Yesterday’s post provided a reality check for the Houston music community over the course of the past year. The post highlighted the great successes the community had experienced from club openings to artist signings to the positive effects of touring. This perspective was provided from someone knowing the trials and tribulations of each of these venues, musicians and members of the community.
Today’s post provides a different perspective, that of an outsider to the Houston music community. As an emigrant of Chicago with strong ties to the Chicago music community, I continue to regularly interact with members of Chicago media and artists and regularly poll them to gain an idea of their thoughts on the Houston music community. The results are interesting. Keep in mind, this is not me taking a pessimistic view of the last year in Houston music, merely taking an argumentative stance of someone completely uninitiated to the wealth of talent and the difficulty in becoming a successful band.
The State of the Houston Music Scene – An Outsider’s View
Viewing the Houston music community from an outsiders standpoint, the Houston music community continues to underperform and do nothing to make itself visible to the national music consciousness. Few bands, if any, are seen outside of Texas, certainly not touring as far north as Chicago (NOTE: Indian Jewelry tours the nation regularly).
Using national music conference showings as a metric of talent, Houston’s music community significantly decreased in quality from 2008. This is nowhere most apparent than in the SXSW showcases awarded to Houston artists. Less Houston artists played SXSW compared to 2008, due in large part to the departure of a huge champion of the music community, Matt Sonzala, who left for Austin to actually work for SXSW. Across ALL genres, out of Texas cities (Austin, San Antonio, Dallas), AND of the top ten most populous cities in the nation, Houston had the largest percentage drop in showcasing acts, 66% less showcases than 2008 (Numbers taken from actual showcase numbers 2005-2009, written up in this post about SXSW numbers: http://matthewwettergreen.com/2009/02/21/sxsw-music-2009-by-the-numbers-pt-1/). The genre hardest hit by this drop was Hip Hop, demonstrating the actual strength of Matt Sonzala to prop up the Houston music community. In polling Houston bands about SXSW, many of them elected not to submit to the festival at all, feeling that it either was unimportant or that they wouldn’t be selected because they did identify with Houston as a hometown. Bands that were interested in playing took it in their own hands, contacting promoters and played at the unofficial parties, making personal connections but not showing up anywhere in official documentation.
Houston continues to NOT be noticed by national press (NOTE: Houston band listenlisten was recently mentioned in Rolling Stone’s online hype monitor blog). Members of the Chicago music community have no idea what is going on in Houston. No recognizable albums are being sent to national blogs, radio stations or media outlets. This all sums up to personal contacts in the Chicago music community and abroad asking
“What’s going on down in Houston? We don’t hear anything about the music. Do they even have a music community?”
This is downright embarrassing and a personal point of ire when I travel up to Chicago and talk to national music reporters; of course we have a music community. One of the most fertile in the Nation.
So what can Houston’s music community do better? What are your thoughts? Stop by the blog over the weekend for a discussion of how the Houston Music Community can start practicing better habits to reverse this media blackout on Houston music.