Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Fishbowl

I talk to so many bands and artist that seem to think that if they move to New York City, Los Angeles, or Nashville that they will suddenly find the success that was lacking in their home market. I have said this in a previous post but, why the hell does anyone think they are going to set the world on fire in another market when people don't care in their home market? All you are doing is putting yourself in a larger fishbowl where there are fewer gigs because of competition and lesser chance of you gaining traction simply because of the increased numbers of bands that are trying to do the same thing that you are doing. There was a country band that I was booking in in the region (I am in Oklahoma now so that makes some sense) who's singer was really something special. I really mean special. She possessed all the ingredients that it took to really make a go of it and make a career out of it. At their regional gigs, label folks and management types started flying in for shows. You could really feel that an extraordinary situation was brewing. Then one day I get a call and the girl had decided to move to Nashville. I didn't try to talk her out of it because I knew she felt that this was the best move for her and who am I to throw water on the situation. One of the management types had leaned on her to give it all up for a chance at the big time. This girl was not a songwriter but when she got to Nashville she was hooked up with songwriters and advised not to perform live sparingly. The irony here is that the stage was home for her. It was the place that she made a difference and turned heads. The stage was her place of connection to her art and to those who followed her. I will admit that she gave it hell why she was there and did everything she could to make it happen. Unfortunately, nothing ever did. This girl is still living in Nashville but is thinking about moving back to Wichita to join another band.

The thing about Nashville that the Nashville country music industry elite don't want you to know is that yes, it is the country music capital of the world BUT, it is not the country music capital considering the amount of actual country music fans that live there. One interesting statistic I use to back this claim up is...Can you guess what format the number one radio station in Nashville is? NOPE, it is not a country music station. Can you guess what format the number two radio station in Nashville is? NOPE, it is not a country music station. Can you guess what format the number three radio station in Nashville is? NOPE, it is not a country music station. Now, can you guess what format the number four station in Nashville is? NOPE, still not a country music station. According to Arbitron, the top rated country music radio station in Nashville is the fifth highest rated station in the market. Most people who don't live in Nashville have the misconception that the entire city is engulfed by the country music culture and the entire population of the city are all walking around with Taylor Swift and Keith Urban t-shirts on.

I bet you are now wondering "Jeff, since this girl was trying to build a country music fan base in Wichita, what format is the number one radio station in Wichita?" Again, according to Arbitron, I bet you can guess what the number one station is. You are correct, IT IS A COUNTRY MUSIC STATION. In a city that is one third the size of Nashville, there is proportionally a much larger number of people that would be into what she was doing where she was living BEFORE she moved to Music City (cough, cough.)

So in essence what this girl did is not move to a larger fishbowl, she moved to a fishbowl that was slightly larger with way more fucking fish in it.


  1. A lot of what you write here, I think, applies to many different industries. From film to software, there seems to be these big mecca-locations for different crowds. And people will flock there in droves hoping to get in on the playing field. Problem is: Once there, with your "scene", you're suddenly not a unique snowflake. You're just one in a freaking blizzard.

  2. Yep! Computer "rock-stars" are a dime a dozen in Silicon Valley and it's hard to stand out from the super talented crowd there. Other markets though, where the talent is much more difficult to find, a decently qualified person has life much easier in terms of seeking employment. Salaries vary by company size and skill level but at least it's better than trying to make it unemployed in a town filled to the brim with people that do exactly the same thing as you do.