Creating a Scene
Some things are changing profoundly and others seem to never really change. In thee arts and especially in the music business those changes have been fundamental in many ways. When I first moved to Boston in 1970 the pay for a jazz gig was often "cab money". There were a handful of places that paid bands but mostly you played for the "door" or your band might get paid as much as $125 for the whole band! The clubs to play included Michael's Pub, the 1369 Jazz Club, Ryles, Poo's Pub, Olivers, etc. There were high-end clubs that had "name" acts like Sandy's in Beverly, Lenny's, The Jazz Workshop and Paul's Mall....but the list wasn't all that long. The "scene" was considered to be good at the time. There were oportunities to play even if they didn't pay much. There were also coffee houses all over the place which often afforded additional opportunities to perform. We've gone through many ups and downs since then in the music scene here in Boston but some things don't change much. Many of the gigs that used to provide pay have dried up across a wide spectrum. Most clubs still pay short money in about the same range as back in 1970 |-(. Nonpfrofit organizations have come to expect musicians to play for free. We used to get paid along with the caterers and others who provided support for a successful event. These days not so much. Wedding gigs and other general business gigs have become much less prevalent. DJs have replaced bands at many wedding receptions and corporate affairs.
Bact in the 70's there was a movement amongst artist in general and also musicians known as the loft-scene. It happened in the Boston area but also in other cities including NYC. Artists have always had to "create" their own scenes in one way or another. Now we've reached the digital age and with it comes an even clearer need for artists to "create" there own scene. If you're not doing it on-line you are cutting yourself off from any chance of getting gigs, etc. We all use email lists and Facebook pages, Twitter, Youtube, etc. to market ourselves. Most musicians are producing their own recordings in studios in their own homes. The systems that used to provide ladders and support to artists/musicians have changed to refelct the limited access to recording contracts and other such opportunities. Everyone is expected to do everything themselves whether they like it or not or are any good at it. As artists, we need to find ways to do all of this better and figure out how to make getting paid a much more viable notion.
Waiting for restaurants, clubs, organizations, etc. to create a scene for us to plug into is like waiting for godot. We need to do what is being done in places like Brooklyn and has been done for many decades in Europe. Collectives, Collaboratives, etc., have been long understood as a way to create a scene where none exists. If we want to have opportunities to play and get paid we have to join together to create that reality. That can mean lots of different things but it is also about how to have real community in a digital age. The arts act to humanize our lives both private and public. The more time we spend with our digital devices the more we NEED human contact and to express our humanity. We NEED each other and the support that community contributes.
EulipiaJazz is more than a producer of concerts. EulipiaJazz is an opportunity to create a scene here in the Arlington area and to come together as a community to explore the virtues of collaboration between artists from muliple disciplines. There will be two additional websites to serve specific purposes:
EulipiaJazz.org - A place to share best practices, alternative models for self-production, exemplars of successful attempts to create scenes in other localities, etc.
EulipiaJazz.net - A site where local artists can collaborate, plan, plot, and otherwise look for opportunities to connect. It seems rediculous that there should be so many talented artists in town who don't know each other. I'm always surpirsed to find out how many other jazz musicians live in Arlington and how few of them travel in the same circles. In most cases we don't work together and there is a big opportunity to change that.
To me life is good when I can play music for an audience. I want that to be a frequent experience, not a rare one. Music should be part of daily life not something that we only allow on special occasions. Live music should be available in lots of venues as part of the ambiance that we expect. Like the soundtrack of a movie or tv show, take the music away and you all of a sudden notice how much it contributes. We expect to hear nice jazz in the background at many of our favorite restaurants but consider piped in music to be as good as the real thing. This is what we need to counteract. Live music at lunch time, in the middle of the afternoon, during the evenings and late at night, should be part of our environment. Music should be understood to be as important to a successful event as the food or the drink (whcih always get paid for). It all starts with that determination to create a scene rather than wait for everyone else to get it. They will join the effort if wekl provide the leadership to show them the way.
Most city planners see the pattern of development that starts with artists moving into a neighborhood that hasn't "come up" yet and bring the vitality that then brings in the other businesses and leads ultimately to become too sucessful for the artists to live there any more. We know art and culture are economic engines when unleashed. This applies to Arlington as well. There is a tendency to believe that what works elsewhere somehow doesn't work in Arlington. This is akin to believing that gravity doesn't apply in Arlington. We need to sieze the opportunities to work together to pool our resources to make things happen. It's definitly up to us what happens here. Please join me in trying to take things to another level.