Songs for the Struggling Artist

Going Local

I’ve been reading How to Be Your Own Booking Agent. I’m interested in learning how to take my shows on the road and even though this book is really geared toward musicians, I thought it was worth a read.
I was struck by a section on the importance of developing a local fan base first. I grew up in Charlottesville, Virginia, in a vibrant music scene so I saw these sorts of strategies work first hand. You guys heard of the Dave Matthews Band? See, I’ve seen it work. Firsthand. One Tuesday night at a time.
Problem is: Now I live in NYC. And going local here is very tricky. The resources are such that just getting to practice your craft and develop a fan base is actually a giant hurdle. There are theatre companies based here in NYC that tour all over the world but do not perform here in their home. And it’s not just true for theatre, which is admittedly, a high demand of resources where ever you are, but also for music.
Back when I had a band and was trying to perform around the city, we played anywhere we could, as much as we could. But most places we played wouldn’t book us unless we could guarantee a certain number of audience members. They wouldn’t give us the opportunity to play unless we already had a significant following. But how were we to develop a following if we weren’t able to play? It meant that most of the bands getting booked were just people with a lot of friends, not necessarily the best music or the most interesting.
Reading this chapter on Going Local in this book, I found myself yearning for a world of church basements that wouldn’t charge you to rehearse in them, for spaces that would be only too delighted to let you do a show in them, for places where people are thrilled to have something to do – instead of exhausted by all the cultural events they have to see.
But I suppose that’s what I signed up for in choosing to live here. I get the benefits of being exactly where the action is and of seeing remarkable work from around the world. I also get the pitfalls of having to raise tens of thousands of dollars, just to try something out on the stage. I love the notion of developing locally and companies like Peoples Theatre Project have found a great way to do it, but local development is a nut I have yet to crack. Given the tendency of this city to embrace only that which was born elsewhere, I feel I might have more success cracking the local nut elsewhere and bringing it back here after.


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