For those of us in the music business, it seems like we've been stuck in end-of-the-year limbo for ages. You know that magical time of year when all anyone wants to talk about is their "Best Of" list (Oh by the way, here's mine...).
But luckily, it's now a new year and we're looking to move forward with some new ideas. That's why we've chosen this week to host ListenUp Myrtle Beach's second Myrtle Beach Music Scene Meet-Up this Thursday at The Sound Hole (read our write up of the first event here). This event will be a great chance to network with fellow musicians, promoters, and fans to share your ideas about what we can do to spark the scence in 2012.
With this event in mind — and taking a cue from one of the Palmetto State's most-talented entertainment writers, Otis R. Talyor Jr. of The State — I've come up with a list of a dozen "wishes" for the local music scene this year.
Take a look below and drop me a line with your ideas...or better yet come out Thursday and tell me what you think in person:
1. More local radio support.
WKZQ 96.1 has shown with The Flight Test (10 p.m. on Mondays), that it's not impossible to give attention to local artists who actually have their shit together. Others such as WAVE 104 with Scott Mann (host of The Boathouse Sumer Concert Series), WRXZ 107.1 with Mad Max (sponsored Butter's Rock Fight, upcoming Confliction CD Release), and Mix 97.7 (had The Technicolor Void open at a show this summer) have all shown some level of support, but these stations ought to go well beyond just getting involved with events at the town's big stages such as Boathouse, Broadway and House of Blues.
Sponsorship doesn't take much from the station's perspective — a few promo items, a discounted rate on late night radio spots or a quick shout out on-air mean a lot to local musicians — and it would go a long way toward creating goodwill and great word of mouth publicity among an audience which, if you haven't noticed, is increasingly turning to MP3s and Pandora over terrestrial radio.
2. A combined Myrtle Beach Zombie Walk after party.
April's Zombie Walk has become an awesome event for local music fans. It raises money for great causes such as the Autism Advocacy Foundation and Project Lighthouse at Sea Haven and is THE place to be seen for the "alternative" crowd. And for that please send a big, bloody smooch to Brandi Matkins, Adam Russell and all the other folks who've made this event so awesome.
That said, to build on the momentum they've started, I'd really love to see them scale back the musicial portion of the event and host a single event-sponsored after party with 8-10 really good, mostly local, acts instead of 30-40 bands spread out between 2-3 different locations.
There's something to be said for wanting to include as many acts as possible, but by keeping the music confined to one larger venue you'll provide an amazing central location for bands to showcase their stuff without forcing fans to choose what they want to hear. Perhaps, take those 40 bands that want to play and host a series of events (much like this February's Zombie Prom, or perhaps a Battle of the Bands) that would whittle the number of participants for the walk down and help build an even bigger buzz for the event. Just a thought.
3. A legit hip-hop cover band.
With as lucrative as being a good cover band can be in this town it's astonishing that there aren't more groups playing hip-hop covers. There are so many talented local MCs out there who say they'd do "whatever it takes" to get noticed and make some money. Thus, I think some of you need to get together, find a backing band and start learning how to play everything from Run DMC and LL Cool J to MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice to Jay-Z and Lil' Wayne.
While the traditional thinking is that tourists would rather hear Buffet and The Beatles than Common and Kanye, fact is that while classic rock fans continue to get older and die off in droves, the market for folks that can play something modern and unique is only going to continue to grow.
4. A good HOB lineup featuring The Black Keys.
Yeah, so I was one of those late-to-the-party fans who didn't get on board with these guys until I heard "Brothers," which means I missed The Black Keys' last appearance at the House of Blues in 2008. Now I'm demanding we bring them back...and no their March tour date in Charlotte isn't close enough for me.
Also, a note to the folks that book the HOB lineup. I will take any of the following acts as a suitable replacement: Tegan and Sara, Childish Gambino, Gary Clark Jr., Chromeo, Odd Future, Incubus, XV, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., Florence + The Machine, Mayer Hawthorne.
And the less "A tribute to..." bands the better. Otherwise keep up the good woork. K Thx.
5. A local show on the Celebrity Square stage.
From a summer concert series in 2010, to nightly cover bands in the high season and even the recent Alive After 5 concert series this fall, they do a lot with that big stage. But rarely are they doing anything to cater to locals or original musicians.
To me, January and February — during the dead of the offseason — would be a perfect opportunity to capitalize on the built-in party atmosphere of Celebrity Square with an event which could showcase the area's top original talent and bring out a nice crop of locals on a night when the area would be otherwise pretty dead.
Bring in 5-6 bands that can appeal to a wide audience (folks like Ten Toes Up, Treehouse, Keith Patterson Band, The Beatholes, etc.), have a few of the restaurants come serve food and or give been samples and charge $5-10 to get in. It's the same sort of formula that Festival Promotions and Market Common have done ad infinitum to great sucess with events like Beerfest, Winefest and Oktoberfest, etc.
What's not to like? Someone make this happen.
6. Bands will stop saying there's no place to play.
Yes, 2011 was a brutal year when it came to venues. We lost places like Drink! and Droopy's. Blarney Stones is becoming a country bar. Possible replacements such as The Music Station, Butter's Pub and Mass Ave. all fizzled faster than you could say "cover charge." But that doesn't mean 2012 is looking bright.
We still have a number of venues that have built a solid foundation for supporting the scene and hosting music in 2012: The Beaver Bar, The Boathouse, Boom Boom's Raw Bar, Bourbon Street, Crafty Rooster, Dead Dog Saloon, For What It's Worth, Fresh Brewed Coffee House, Hot Fish Club, House of Blues, Island Bar Surfside, Mama Rue's Blues Garden, Pawleys Island Tavern, Pirate's Cove, Stool Pigeons, Suck Bang Blow, Uncle Tito's, Zulu Lounge ... that's already nearly 20 places and I'm sure I've missed some good ones.
If you're still not convinced look at the larger picture of our region. Columbia barely has a half dozen legit venues, Charleston and Wilmington have some culture but really aren't a whole lot better. For the size of our town, Myrtle Beach has tons of places for live music. They just happen to be spread out across 60 miles of beach. If you're not willing to drive from North Myrtle Beach to Murrells Inlet for a good show don't complain.
P.S. Just because there aren't 10 bars that will pay your screamo/funk/hardcore/folk fusion band $500 a night to play to 35 of your friends, doesn't mean we don't have a scene. Get over it, get your shit together, be professional, promote your band and someone will give you a chance.
7. A continued downtown renaissance.
When it comes to downtown Myrtle Beach is in the midst of a bigtime makeover that includes a SkyWheel, a boardwalk and a new zipline at the Pavilion to name a few. Same goes for local music, as the Sound Hole and Cool Daddy's have popped up alongside established downtown spots like Fresh Brewed Coffee House, The Tavrne, The Bowery and Oceanfront Bar & Grill and filled the void for places that are willing to host a variety of different styles of music.
Now the question becomes: Can they avoid the shady dealings, drama, rescheduled shows and general mismanagement that have plagued so many others? Only time will tell.
It's going to take the owners/bookers at each place keeping things fresh (i.e. don't just shuttle out the same 4 bands every other week), staying realistic about their expectations and MOST OF ALL respecting the crowds and the entertainers they are attempting to cater to. This means having someone to help bands promote their shows, actually paying what you said you were going to and knowing the difference between what a 21+ crowd wants and what an All Ages crowd wants.
It's a tall order, I know, but as someone who appreaciates the great potential of a central location in this town, I'm pulling for them.
8. A event that bridges genres.
For the past six months or so, I've been working with the wonderful Becky Billingsley of Myrtle Beach Restaurant News to plan an event in Murrells Inlet called Coastal Food & Music Festival, that was scheduled to take place this spring. The idea was to have a 7-day event that would bring together the best local chefs and the area's best entertainers for a celebration of food and music unlike anything this area had seen before.
While Becky is still working hard in hopes of hosting the culinary competition at the heart of the event, it appears the full-on music festival will have to wait another year thanks to a new baby, a new job and a few other personal curveballs.
But what I learned in the early stages of planning the event was that there is a TON of support from local bands, fans and even businesses who'd be interested in getting involved with an event like this. There are tons of great folks representing their own genres ("Spider" Webb of Grand Strand Blues Society and Miss Keke at South Carolina Undergound Music come to mind), but no one looking to bring them all together.
It's a big undertaking and one that would take a good deal of capital to execute properly, but I really feel like an event that represents all genres could be THE thing that puts local music back on the map in a big way. Whether it's a festival or even an awards show (...shout out to Will Misdom) someone needs to make this happen.
9. Someone to book the Brickhouse Lounge.
For those who don't know the Brickhouse Lounge is a bar attached to the Surfside Bowling Center that just so happens to have a huge stage. If set up properly I'm guessing it would hold maybe 700-800 people.
From everything I can gather this place used to host local bands all the time, but now routinely relies on karaoke as its main form of entertainment, along with some latin dance and a variety show or two.
I've asked around and no one seems to be able to say exactly why the music stopped here, with lots proposing that "different management" is to blame. I've heard a few others who said they believed they could book a show there, but I've yet to see it happen.
But whatever the reason, I think 2012 is time to give it another try. Would be a great spot for a CD Release Show.
10. Out-of-the-box marketing.
Last summer, I sat down with an acquaintance that specializes in branding and social media marketing with the goal of coming up with some ways to market our site. What we came up with was some really interesting ideas which included putting a band on the back of a flatbed a driving them up and down Ocean Boulevard and walking up and down the beach with a ListenUp banner and someone playing acoustic guitar.
Perhaps those weren't the best ideas in the world, but the basic prinicple of thinking outside the box to market your band, event or album is one that I think more folks need to embrace in 2012. Whether getting your music included on radio spots for a local surf shop (Treehouse), setting your band up to perform at a bikini fashion show (Stealing Anger) or making low-budget animated videos so bad they're good (lowKAT) ... it's time to challenge yourself to do something that NO ONE else is doing.
No idea is too big or too crazy, just go for it. And tell us about it when you do.
11. Stop putting off covering some of our area's best talent.
Just a quick personal kick in the ass...I also plan to get a print version of this thing off the ground in 2012, but that's an idea for another day.
There are still a few longtime local bands (and a few more recent additions) which I really need to find time to interview and some others which I just need to get out and see live. I hope to see all of these folks grace the site at some point this year:
Strike-O-Matics, Brian McKenzie (or SAVAS), N'Tranze, Brad Long, The Independents, Flick-It, Bazooka Joe, Steve Bailey, Blade Brown, DJ Dynamite, Sawgrass, Jim Quick, Painted Man, Eason Duo, Diversity, Adi Nelson, Geof Kimber, Rocky Fretz.
If you've got someone else great who I've been missing, let me know.
12. More fans at shows.
Yes, I stole this one. But it's a great way to close this out. If you don't come out and experience this stuff for yourself you really can't complain about what we do or don't have.