Ahh all ages art spaces, perhaps the most important part of any scene. While I’ve touched on some of these ideas with my previous article on punk houses, I feel like dealing with art spaces is a wholly different, and equally rewarding endeavor. I’ve covered one especially important art space (at least on a personal level) before on this blog, when last summer I wrote about Fennario’s Coffee. But I think it’s important to take a little bit of time to talk about what you can do to get involved at your local art space and thus set up a relationship with a venue that your band can base themselves out of. Having a home venue like an art space solidifies your place in the scene and gives you a solid fan base to grow out from.
The thing is, art spaces aren’t just a place for a new band starting out to play their first show, although that is a great function for them. Beyond that art spaces provide a reliable tour stop with a built in audience for when you’re on your three month trek throughout the country. They also give you a place that you can call home. If you can cultivate a local following and center it around our favorite art space you can be sure to have a great show to film a music video or at, or merely have a great time. Suffice to say, cultivating a relationship with your local art space is crucial, but how do you do it?
Perhaps the primary piece of advice I can give is also one of the most obvious, just be around. It’s amazing how much scene cred you can earn with a friendly attitude and a willingness to help out. Beyond that, there is a certain power you get in the scene just by being at shows. Even if your involvement is nothing more than carrying the occasional amplifier people will start to get to know you and respect you. Obviously, being polite is crucial if you really want the people who matter at the space to like you. But then when your band needs a show, they’ll be a lot more likely to want to help you out and hopefully even set you up on one of the better bills coming into the venue.
This is where it gets truly interesting though. I’ve seen several bands in my local scene, namely Rollin’ Loaded and Meteor Smash who have been able to take Fennario’s and essentially make it their home venue. Every time those guys play there they know they are guaranteed 20-30 people because they followed the rules from before and instilled themselves into their local art space and the scene around it. It means that when fans come to check them out for the first time they are stunned by how powerful the band seem because they manage to fill up a tiny room with enthusiastic cheering fans, and best of all, they know that whenever they want a gig there it’s basically going to be their crowd. They have managed to make the local scene bend to them and act as a spring board so that they can go on to bigger things. I’ve seen this happen time and time again, in a variety of cities, in some ways it’s a reflection of the enduring power that the punk rock ethos can still have.
Music isn’t the only reason your art space could be important though, a lot of the truly great art spaces in America also have a chance for local artists to show off paintings and sculpture. This stands as another great way for you to boost your bands draw by getting involved in the local arts community. If your cover art for whatever project you might be a part of comes from a local artist that’s going to generate buzz in your town, assuming the artist is any good. This will help get more locals checking out your music and interested in your work. This way everybody wins. When James Moore writes about guerrilla marketing in Your Band Is A Virus this is exactly the kind of thing you can do.
Perhaps most importantly though, if you’re the kind of person who chose to become a musician and want to promote your work, you’re probably a little more intellectual than the average cat, and what better place to meet other local, young, intelligent, liberal types than at an art space? It gives a chance for people of all ages to hang out and provides a forum of open discussion that people can use to help grow as individuals. In the long run, it is my sincere belief that hanging out at most art spaces will lead to personal growth which can in turn be reflected in the music you create. If nothing else, you can’t complain about the individual benefit that it can give you!
At the end of day, I don’t know what else I can tell you to help get you into your local art space scene. I know that the punks can be pretentious and the indie kids annoying, but that’s part of the beauty of it. Trust me, you have your own flaws, but you can work them out with the surprisingly diverse gatherings of people who gather around your local all ages spots. It’s been shown time and time again throughout history that the arts do best when artists are surrounded by their peers, challenging them to take on bold new levels of triumph. Go out, and find your competitors, people you can build off of and help use that to grow your band, but also their projects along the way. One thing I’ve found in my years in independent music is that the self serving person will never get biggest. Instead open your heart, go into that patchouli scented dive, light one up if you have too and prepare yourself to guide your band through one of the most important parts of breaking into the independent circuit.
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