On Wednesday night, several of Houston’s music press met to have drinks. It was a casual affair, nothing with the air of seriousness or too formal. But after a short while it was clear there was a connection somewhere and the parties included seemed to appreciate each other’s presence. It seems that a second date may be in order.
I’ve been a huge fan of most of Houston’s music press for sometime now. I consider myself extremely lucky that I work in circles that allow the opportunity to share ideas and drinks with some of these people on a regular basis. There are still others who I’ve only met in passing and still more with whom interaction has only been through trading emails or blog comments. Other local writers are in this same boat and haven’t yet had the opportunity to meet face-to-face with their peer group. The importance of meeting and conversing with colleagues in a Community of Practice cannot be understated so getting together to have a drink and talk shop was a home run idea for all of us.
Two recaps of this were posted about this meeting the next day, by Brittanie Shey of Houston Press and Jeremy Hart of Space City Rock. Brittanie’s piece provides a good flow of the conversation that was had about the local music community, especially the hot topic of staying up on local bands and why so few bands send in music or make any attempt to contact the press. Jeremy’s post gives a run down of those in attendance and his kind comments about how great the event was were shared by everyone in attendance. You should check those out as a companion to this post.
The most heated point of discussion related to Houston’s music press not being contacted by local musicians enough to keep them updated on their careers. I am squarely in this camp with the press and feel that there is too much apathy and reactivity (vs. proactivity) in Houston musicians and that musicians should be in better contact with their press. This was a topic that was directly mentioned by Craig Hlavaty at the last Bandcampus, re-addressed with a series of posts on this site and echoed with comments and other statements by Brittanie Shey and Sara Cress of 29-95.com.
On this topic Joe Mathlete had the most prescient comments. Joe said two things that deserve to be repeated, keep in mind I’m paraphrasing his quotes but attempting to conserve the ideas:
1. Music writers need to be doing a better job of getting out into the community and finding out what bands are doing.
2. Some band’s goals are simply to put out good music and have fun.
I’m happy to cede the first point and to share the burden of proactively contacting bands to keep tabs on them. As for the second point, it is both true and contributing to the problem of not enough contact between musicians and press. The issue is not that bands want to have fun and put out good music because that’s something that we can all get behind. The issue is not the additionally agreeable statement from Joe that some of these bands don’t care if they get written up because that’s not part of their success metrics. The problem is goals.
There are not enough bands who have goals to be financially/artistically successful telling the public this. There are not enough bands who have goals that include making good music and having fun telling the public this. These goals are neither mutually exclusive or in opposition of each other. But they are ideas of a path and a direction and hone in on what they bands want/need to achieve them. And that’s what’s really missing: there are not enough bands in Houston with goals. This is not the first time I’ve personally mentioned musician goals. The real problem with bands not having goals is that it creates confusion for the local music press who do have stated goals: to chronicle the Houston music community and write about it’s related media products.
There are a lot of places we can go from here. We could talk about the effect of an entire community of bands operating without stated goals. That this leaves the music press questioning 1) why they’re not hearing from musicians more and 2) whether they should write about the musicians or whether the musicians want them to write about them. Or we could talk about how band’s definitions of success may not include caring whether the music press writes about them at all or if it does they want to be sought out by the music press. That this creates a vibrant cottage music community driven by parties and self released albums and fan driven interactions.
I’ve tried to write up my thoughts on the previous paragraph’s topics and have stalled out with something long, getting longer, and requiring considerable editing. I’m just going to take a right turn and just say I’m super fucking proud of Houston’s music press and the hard work they put in every day. At this point it’s not clear where we’re going to go from here; it’s up to the community to continue to the discussion. In one short meeting we got a discussion started in person that then flowed back to the web through a couple posts and some good comments. That’s as good a start as any.