WHY SCENES FAIL, AND WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR’S FAILS YOU.
August 17, 2016 by Ely Pierce
“Art is socialism. Life is capitalism.” – Mike Birbiglia
FOR YEARS I’VE ALWAYS HEARD ABOUT THE COLORADO SPRINGS MUSIC SCENE AND HOW DRAMATICALLY IT’S ACTIVITY HAS FLUCTUATED OVER THE DECADES.
You’ve probably heard it before, how it’s always feast or famine. High tide or low tide. And I’ve always wondered why exactly that is. historically being a small(ish) town and an even smaller music community there are a few more subtle elements, other than larger variables like economic conditions, that I think effect it more dramatically than more densely populated areas. We are a fragile lot after all.
I’D LIKE TO ADDRESS TWO INGREDIENTS THAT HAVE CONTRIBUTED DIRECTLY TO THE CYCLICAL NATURE OF THE PERPETUALLY BURGEONING SPRINGS MUSIC SCENE…
NO, I DON’T MEAN RELIGION AND WEALTHY WHITE PEOPLE.
THE FIRST IS ACTUALLY SOMETHING MORE TOXIC THAN MOST PEOPLE REALIZE:
Hype is not your friend. Hype is cheap. It comes easy and it doesn’t last. Be careful to not assign it more value than it deserves. hype doesn’t contribute to the music being made nor does it contribute to the strength of a community, not in the long run anyway. It actually only serves to distract from those things. It turns a community of makers and contributors into consumers. At best, hype is an opportunity but don’t confuse it with recognition. It’s like the difference between having someone’s admiration and having their respect. One is superficial and frivolous, albeit exciting. The other is hard earned and not easily broken, while not being as sexy.
If I had a dime for every hyped band in town that everyone thought was gonna “make it” over the last 15 years… Well… I’d have a dollar. But still, It’s a silly and impractical mentality.
This type of work takes sacrifice. You’ll know when a band has earned the attention they’re receiving, because they’ll have the scars to prove it. As an artist you’ll have eaten shit so many times your commitment will be obvious… and a little sad. The relationships you’ve lost, the jobs, the money, the opportunities. all things placed as less of a priority in pursuit of building a life around music. It can wind up costing you a fucking lot.
Hype costs nothing at all. There are bands that build their entire careers on hype. Only to find out after a couple years that it doesn’t mean anything to them anymore. There’s no relationship. Use hype to your advantage, sure. When you’ve got it, exploit it. But even still a band should never stop pushing for a genuine relationship with their fans and followers. Whether that means shaking every hand at the merch table. Getting contact info, and then following up. Or even just cracking a joke and letting that annoying dude buy you a drink. Take the time to engage people. That’s what will keep a band on the road. That’s what will keep people coming out to the shows, that’s what builds and maintains a strong network: Loyalty. We don’t need consumers and fanboys/girls. We need friends and connections.
THE SECOND TOXIC INGREDIENT IS:
We are currently experiencing a high tide of great bands and heightened interest. Most of the people I’ve talked to agree that they think this is the wave that will last. That it’s taken several years to build up to this point and that there’s enough momentum that it’ll stick around for a while. Granted, we can make the pieces fit and keep things moving forward.
Exclusivity hurts everyone. You know what’s cooler than being cool? Being hella insecure. Forming cliques and excluding people doesn’t make you stronger, it only highlights your own fear of rejection and shame. So how are you helping bring people together by utilizing the same tactics everyone’s already afraid the other one might use? It’s like a nuclear arms race, or the lunch room in high school. It weakens and distracts everyone from the real reason they’re there. Tolerance in diversity (good and bad diversity) always strengthens community. To give without thought of what you’ll receive in return. To see that what you give is actually what is also made available to you. Someone has to set the example on inclusive, supportive behavior. Be that person.
Big, selfish fish in small ponds tend to eventually use up all the oxygen in the water and suffocate everyone. We either all get there together or none of us get there at all. Whether that means setting aside your pride and squashing beef, or realizing petty competition will only breed more insecurity. Stop trashing bands and venues, end the cycle. Support that mainstream metalcore band you hate. Go to random shows where you don’t know any of the bands, Say hi to a stranger, encourage the people you meet, tolerate your differences.
THE THIRD PIECE OF UNSOLICITED ADVISE I’LL ADD IS:
don’t put this shit on a pedestal. It’s a community, which means It’s composed of regular-ass, fallible human beings who share a passion and work hard toward a common vision but can just as easily as anyone make lots of mistakes and hurt people, forgive them when need be. Or when it’s you that hurts someone, be accountable to the people you love. Listen to what they have to say. Take a step back and see all this for what it is, not what you want it to be. It’s not magic, It can’t save you. It’s not a religion, So don’t make it one… Please!
Which leads me to my final point.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR SCENE FAILS YOU.
AND THE ANSWER TO THAT IS:
Let that part of you die right where the scene left you. You won’t need it anymore. That part of you that was the naive, hopeful, but selfish idealist that thought that maybe this where you’ll finally fit in. That person was the vehicle that brought you this far. It served its purpose and it is done now. So be angry, Or be sad. Be betrayed and outraged. Whatever it is, just let it.
We are all just leaves on a tree making noise while the wind passes us by. Although, I would be painfully remiss to not highlight how much it can hurt to fall from that tree. Or to not encourage anyone to curse their branches in Autumn. So be whatever you need to be. For as long as you need to be it.
When I was a coming up it was inherently accepted that the scene wasn’t for you. That it would always let you down. Venues shut down all the time, Fads came and went, Bands broke up often, the cool kids never had the time, promoters and owners were always looking to screw you over. I was faced with that reality often. You hung tight to your small group of friends and looked out for your own. That mentality cant last tho, its a survival model. We have abundance now, we have to start acting like it.
A strong community is typically composed of a handful of strong players making sacrifices, taking risks, and making moves. I guarantee you every one of those strong players have had their hearts broken by the scene. And were forced to reconcile their feelings of disappointment and discontentment with the community that was supposed to be there for them, but failed. These are the people who have wrestled with that pain. And in the end realized the scene can’t complete you or inform you. And that eventually, It holds you back.
fitting into something larger than yourself serves its purpose but then becomes like a dead appendage. Hanging on you like a too large overcoat. What once made you feel safe, warm, and welcome now weighs you down. At some point you have to decide what to do with that dead weight. Let it limit you, Or get rid of it and face some scary unknown shit. And of course, this applies to all kinds of things.
IN TRUTH, THE SCENE CAN’T FAIL YOU.
BECAUSE IT NEVER GAVE YOU ANYTHING YOU COULDN’T GIVE YOURSELF.
The “scene” isn’t real. We’ve all just decided to contribute to its legacy. But if everybody walked away it would no longer exist, But youstill would. So don’t worry about what you’re getting, worry about what your putting in. It’s not for us. It’s built on us.
The real irony is that once you realize that you’ve always had what you needed. And that you never needed anything or anyone to be fulfilled. You’ll be so grateful all you’ll wanna do is give back to the community that abandoned you.
BECAUSE IT MEANT THE WORLD TO GET LEFT BEHIND.
The truth is, is that most of you aren’t “Lifers”. When this or that fad ends you’ll check out and move on, which is fine! For the younger kids, In a couple years you’ll be embarrassed of the music your listening to or making now. After a couple years tho you’ll grow an appreciation for it. But mostly just brag about your days slayin the stage and getting dusted in the pit. And that may be where it ends for you, and that’s ok.
someday what you call “Hardcore” will be considered lame and old. Then after a while it’ll become cool again, but by then you won’t like it anymore …Weird, right?
And maybe, fucking MAYBE, you’ll turn around someday like me and try to encourage the kids to not settle, to never stop pushing.
To take responsibility for the health and wellness of your community, and to stay conscious and cultivate something in your wake.