Why The Scene Devours Itself

Music is a business, whether you’re an amateur band, playing for nothing, or a big ticket national act playing for millions. There is always someone somewhere who is trying to profit from your endeavors as an artist.

Support Local MusicPromoters, bookers, agents, managers, and the venues themselves all try to take a piece of your pie. Even when you are playing free shows, the venue is trying to make money from your appearance. For example, say the venue is a bar. On top of its normal drinks and sundries, they hope that your playing will attract further customers. When a show is being run by a promoter, they often also charge the promoter for the use of the venue – then the promoter gets his cut for organizing the show. Occasionally the promoter will then pay one or more bands a small portion of the remainder of the profit, and the money dwindles. This causes door fees to rise, and with the economy being as tough as it is, it lowers attendance. Some door fees are even larger for minors, since they can’t buy drinks in a number of these venues.

But that’s not what plagues local scenes, especially one which is as topographically tightly packed and polarized as the Honolulu scene. In almost every show I have been to since I began playing and attending shows a couple years ago, I have observed a number of things which have remained the same from show to show. The remainder of this entry is going to be a list of things which I see which I believe are causing the downfall of the music scene in Honolulu.

Support Music1) Not enough legitimate fans attend shows. In the majority of shows I’ve been to, the audience has overwhelmingly consisted of bands who have already played, or who are waiting to play. I’m not sure what it is that prevents more people from coming, but I have a few a few ideas which I will extrapolate in further detail shortly. With the lack of non-participants viewing sets, bands get less exposure to potential fans, the door collects less cash, which results in lesser pay for the bands and all, and the overall energy of the show generally declines. After several shows with minimal viewers, a lot of bands lose motivation or interest in playing, and the bands slip away over time. Much like the Jacksonville Jaguars NFL franchise (GO JAGS!), the fate of a band’s future is directly tied to fan turnout.

2) This fan hates that fan, this band hates that band, and Jawaiian sucks. The scene out here is polarized as hell. In the red corner, you have the reggae, island music, jawaiian, easy listening fans and musicians. In the blue corner, you have rock, metal, hardcore, emo, and punk guys. In another corner you have rap, and in another, country, in another… The Craigslist battles between these people are enormous, heated, and normally a mix of hilarious and disgusting. What nobody seems to realize is that every band has its niche, and every fan of local music should buckle down and support ‘enemy’ fans and bands alike. Without that support, the love disappears, the hate grows, and bands start to fade away until the next ridiculous whiney kid radio genre comes into popularity and inspires two or three dozen people to make copycat music who then fall victim to the same issues. Mudslinging is crap, be it between fans or bands or mixtures of. Without mutual respect and support, the scene is bound to collapse into rubble.

Music Washes3) Local radio sucks, and local bands don’t get their due and proper five minutes of fame. The same new crap, the same old crap, over and over and over, until it makes your ears bleed and your sanity bust out in tears. This isn’t unique to Hawaii, but the lack of spread in population causes more and more people to flock to copycat bands, which ushers in an era lacking in originality or creativity. Imagine, if you will, a freshly waxed car when it is raining lightly, and you’ll see how the water drops coming down grow in size as they hit the hood and merge with one another. This is how bad radio makes fan bases of a single genre or band, and ruins them to other styles of music. Now, not all radio stations are evil. Some have small segments of the day, or at least specials regularly which feature local music, and not all bands take everything from one other group or lack creativity, but the radio has way too much influence.

4) There are too many battles of the bands, and all of them are fixed to a degree. This is a hard one to prove or disprove, however, the battles are almost always won by the same group of bands who are very friendly with one another or have strong ties to the promotional circuit. Be it a regular battle for bragging rights, one for prizes, or one to determine who’ll open for a large national act, it’s all the same. As for the opener battles, I know for a fact that those are often negotiated months in advance. Without battles on the up and up, it’s hard to take local ‘fame’ seriously.

5) There are too many shows, with too many genres at once. Every week, you can expect a show on this day at this venue, with no idea what eclectic mix of music will show this time. Having concurrent shows is cool, so long as they are all compelling, and of completely different genres, so that the fans and profits aren’t split. The jump from folk to death metal is pretty extreme in one show, and it absolutely does happen. Not to mention the repeated performances of the exact same band – whether a good band or not – causes them to grow stale quickly.

More to come later…



~ by whatscene on January 31, 2010.

2 Responses to “Why The Scene Devours Itself”

  1. Very well done. I wish a lot more people would realize these things. I haven’t entered a battle since we lost because we dressed how we wanted to and spent some time making our sound actually half way decent.

  2. I’ve noticed it myself,where i grew up originally on the East Coast,metal was in. But it seems here,people snob their noses at metal musicians and fans.

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