Fan’s appreciate a show; many musicians don’t. I haven’t met any musician that would openly admit to not giving two-shits about watching other bands perform, but my God, they exist. Self-loving, self-seeking “artists” who only make connections to further themselves and support their personal agenda. These folks have no regard to reviving a lost local scene or reaching out to other bands. Music is supposed to be a true release and reflection of us as people to bring us together. Yes, some musicians were tossed into the industry as young children before given the chance to appreciate the passion behind it, but the rest of us started as fans! And the truest sense of the word means that we loved music for what it was: an honest expression of emotions. So many of us have forgotten what it’s like to be a fan; to be that 15 year old kid in the crowd, watching the vocalist read our mind and scream our thoughts right back to us. We forget that once someone takes the stage, their skin disappears and their insides show, and in their vulnerability, they generously hand their hearts to us. As fans, we bask in the glory and the warmth. As musicians, we stomp and spit on it with no remorse.
And for what? We kill eachother’s hope for what?
All I know is that any musician that is too prideful or pompous to support another starving artist is no friend of mine.