There’s an article circulating the the Pittsburgh Music Scene is dead. You may have heard that, right? So often people who have been discouraged in the local industry utter those words at some point. It happens to everyone about something. Things pile up, you feel like you’re the only one fighting, you wonder why you’re still fighting. We’ve all felt that way, without hope and lost. What we need is someone to light the fire and show us a way through. Sometimes that way is family…. Sometimes that family is a community you grow yourself. I’m here to tell you that this music scene is NOT DEAD! I hope that before anyone looks to any article written, they look at the source. Are they active in the things they are talking about? Are they offering solutions to the things they complain about? Do they care about the subject? If not… well.. All the weeping and gnashing of teeth in the world won’t matter against the truth. I’ve heard the rumors. I’ve been called an optimist with rose colored glasses and I’ve been asked why I’m so happy with the scene today, so let me explain my side of this editorial piece.
I’ve been around music scenes for longer than I care to admit and the one thing I know is that no matter how talented a musician or band is, they can only do so much on their own. They need support. To be honest, the fact that Pittsburgh had lasted so long without many media outlets for their music let me know just how strong the music scene was. I admired it’s strength as much as it’s talent. I admired it’s passion. As I came to know them, I admired the people in the scene. The greatest thing I heard about the scene in Pittsburgh was “We didn’t have a scene at one point…. So we built one”. From the ground up, in a steel mill town with a sports addiction, musicians across the city decided they wanted to share their talent and they grew a scene. It’s not perfect but it was built out of passion and love. I’ve written about music being a universal language and it’s power to move us all. To me, it’s a basic need. It has saved me when I was too far gone in grief or anger, reaching out a hand and letting me know someone understood. It was there to save me and now I’m here to defend it.
The first point of the article I’m going to address is going to be met with an instant wall, even with most people who agree with me about the scene so read this with an open mind:
Bands are not there to sell alcohol.
Ok, take a deep breath…. The hard part is over. Just relax and we’ll get through this together. I have a good reason for saying this. Music does not have the power to sell alcohol in a direct way and that is not it’s sole purpose. It can’t walk a person up to the bar and open their wallet. If the only reason a band played was to sell booze, there wouldn’t be bands anywhere that didn’t sell it and while it’s not common, it does happen. If a band plays at a wedding, there’s most likely no selling of alcohol, either. A band is not there to sell alcohol. They are there to entertain the people inside of the venue and the venue hopes that the crowd will want a drink. It’s a slight but obvious difference. Saying bands are there to sell drinks gives the venues the power over the bands. I’m not saying the venues want the power, but that phrase makes the music less when in fact, the venues owners are smart enough to understand that crowds of happy people, much like at weddings, like to drink in celebration. If a band is good, the music reaches the crowds and the crowds are happy and celebratory. Then the customers will walk up to the bar and open their wallets on their own. The venues need the bands as much as bands need the venues because the bands need places to play and the venues need a reason for the customers to stay. It is a relationship built on mutual need.
The next part in the article is to me, unnecessary and inaccurate. For someone claiming to have business sense this makes no sense at all. They blame the closing of a local Jazz/Blues club on the type of music they booked. First, please allow me to say that it’s very well documented that the reason had nothing to do with crowd size or genre of music. It was a noise ordinance that caused them to have issues. The owners were not idiots as inferred in the article but instead knew that there weren’t that many Jazz clubs in the area and so they could get a good crowd for the market they were going after. He even asked if people would bother opening a restaurant that only served kale foods and I’m wondering if he’s ever visited New York or L.A.? It’s also rather strange that this article first mentioned this venue as booking live music consistently. It doesn’t take a business MBA to understand that there must have been a demand for this type of music in order for them to supply it for so long and so well. I, for one, will not disrespect an entire genre as well as a reliable venue. I honestly was sad to see it go. If you are, too. Please go to https://www.thepetitionsite.com/985/780/434/keep-jame-street-gastropub-open and help make a difference.
After these two points, the article doesn’t really say much so there’s no points for me to go to next. It’s another poke at the Jazz/Blues scene (Do you sense that the author doesn’t like that genre or is it just me?), and a lot of personal stuff about how successful he is. I’m sure he probably does have success. In fact he stated to me directly that his band makes “more than 98%” of the PA music scene and I’ll have to take him and the other twenty people who have told me that this month at their word. He explained that his business model is to skip the music scene venues entirely and only play weddings and such events but if all musicians followed this model there wouldn’t be any music unless there was a wedding. I do suppose that the plus side of that would be that perhaps the marriage rates would increase to handle the capacity of all the bands in Pittsburgh, which might be fun to see. I wonder if the venues would have to serve as wedding halls at that point? That probably wouldn’t work though because then it would be bands playing in bars and venues again and that sounds like a music scene to me.
I admit that the complaint about the overcrowding of certain venue areas is true, and I’ve heard many complaints about there being so many shows that people are torn between them and sometimes have to go to two or more a night. I know it can be terrible to be at The Funhouse for the local shows because the place is so packed I can have a hard time getting the photos of the musicians. Also, maybe there’s something to be said about the disappointment of fans who want so much to attend a show or music event but they are sold out so quickly.
The one point I will give him my complete and total agreement on is that the old music scene is gone and most likely will never return. It’s burned up in the fires of ego’s and bar fights, poor decisions and money grabbing. From those ashes rose a family, united to push past the old ways and turn a corner to a place where money is nice but the love of music is so much more. They can’t have fun with the songs if fans aren’t there to listen. They don’t play music to shut it up in a room, they share it. They reach out to people and let them know that in misery and happiness… They’ve been there too. The venues are taking notice and so are the promoters because they know they are needed for this and that they need this. We all want to succeed and we will. Probably not in a rich and famous, luxury life way but in a way that let’s the love of the scene from all directions shine. If I wasn’t seeing it in a business way, after the author of that article was brave enough to post it on my personal page – the backlash at him would have proved to anyone that a scene with that much fire will never burn out.
The old scene is dead…. #thisisourscene
Jana Lee Macheca - Lady Jaye - Is the founder of First Angel Media as well as a photographer and writer for not only her own company, but Chimera Magazine out of New York. Passionate about music and driven to help the local scene she works to connect those within it, as well as working behind the scenes on various projects. You can find her photo collection at www.firstangel.smugmug.com