April 1st, 2016

Unfinished Mail

the Usual Suspects
I’m optimistic. If I wasn’t I don’t think I’d still be in the business. Optimism is a strange creature. It gives you hope. It is an understatement to say I see a lot of shows in a year. I will go out of my way to see artists large and small. Sometimes I’m there to scout out someone new. Sometimes I’m there to see someone who is beginning to break. Sometimes I’m there to see a superstar. The shows I most enjoy are not the stadium shows that are choreographed to the second. I enjoy the small rock shows with touring acts still trying to make a name for themselves. The problem is to make a name for yourself often you have to take someone else off their pedestal.
In every local market their are the “usual suspects.” The reference comes from Casablanca. These are the local acts who have such a large following that they are invited to every local festival and play bigger venues on a regular basis – and have been doing so for anywhere from 5 years to 20. They are established and have families and make a living without touring. Every promoter knows their name and has partied with them “back in the day.” The “usual suspects” change over time but the m.o. remains the same.
As someone who likes to foster in a new generation I’m not a fan of the “usual suspects.” How can a new band begin to break into that audience when the bookings are eaten up by these bands? It is not enough to open for the “usual suspects.” There has to be an opportunity given by the promoters and other forces to allow that slot to be fought for more. This is hard. It means that you can’t always give your friends a prime slot and you have to be willing to take risks on music you may not be a fan of…even if everyone else is. I invite local promoters, booking agents, etc…to expand your horizons.
A rising tide lifts all boats is an axiom I’ve become a fan of. If you lift one tier of musicians into a new level you leave it open for another bunch of musicians to move in. That doesn’t mean that the musicians get to slack off. It means when everyone “ups” their game there can be movement and new faces get a chance they didn’t before. One benefit to being out all the time is I get to see a music scene evolve. One of the best ways to have the scene evolve is when the “usual suspects” slow down and take a few summers off. They leave the door open to new faces and risk.

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