Spend enough time in a city’s music scene, and you’re bound to run into musicians who feel jaded and disenfranchised. More often than not, these sorts of creatives have been working for years with little local or no recognition and support, so it’s understandable why many musicians feel left out of their music scenes. But instead of lamenting the fact that your work has been passed over or even downright rejected by your local scene, there’s a much more productive and rewarding option to pursue: building your own.
Avoid resentment at all costs
When musicians create work year after year and wait for their local scenes to notice, they miss out on massively important opportunities to shape the narrative around their music and meet like-minded creatives through creating their own music communities. When you started making music, you might have felt intimidated by and unworthy of what was going on in your music scene. This is sort of a natural vetting process that happens in a lot of music communities mostly when new musicians don’t have much work or reputation to fall back on. But when resentment rears its ugly head over not being involved in a scene even after this initial period, serious damage can be done to a musician’s career through lost opportunities and relationships.
Support your fellow musicians
If you’re waiting to be accepted or even simply seen by your music scene, one of the best things you can do is to create a community of your own. You might sulk every time you perform locally and no other musicians come out to support you, but how many performances of your contemporaries do you make an effort to see? One of the greatest ways to build a thriving music community is to support other musicians first instead of waiting for them to back or recognize you. But don’t just see local shows. Talk to the musicians around you, get to know their music, and see what they need instead of purely focusing on what you need. This, of course, needs to happen only when you genuinely like another artist’s music.
The relationships you’ll form by being interested, supported, and engaged in the music that’s happening around you will help you become a part of something much bigger and more important than just your own work. You might eventually find that you’ve become a part of your city’s established music scene or that you’ve helped establish a new one of your own, and either scenario is much better than going it alone. Whether it’s opening bigger shows or simply being part of the larger conversation going on about music in your area, communities are powerful assets for musicians.
Embrace the digital age
But what if you live in a place where music isn’t being made or valued? Digital music communities can’t completely replace physical ones, but in today’s music industry, they’re massively important. The same rules of engaging other like-minded musicians apply here, and you’re bound to make connections and learn from the music-makers you make an effort to support online. For so many musicians, making music feels solitary and isolating, but it doesn’t have to. Ideas are stronger when they’re supported by multiple people in multiple ways, so if you feel left out of your local music scene, try creating your own.
Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician, and human man. He lives nowhere in particular, creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.