The Rising Tide Will Raise All Ships:
Building A Strong Musical Community - Part 1
Six months before I was to graduate college my wife awoke one night to the sound of me crying, covered in a cold sweat. By that time, we had already been together for six years, and for that entire span I had planned on and worked towards becoming a doctor. Sure, she knew that I also played drums and that music was a large part of my life. She would probably agree that that was part of why she fell in love with me in the first place; drummers are awesome. But there was no way that she could have known how a new desire was beginning to dominate, not only the way I wanted the rest of my life to look, but the type of person I wanted to be as well. I wanted to be a creative. Rather than be trained to keep people alive, I wanted to work towards making things that made life worth living. I wanted to talk about beauty, hope, love, and peace. I wanted to dance with an audience! The thing was, I didn’t know how to do any of that, and that made medicine the safer choice. At least that’s how I rationalized my yearnings, until that night when through tears I explained how I had to pursue music as a career and lifestyle. Without any hesitation whatsoever, my wife stared back at me, fully resolute, and said, “Then let’s do this.”
While I love a chance to brag on my wife whenever possible, the main reason I tell this story is because I feel this same sense threading throughout our musical community in varying degrees. We’ve all taken this plunge and have dedicated ourselves to creating meaningful art, but when it comes to actually getting that art out into the world, we don’t seem to know what we’re doing. I get it though, truly. We all know that the mitochondria are the powerhouses of the cell (if you didn’t know that, now you do. You’re welcome). We all can more than likely still recall the Pythagorean theorem, but wouldn’t you know it, I can’t recall a single class on how to network properly. But that’s why I’m here, or rather this article is. Over the past couple of years, through loads of trial and error, I believe I’ve come across three practical ways that will help anyone in the Oklahoma City music scene get a leg up in getting their music out as well as help grow the scene from within.
#1 Authentically Engage Through Social Media
I have to say “authentically” here because we all know those accounts who comment random emojis like a dude’s face, three lightning bolts, and a kissy face. You’re never really sure whether they’re a bot, into your music, or just a really proud Harry Potter fan. No one talks like this in the real world. While you might hear me scream, “YYYYAAAASSS QUUUUEEEENNNN” at a local show, this is more the exception than the rule. Rather, scour through Instagram and the like using relevant hashtags that resemble your sound/style and the sound/style of bands that you would like to connect with. Once you’ve found other bands, curators, promoters, and tastemakers that you want to connect with, be sure to comment something meaningful that shows you’ve actually engaged with their art. Find something that speaks to you and then let them know, whether its a lyric, a guitar piece, a funny video, or a tasteful show pic. This will go hand-in-hand with point two in creating real future relationships.
#2 SHARE, BUY, AND SUPPORT THE MUSIC
Once you’ve established a rapport with a band through continual authentic engagement, be sure to SHARE, BUY, AND SUPPORT THEIR MUSIC. Speaking locally for a moment, this is an area where we can all grow. There should be no bigger champion of OKC music than OKC music. It costs nothing but time to post/repost social media pics and stories, to create playlists and follow on streaming sites like Spotify, and to attend and promote local shows. I don’t believe that there is any malicious intent when it comes to the current lack of this specific type of support. I just don’t know that it’s at the forefront of our minds how important and helpful small steps like these are. And for those that are financially able, purchasing music and merch online and at the merch table are tangible expressions of investing in the well-being of another’s art. It says, “I want you to succeed”. It says, “I believe it can succeed”. It says, “I want you be able to get four Doritos Locos Tacos from T-Bell on your way out of town”. Bless up. Finally, when it comes to show etiquette, be sure to be the band/artist at the front of the crowd singing along and engaging. Be the fan that you want to have at your shows. Later this month, Part 2 of this series will see these ideas fleshed out in more detail, showcasing how a strong community affects both local artists and fans alike.
#3 Host Local Shows
On March first, Cavern Company is partnering with OKSessions to host a show for Dallas based band McAllister. We are buying into this idea that I-35 shouldn’t be the only thing that connects us with our Texas friends. To us, hosting shows is the natural culmination of the first two steps. Over time we’ve developed real friendships with surrounding bands, and we want to see them perform and have a hub right here in our hometown. In turn, our friends have us out to their cities and because we’re truly working for each other’s good, we’ll already have a street team in place to help promote future shows and bring people out. We are always grateful for our band friends in other states who can help out with a venue contact, a place to crash for the night, or even the best local coffee shops in their town when we are on tour. So, whether you find yourself actually on the bill or not, hosting a show for local acts, regional acts, or hopefully a mix of both, is no small gesture of good will to those bands with which you are trying to create honest relationships.
Any success I’ve seen can be attributed to the belief that the rising tide will raise all ships. If OKC is succeeding and flourishing as a whole, then its parts will flourish by default. If you’re wanting to expand your musical reach, see to it that your networking focuses first on engaging and promoting those bands and venues that you’re wanting to connect with through socials up to and including hosting shows. And while success in music is never guaranteed, these are great first steps to get you moving in the right direction. Be sure to sign up for our email list to catch Part 2 of this blog coming soon.