It’s important to remember that above all things in this industry, you are your scene. This might seem a little confusing and in a way it is. Isn’t your scene what you are trying to break out of and transcend? Well yeah. But it’s the same thing with how you are the people you associate with. If you’re only associating with a lot of shitty bands in your scene who just smoke a lot of pot and don’t get anything done then yeah you are going to end up limited and having some issues in growing your brand. However if you are constantly striving to go further, then even if the big bangs in your scene aren’t paying attention right now they are going to end up checking you out, because game recognizes game, and if you can push for that then the world will fall to your feet. There are a lot of challenges when it comes to becoming one of the big kids, but the bands who you admire have scenes they engage with just as much as you do.
Now this of course sounds pretentious and silly. Of course all those old glam guys know each other and do projects together because it makes them feel good and they’ve known each other for thirty tears. However, I also know a ton of people who play in bands with those guys, who have broken into those scenes just by faking until they made it and realizing that by fighting to get acknowledged by those folks they will start to ramp up. That’s because in this world there are both local scenes, where usually very little gets done, and then there are national scenes. Then there are even international ones, and all these people interact and feed off of each other with the goal of crafting something bigger and better. Maybe it’s not always that obvious, but people like to interact with others doing similar shit to them. Ultimately you need to show people that you are worth working with in order to join their scene. However, it sometimes goes deeper than that.
The other thing to be aware of is creating the ‘red velvet rope’ of the bands you interact with. That is to say – you don’t want to just interact with any band, especially not bands known for having a bad reputation. You want to try and play with the bands who are out there doing shit. Now this can be a lot easier than it sounds. I know it sounds like I’m saying you should only play with big bands, but that’s not it at all. What I’m trying to say is that if you want to play a show in your town, try and play with the guys who routinely tour, the guys who routinely open for the bigger bands, the guys who have good social media. This isn’t a question of them being scene kings who draw a ton of people, it’s a question of wanting to talk to the pros. If you’re talking to the pros then you’re putting yourself in a position that can be super beneficial. They aren’t managers, they aren’t going to be super hush hush about their connections – odds are they will want to help you. You just need to ask.
Once you start to show a degree of separation from your usual Tom, Dick and Harry in the scene people will respect you more. It’s like my friends in the band War Curse. They aren’t actually a known band, but when they play live in their hometown they have their own techs, merch people and all that good stuff. These aren’t pros, it’s just their friends who they trust and think are cool. It makes the bands touring through think that War Curse are a huge deal and simultaneously it makes fans who might have come to the show think that War Curse are a major act with a lot of influence. This isn’t really something that you see a lot of smaller bands doing, but when bands do do it they show they know how to elevate themselves, and once they move a head and shoulders beyond their peers things start to become really exciting because suddenly they are able to access opportunities and show off to the folks who are the real decision makers.
You need to be able to dialog with the bigger people in your scene. You can’t come off as naive because then they will just ignore you. You need to show that you have done your research. If you walk up to someone in a decent touring band and ask for connections to tour where they are from they probably won’t help you. But if you go up and start talking about their merch situation and shooting the shit about other bands you know and proving that you are friends with touring bands who are active out there then you are putting yourself in a situation where you are going to be viewed as a peer. If you can’t make yourself be viewed as a peer then you might as well stop trying now. That’s the long and short of it. People only really tell their secrets to people who they think can help them and who they think they will interact with in the long run. Keep that in mind as you go out and try to build some relationships.
At the end of the day – proving you have a place to roll with the big boys is a hard thing to do. It requires you to have balls and to take the world by storm. It requires a certain degree of swagger that your place in the scene might not merit but which you need to fight to show you deserve. The music industry is a place of folks who understood the concept of limiting who they interacted with and faking it until they made it. If you don’t want to try and be a part of that stronger community cool, but you’re limiting yourself and aren’t going to wind up with the reputation someone who busts their ass like you do deserves.