You know what amazes me? The fact that I have been a fixture on the Northeast metal scene for pretty much my entire adult life and I can still meet people who it is helpful for me to collaborate with at local shows. That shouldn’t be a thing, but somehow it is. This happens all the time to me – even for shows I didn’t want to go too but felt obligated to make it out for. The thing is – these connections are exactly what have made my career and those of countless people like me. People seem to think that they can get away without being a part of the scene, but no matter how big you might be, sometimes you will still be meeting the type of people who can hook up things that you might have never had before and that’s going to be a vital part if you want to boost your bands career over the long term. By eschewing local shows you’re not just hurting your potential friends, you are hurting your chance of having a career. So let’s take some time to figure this out.
I think the thing people don’t seem to get is that so much of how I’ve gotten to where I am and so much of how many of my friends have reached their own positions in life is simply stemming from the fact that they like to be helpful. It’s not a question of them trying to be self serving or showing off how they are ‘totally down with the scene bro’. It’s more a question of just stepping up and fucking doing shit without being asked. It’s going and doing door, even though you’re tired and grumpy because the bands need someone to do door. It’s letting people stay at your house, not because you know the band but because they need a warm meal and a little bit of help. It’s not a question of thinking “Oh, I’ll get connections” but rather one of “Hopefully this band will want to come back here.” Guess what? It’s stressful as fuck. I’m not always the best at it either. But at the end of the day – working hard to contribute gets me a lot further faster.
Every time that I feel like I can rise above the scene I get beat down, and every time I go back to some tiny DIY show I remember why I love this. It’s because it’s at the DIY shows that you are going to meet the people who like to grind it out on the DIY level and who are out there busting their balls for a scene that almost no one cares about. These people playing tiny DIY shows are the same people who can connect you when you need to go through their town. They are the people who look above and beyond in order to make good shit happen. They are the people who understand the fundamental struggles of the music industry on the underground level and they are the people whose bands end up growing above and beyond what you might have otherwise expected. The underground scene is like a warm blanket and one that I need in my life in order to give me the hookups that make this entire thing actionable. The minute you distance yourself from that is the minute you start to suffer.
The problem is that a lot of bands seem to think that they can make these connections by going to only big shows. The issue is that even the hippest people on the underground are going to big shows with a ton of their friends and aren’t exactly trying to network, they are there for shits and giggles. You’re not going to get the same kind of one on one experience that would be as valuable. It’s by interacting with bands that you are going to meet the other relevant people on the DIY level. If you’re supposed to be growing your fanbase one person at a time, why NOT talk to people in your scene and go be a part of it? It’s the people who think they don’t need to interact personally and one on one who don’t get anywhere. But you need to be savvier and realize the strength of the underground show and the sheer fun of finding another absolute fucking maniac who digs into everything going on in the scene and builds upon it.
A lot of musicians are seemingly scared of this scene or too arrogant to lower themselves into it. Then when they need to play a show to the DIY crew, be it because they haven’t played out in a while, or they simply have a stopgap date on tour they wonder why no one is coming out. There is an audience out there for you if you are willing to intermingle with them directly and give them the attention and respect they deserve. They are the people who are going to bust their asses to help you out and who will be able to make the industry work for you. It’s by being a contributing member to what is going on around here that people start to take note. No one has ever booked their first tour just off of sheer stick-to-it—ivness and assuming that real venues would always have them. Of course not. The best tours in the underground have been booked by people who were plugged in – and if you think you can skip over that you need to reevaluate your priorities.
So many bands out there playing fundamentally underground music apply mainstream logic. Here’s the thing though – the mainstream is so fraught and unforgiving to assume its logic is even partly accurate is a huge mistake. You are shooting yourself in the foot before you even begin by thinking you will be the next White Stripes – because guess what? Even the White Stripes did a handful of underground tours before they got big, and Jack White was a part of his scene. Don’t try to avoid the DIY world – you WILL make the connections you need at shows if you are cool. So don’t suck up to people, just be the fucking man.