How to Build a Great Music Community

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Jeremiah Toller
A music community doesn't come out of nothing; musicians must build it.
By: Henri Benard

Being an active member of the local music "community," I often contemplate what "community" actually means. I believe community to be a tightly knit place of love, acceptance, forgiveness, and focus. Living and working as a musician by day, and being a regular "night owl" in the artist world by night, I feel that the word often gets blurred by some who abuse and/or take advantage of its true essence. I am not saying I have all the answers, but having been around the Tempe/Phoenix music scenes for more than a decade now and having been blessed enough as a drummer to play shows in 42 US states and three different countries, I have become rich with experiences, both positive and negative, surrounding these words we know as "the music community."

I have been bombarded, harassed, encouraged, charmed, challenged, and very well taken care of. I myself have been guilty of these actions, at times. I have made countless acquaintances, some friends, and sadly, some enemies. However, at the end of the day, it all really boils down to your outlook on your peers if you want to be a respected, contributing member of your local/national/international music communities. The following is a list I have compiled of 10 ways you can earn the respect of your peers/fans, while actively being a positive contributor to your music community.

1) Be Supportive of The Other Bands I feel like this should be self-explanatory and is a super crucial starting point. Come early and stay late if you can. I understand working musicians bounce from gig to gig (as I do from time to time). However, I also try and not double-book nights of big shows for friends' projects. I love to get to shows early and catch new bands and make new friends. Be social and introduce yourself to everyone. No one wants to play to an empty room and not know anyone's name. However, this will happen frequently to opening bands. And for any band with a draw (local, national, or international), there was a time where your band didn't draw anyone but your closest friends when you begged them via text/phone to come out to your shows and pay $5 to see you and hang out with you. You don't have to like or see every band, but you really should know the bands in your community you can enjoy relationships with and support. Build true community in your music scene by supporting your friends' bands that you truly enjoy, and be genuinely thankful and happy for their successes, not just your own.

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2) Be Positive About The City You Live and Play In I hear so much griping about how OC is not a real cultural center, there is not really a scene here, blah, blah, blah. If you haven't noticed, it gets pretty damn real out here, with real people doing real things. I am not saying OC is Los Angeles, but it doesn't have to be or want to be. Yes, OC is a little slower, so if you are craving that crazy pace of New York City or LA, it's not going to happen here. Phoenix metro area has been a great place to cultivate talent, build your confidence as an artist, and take it out into the world. If you do not like your environment, you have the power to change and influence. If you are that disgusted, maybe it's time for you to get out and find a new inspiration in your life. No one wants to hear someone they like talk bad about their hometown. All it does is tear down the people who are trying to make it better. So please, do not talk bad about the city you live and play in. There is no point to it. Remember what happened when Ron Burgundy said, "Go fuck yourself, San Diego"?

3) Be On Time/Courteous of Others' Stage Time Everyone's time is valuable, including your peers and fans that come to your show/play your show. They are choosing to make the time to be with you, and I think there is nothing more disrespectful than making everyone wait for your own ego to be stroked. I understand that shows do not always run on time, but there is big difference in making people wait on you because you can versus a little extra hustle to try and make up for some lost time throughout the event. There is nothing worst than being the last band and seeing your fans leave because they are tired of waiting on the other band to clear the stage.

4) Be Yourself I cannot stress this enough to every artist out there. The second you have lost "you," you have also lost your ability to genuinely connect with people. People are always looking for exciting people to connect and engage with. If you are a carbon copy of another artist, or if you are really ripping off their "vibe," people will see through it eventually. It's a lot easy to garner a quick "buzz" than it is to maintain one. I am not saying you have to constantly reinvent the wheel just to do so, but there has to be something distinct about you that's going to put you into the elite. And only you have the power to unlock that.

5) Be Humble and Stay Humble Being confident is different from being cocky. Egos and entitlement can kill the vibe and creativity of any artist. No matter what level of success you endure in your music career, always be humble and thankful. It didn't exist without your supporters, and you cannot ever forget that. Always keep working hard, because there is always someone who is working just as hard, if not harder, who is ready to replace you.

6) Be Professional Be courteous to your colleagues. We are all human, and strong personalities can, and do, clash. I understand sometimes things get out of hand (I am definitely not above a trite comment or two or three), but it's better to just walk away and leave things at bay. Don't post your beef on social media. Instead, concentrate of making the best "you" possible, and let the others make those careless, tasteless mistakes for you.  

Don't be this guy.

7) Be Kind To Your Fans Be kind to your fans, talk to your fans, and acknowledge them. They are the entire reason you have a great show, or even a great career. They buy the music, the tickets to your shows, and they tell their friends. Everyone one is worthy of a quick moment, photograph, autograph, high five, or a hug. I know when I meet my favorite artists and they take the time with me, I leave even a bigger fan. And it's those personal connections that make admirers for life.

8) Be Good To The Venues Be respectful of the venues and their rules. They have a lot on the line just throwing shows at their spot on the regular. They take on so much liability and have so many laws to uphold just to stay open for all of us to have a great time/location to throw our events. Get to know the staff at your local venues, be polite with them, and don't abuse their hospitality. If you are going make a mess, talk to the venue ahead of time about it so you stay friends. If you are good to the venues, they will be good to you.

9) Be Good To Your Sound People Always be kind, polite, and professional with your sound people. I have found this to be the golden rule. They control your entire fate when you step onto the stage. I notice when people immediately start being rude with sound personnel, the shows immediately go sour and everyone loses. So it's far better to avoid these situations and just put your ego in check and let everyone do their job they take pride in. To a sound person, there is nothing more rewarding than working together with a band to put on a great show, only to hear afterwards, "that mix was just amazing. Really made the vibe right tonight! Thanks so much for making it sound so good." Politeness and a few kind words, and the sound people will be your friends and truly attentive until the end.

10) Be Willing To Play For Free For The Right Reasons Sometimes you have to do this. Sometimes you owe your fans a break and a free show. But even more importantly, sometimes you have to play for the right causes in the community gratis. It may seem like work sometimes, but truly you are doing positive deeds and positively contributing to your local/national communities with your talents and skills. And in my book, that's a big time winner in building rapport with your community.

See also: The 50 Best Things About the OC Music Scene The 50 Worst Things About the OC Music Scene The 25 Greatest OC Bands of All Time: The Complete List


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