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Brand Bands Together: Bridging the Gap Between Cliquey Music Scenes

Artists sometimes have trouble making friends with regular people. Especially if they’re eccentric artists. This can hurt their potential success, given that a large fan base consists mostly of regular type people. The good news is, artists can usually do well at befriending other artists–of greater or lesser eccentricity. When artists become friends with each other and start forming communities, scenes, etc., their momentum often leads to artistic movements. What began as local movements ultimately end up influencing global trends and styles in music, fashion, film, and the list goes on.

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The British Invasion was an early example of this in music. Every key British Invasion artist benefited greatly from their peers’ success in the music industry. Collectively, the British Invasion created a cultural explosion throughout Europe and the US. It was, however, an example of several different music scenes from the UK ultimately banding together to form a cultural shockwave. Up-and-comers these days need to think smaller scale.

The Punk scene exploded in the 80s and then the Grunge scene in the 90s. These ended up having just as much effect globally as did the British Invasion. The punk scene was borne of Washington DC area hardcore bands espousing an original do-it-yourself ethic. When one band got famous, so did others. Same thing happened in Grunge a decade later, but this time in Seattle. If we can learn anything from this, it’s that once a scene grows to encompass enough original talent,  that scene turns into a movement which then affects trends nationally and so on.

It’s so important to recognize that all you need for a scene to evolve into a movement is artists willing to reach out to one another. This means regardless of scene; irrespective of genre; whether or not you live uptown or downtown, all you have to do is connect enough bubbling talent in your city or region and *boom*. Cultural explosion. This is where I get the term ‘brand bands together’. Don’t focus on just branding yourself like the major labels do for Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber. Those kinds of scenes are manufactured and thus usually die out as quickly as they come up. A lasting movement and, indeed, moment, in art culture happens when dedicated, original talent connects with like-minded people in the formation of an unstoppable cultural front.

I’m sure that in every city, there are more and more people realizing that if only each music scene quit being so cliquey, they could collectively become a much more potent cultural force. That doesn’t mean metal needs to stop being so metally and hip-hop so hippy-hoppy. It just means a couple innovators from each scene need to come together and cross-genre boundaries and single-handedly forge the next era of music. It is happening. Slowly. But we need to encourage the connecting of key players in every scene to speed it along. We also need to discourage it from getting caught up in the old industry mentality. That will just breed a new era of Limp Bizkits and Linkin Parks, this time targeting even younger audiences.

Vancouver’s music scene feels that way to me. Each scene, be it metal, hardcore, indie, urban, seems to be so closed in upon itself. Whenever that starts happening, you know that we are on the brink of a new musical era–an evolution of music as we know it. Will it be as cool as the Psychedelic era was? Who knows. But if any city is ready to start building the foundation for this new era in music, it’s this one. We just need to mix our connectors and mavens together until something fruitful comes of it, and then mix some more.


Let me know your ideas about how we can get the right people together, representing every kind of scene, all under one roof. Vancouver and elsewhere!

Reader Comments (8)

I love this article! I am an indie label owner from Phoenix, Arizona.

July 21 | Unregistered CommenterRiver Jones

This is a great article. I like the idea of bringing these groups together that normally wouldn't come together. People need to be more willing to foster change rather than fall in the same old ways. This is 2011. This is a new era so we should treat it as such. There's no room for anything that has been done before in terms of longevity.

July 21 | Registered CommenterRhubarb Jam

There is little to no real "scenes" out there anymore. Happening scenes or congregations of artists existed because of one of two reasons... because it was the only way to meet like minded people producing material like yourself or because labels were scouting for new acts to sign and the best way to get noticed is to be a part of the scene that they dwell in. Neither of those situations apply anymore. I think it's necessary to link with as many people as possible to get your music out there, but I think it's even harder now to link with other artists as it is fans. It is more than ever time consuming being a musician. Having to keep up on blogging/tweeting/posting and marketing yourself, musicians are also responsible for practicing, playing, and recording music. There just isn't the time anymore! If there were, we would still see bigger scenes out there when there are none! :(

July 21 | Unregistered CommenterChancius

Studying classical music (I have a degree in piano literature) made it clear that no artist/composer ever stood alone. Look closely at the chronicles of music history and you will see there were always groups of composers supporting each other from "Les Six" to the serialist composers Schoenberg/berg/webern plus many more.

We are more enabled with technology to make this happen YET only a few small groups have formed and honestly I can't think of any in the region where I live. This thread is worth really is the future, past and present.

Is Collaboration the key? Do we need to reach outside of our safe little computer bubbles and play with each other more?

July 22 | Unregistered Commenterhudson k

"The punk scene was borne of Washington DC area hardcore bands espousing an original do-it-yourself ethic." WTF?!?!? An important scene to be sure, but you have heard of CBGB's right? That's where the punk scene started.

July 22 | Unregistered CommenterRussell

Reminds of one of the solutions I suggested in my recent blog about the live music economy for jazz music. Seems to make sense, since leisure time is of premium for everyone these days due to all of the various options one has to indulge for entertainment.

July 25 | Unregistered CommenterCb

I am a music consultant in Portland Oregon - and in the 90s I helped "name" a scene.
It was called the Eastside Sound - it identified the early unplugged movement as different from the downtown grunge scene. it was amazingly successful - and now is a part of local music industry history.
Currently I am working with two groups of artists helping them come together to strengthen the power of their scene:
Potown Soul - is a designation that brings together all the acts working in the new hot neo-soul movement. so far there is a lot fo buzz for the bands - and hopefully buzz for the name.
Rocktown PDX - is a brand new designation to bring together all the melodic rock acts starting to emerge in Portland - we are going to launch the brand with a benefit for a local rocker whose recent bike accident left him with many bills. We get to do good, bring that community together and launch a new brand!

We're creating a movement in San Antonio TX NOW.
....started with one band, INFINITE AGENDA, then on to "open mike" nites, now have gathered with other local bands, visual artists for artfest aspect working downtown SA and now branching into new venues on NE sife San Antonio. It is a growing movement, definitely qualifying as a scene with a growing fanbase. ...not great big yet, but growing. :-)

October 30 | Unregistered Commentershally brady

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