I’d rather be in Italy. We’ve all seen the stickers that speak to where we’d rather be, “where the bluebirds sing and there’s a whiskey spring.” If you’re a movie buff, you get the reference 🙂 The grass is always greener, right? Or Is it?
For years I’ve listened to artists lament their home towns and how the lame area they live in is keeping them from being famous. If only they lived where there is a great music scene, then they would immediately be discovered. The second they hit LA they will be welcomed with open arms and money will be lining the walls of their house. Problem is, the artists in LA are paying to play and desperately trying to make their presence known among a giant sea of talent. Bigger city, more talent and more control from booking agents and promoters. You’re an outsider. Now don’t get me wrong, I love big cities and have lived in a lot of fabulous metropolitan areas that were filled with fabulous clubs, concerts and opportunities. I’ve lived in Manhattan and Philly; I have family in Chicago and was already touring Italy and the world when I was 16. The Whiskey in LA was a favorite hangout of mine for a time. I toured the world for 2 years without going home and it was grand, and grueling. I’ve been everywhere, man.
What I discovered on my travels from the small town of Montecchio, Italy to the thriving streets of Miami, Florida is that you can make a name for yourself and be creative, anywhere. Unless you live in the middle of a cow pasture and the nearest big city is 3 hours away, you can build your music business. Travel is part of the game and seasoned musicians think nothing of jumping in their cars and driving a couple hours to gig. It’s just no big deal. It can actually be better to build your name in a small town and use that recognition to catapult yourself onto regional stages. College towns are especially powerful in the music community. Make a name among college radio stations and on the university circuit and the press can spread like wildfire. The clubs that have a large college base are usually packed with kids who have disposable incomes and think nothing of spending $50 on merch and music. They have no mortgage to pay, and man once they have a couple beers the money starts flowing. I headlined a festival in Chapel Hill, NC recently at Cat’s Cradle, a legendary venue that continues to break and feature National acts.
The villa where I stayed in Montecchio, Italy ——>
Public Enemy brought down the house when they were at the height of the hip-hop world; Smashing Pumpkins did an acoustic show there, and Cheap Trick rocked the place in their heyday. Brandi Carlile loves the Cradle and mentioned playing there on her most recent tour. The place gets packed with college kids, townies and cult band followers who are really listening, dancing, and man, what an attentive audience. It’s one of my favorite venues to play and hear music. But have you heard of it? Unless you live in NC probably not. That’s my point. There are fabulous venues everywhere and it’s your job to seek them out and make a connection. Don’t whine about the travel either; you’re a musician and travel is part of the deal. Get over it. You talk about touring nationally and internationally so what is the problem with driving for 45 minutes to get to a gig?It cracks me up when I chat with an Artist who is complaining about travel time and their end goal is to be on a national tour. How do you plan to get to each venue, chopper? You’ll likely be on a tour bus for months and it ain’t pretty. It’s exhausting and you are crammed into a small space with 5 or 6 other people with no privacy. So enjoy the luxury of driving to your gigs and listening to whatever music you like on your own time while you can. Once on a tour, the road manager could care less what your routine is, you are on the schedule set by the promoter. Sleep isn’t usually on that list.
I lived in Burlington Vt for a while and what a gorgeous place. I love the people as well, so progressive. Wonderful restaurants and clubs most notably, Nectar’s Restaurant and Bar. It’s legendary and has been written up in Rolling Stone and National Geographic. Check it out!
Another important thing to consider is the experience for your band and your fans at the clubs you play. Here is a great list of notable clubs around the country for indie Artists. It gives you some insight into the musician and fan experience.
Consider this: what are the fastest growing areas of the country where you can make a name for yourself and grow your business as the city grows? If you are within driving distance of a rapidly exploding area then start reaching out to other artists and do some show sharing. The quickest way to get into a venue that you might not be able to fill is to share the show with another artist and pack the place. It’s a win-win. That is what the music platforms and social media are for, making connections. Use them wisely.
We all get trapped in “the grass is always greener” mentality from time to time, but it just isn’t true. Wherever you go, there you are. TRUTH. No matter where you call home, your problems and challenges remain the same. When you move, you take your problems with you. Unless you are relocating for a great job, to be near family or to reunite with the love of your life, consider carefully the reason behind your desire to move. If it’s to get away from yourself or because you think you will find instant fame, you may be disappointed on both fronts. Examine your thought process and your goals and be sure they are realistic and not just an escape valve. You could make a big mistake moving to a new location for all the wrong reasons and it could be a very expensive one; emotionally and fiscally. Instead of uprooting your entire life, try traveling more instead and be open to new places and adventures. Don’t get drawn into the “The Geographic Cure,” it really doesn’t exist. Once the distractions wear off, the song remains the same.