Building Your Underground Cred

Previously on this blog I’ve talked a little bit about how you are your scene and how you are the sum of the people you associate with. If you’re hanging out with the realest motherfuckers in your scene then you’re going to end up being a real motherfucker. Simultaneously, if you are hanging with the bands who don’t get anywhere you are building up off of a much narrower base of contacts. This can be a very weird thing to break through too and I wanted to take some time talking about how to break into the upper echelons of your local scene and how you will be able to go out and create a name for yourself that’s going to go a lot further than the general limitations that I think a lot of bands find themselves running into. There’s a reason dudes who haven’t previously done anything suddenly get invited into huge bands – they understood how to interface with some of these people and that led to long term successes.

The first and most obvious thing that is going to get people in the scene to respect you is having a really deep and thorough knowledge of music, and not just of whatever genre you play but music as a whole. One little hack I’ve found is having a deep knowledge of 70s and 80s music because the people who run your scene probably grew up with that music and they are going to really respect the hell out of people who get that. There are certain bands in particular who can get you far. In the rock and metal community knowing a lot about KISS is a surefire way to impress the older guys in the scene who are the decision makers. The other thing that can be very helpful is having a thorough knowledge of the early hardcore scene since most of those people used initial DIY successes in order to get somewhere better, be it in the music scene or elsewhere in life as folks in the normal workforce. Even if those things don’t genuinely interest you, having a strong knowledge of the history of music is going to make people take you more seriously.

This also ties into the next harsh reality – you need to be generating underground cred for yourself in order to get the attention you want. The best way to do that is to have been a part of the underground scene since you were a teenager. I routinely find the most successful musicians, even in totally non underground bands started out going to house shows and fighting for success on a circuit that most people aren’t even aware exists. That’s because house shows are the same everywhere in the country and they have been for twenty or thirty years now so they become a major bonding point. You need to appreciate what they mean for the community and embrace them. When you can prove that you came from a place where all you cared about was your local scene and booking cool out of town bands good things will start to happen. Of course you can’t fake it. People in underground music are a savvy bunch and they can spot a phony.

What these house show experiences eventually bleed into is tour. And tour eventually turns into tour stories and having tour stories is a great way to cozy up to people. Make sure that you have a few truly excellent ones that you can dump on impressive musicians you end up meeting. It may be worth testing these out with friends first to see how they are received, after all, you are trying to connect with key figures. You want to prove that you are just like them and that will make them trust you more because you are establishing a genuine relationship. That’s kind of the thing – if you’re telling your shitty tour stories with the goal of sucking up to people people can tell. But if you are building a relationship built on a mutual love of underground music, partying and whatever else it is that you may do you are going to end up getting a whole helluva lot further with your attempts at networking.

When you can make the networking no longer feel like networking then you are starting to get somewhere. This way when you meet someone from a band at your favorite club you aren’t just a creepy hanger on, you are a fellow musician who can help care for them. This is part of why it’s so great to let bands stay at your house – because you make these relationships actualized and provide a certain degree of value to the band. It’s very hard to become the sort of person who is viewed as respectable in the scene and a ‘good dude’. It’s also very hard to establish a reputation as someone who isn’t going to fuck around with the bands and be a genuine help to the scene. The only way to really get there is by genuinely doing it and if you’re not willing to genuinely go for it why do you think that anyone is going to care about you when you try to tour?

You get out what you put in, and generating the background necessary to have legitimate tour stories and to be able to hold your own, shooting the shit across the table with members of legendary bands isn’t something that a lot of people figure out quickly. It requires a lot of travel, late nights and financial investment. Hell, I’m nowhere near where I want to be and I have invested most of my music into the music scene over the past decade. This isn’t something that a lot of people are going to easily embrace, but it is a lifestyle that a chosen few can’t help but to love no matter how fucked up this entire unsavory situation might end up being.

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