[Harp-L] Re: death of live music?

    Thanks, Rosco,I've been pondering the same
question(s) since our coffeehouse band lost its
   We played for tips and coffee, two sets, no
pay.  But the owner canceled us because we
weren't drawing. We are older players, and our
fans, except for two or three regulars, are
widely scattered and don't get around much
anymore. They all try to make our annual
Geezerpalooza potluck and music gathering, but
other than that, they're mostly stay-at-homes.
   They kept booking me solo for a while and then
me and friends, but it was the same problem: Not
enough customers to make it worth hiring us. Even
for free!
   We played a broad mix of tunes from the
earliest blues to about 1990. We had two guitars,
harmonica, bass, ukulele or banjo, and vocals. 
   The owner expected us to do all the promotion
for the gigs and fill the place for two hours.
   We couldn't do it, even in a fairly busy area
with quite a bit of walk-in traffic. People would
come in, listen to a few tunes, drink a cup of
fancy coffee and leave, especially if we took a
break (we soon stopped doing that).
   Other than cover bands in bars, there are no
real purely music venues in this suburban area.
Music other than what's on the radio or in your
CD or MP3 player is not a part of the community
fabric, except maybe for younger bar patrons. It
appears the only people who go out to listen to
music are parents of kids in school programs.
There are no weekend dances of the kind that used
to be common in most areas. There is no real
local music tradition other than perhaps the
oldies radio stations. Certainly no local station
that regularly features local bands.
   Most people seem to be so busy working to pay
for their homes and SUVs and boats and suchlike
and commutng long distances to work that when the
weekend comes, they stay home, maybe watch TV. I
have to confess that even I don't go to live
music all that often. When I do, I go into
Berkeley or San Francisco, where the music I love
is occasionally available.
   Much of this is generalization, of course. But
there is a real lack of music culture in our
society now, IMHO. The schools do very little
teaching of U.S. musical traditions. We used to
lean songs at school, songs that were part of the
social fabric: Red River Valley, I Dream of
Jeanie, Buffalo Gals, that sort of thing. Not
great music maybe, but everyone was familiar with
those songs. Ask a child now to sing one of those
and be very surprised if he or she has any
inkling ...
   Well, maybe the Britney and rap and hip-hop
tunes will be as nostalgic for today's kids when
they grow up as Mairzy Doats or The Great
Pretender are for me, I don't know. But face it,
we've created a disposable, fad-oriented culture
driven by marketing, not tradition, for better or
for worse. That means each generation has a
different set of "traditions." As the old
ediorial commentator used to write on the
newspaper I worked for: "Only time will tell what
this means." But for musicians looking for
venues, even free venues, it means "Good Luck!" 
   At least that's my view from the Left Coast
suburbs. If you live in Berkeley or San
Francisco, things may be better. I wonder ... but
I'm too old to move there or to drive back and
forth to find out. 

Bob Loomis
Concord CA

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