Friday, December 19, 2008

What’s Wrong With the Scene?! Pt 2 by Bavu Blakes

Welcome to the second episode of "What's Wrong With the Scene?!" In our first installment, we introduced you to Every Town, USA. In Every Town, at least 1,000 people aspire to make it big in the hip hop game as rappers, promoters, dj's and such. We established that the most important component of a local support base is the casual music fan, who simply comes out and spends money to have a good time around some music – no more, no less and definitely no deeper. If your product or service connects with these fans, they could support you for the life of your career!

I propose that in Every Town, a casual fan is typically content with enjoying occasional road shows by major touring acts and doesn't have much time to take the local scene seriously. So at a big Bun B and David Banner concert, the cat who's been hanging on the local scene several days a week asks himself, "where'd all these people come from?" Those thousands of strangers are the casual fans, who may try out their local scene at least once to see if it's something he/she can dig on a regular basis. And then what happens?

All Scene, Nothing to See

Allow me to cut to the white meat and summarize it for you: the casual fan usually has a terrible time at the local spots. I'm not saying local fans or promoters – or anyone in particular – run the casual fans off. I'm saying that almost EVERYTHING that happens can ruin the casual music fan's experience at the local spot. They'd probably have more fun at a dance club or regular bar than at a local showcase, concert or event. But why?

First, the performances tend to lack quality. You can't even blame that on hip hop, but I'm saying... If a performing act doesn't even consider what a casual fan would want to experience, that act is bound to suck. It's customary to include or leave the lead vocals on the backing tracks used for a show CD. Psh. You typically hear acts perform their whole four-minute songs. Boring. And even the big national shows might include way too many local acts who all give you the same low-quality experience. This makes the casual fan think, "enough of this crap, bring out the professional artist I came to see".

Too often I see local rappers who obviously think the most important part of performing is appearance, or swag, or anything but the quality of the musical experience. Let's be honest: when people know and/or like your song, you can get away with anything. Unfortunately for independent artists like me, this is usually not the case! So until you have a hit – and hopefully even after that – it goes back to quality.

Secondly, there are hardly any casual fans at most local spots. They say a crowd draws a crowd. But two, 20 or even 100 rappers with their friends and lovers is not necessarily a good crowd. They rotate – 10 or 20 at a time – to the stage to perform all night, and basically ignore each other's sets. Since everyone has an agenda, hardly anyone in the "crowd" acts like anything is wrong, or out of the ordinary. This can give a casual fan the impression that the standard is just low in this town, which turns them off – usually for good.

Third and finally, these local spots tend to be way too masculine. Most women aren't fanatical about hip hop; they just want to dance and hang out with their girlfriends. So is your local spot fun, or just a community center vibe? After all, there's a reason women don't hang out at the local gym or basketball court.

So there you have it, three reasons the casual fan ends up saying, "Oh well, this city's scene sucks." They'll just go out when they go back to their hometown. Or they'll go out to a local event when they visit what they consider to be a better hip-hop city. Usually it's a big city like Houston, but they can run into the same problems there, too. Don't forget we're talking about what's wrong in Every Town, USA.

Just to be clear, this is not an indictment against local showcases in general. Where I live, there's a regular spot called "The 512" which showcases at least half a dozen local acts at each event. Their shows are always packed with people who are getting what they came for. That's what really matters. In the words of Matt Sonzala, "this is IMPORTANT!"

Meanwhile, most of the time, your local scene has some serious problems. So what situations and scenarios lead to these problems, nearly guaranteeing a low-quality experience in your city?

We'll cover that in the next installment of What's Wrong With the Scene?!

Back to the lab,
Mr. Bavu Blakes

[Email your comments, questions, feedback, criticism, etc., to with "What's Wrong With the Scene?!" in the subject line.]

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