First Person My friend, IndianapolisMusic.net director Matt Fecher, has a mantra about Indy’s music community. He simply says, “Things don’t suck.” While I agree with his assessment, I think he’s looking at things from the wrong angle. Things certainly do not suck. In fact, they’re kind of good right now.
It recently dawned on me how much our music community has improved when I rolled up to the Melody Inn for a benefit show and saw 25 people waiting to get in. They weren’t waiting because the doorman was slow checking ID. They were waiting because the club was sold out, packed, filled to the gills.
The amazing thing about the sell-out was it wasn’t the first one of the month. The club had to turn away patrons three other times in a three-week span. I also heard the same situation occurred at the recent Tonic Ball at Radio Radio. The events left me wondering why Indianapolis’ traditionally apathetic music fans were suddenly clamoring to get into clubs.
One thing that’s helped boost the status of the music community in the public’s eyes has been the media’s willingness to shine their spotlight on it. NUVO’s expanded coverage of music happenings has been an appreciated change. The Indianapolis Star’s David Lindquist continues to be an ally to music fans, staying on the beat for national shows while being accessible to local artists. Big events like the release of the Indy MP3 Project CD even got coverage in out-of-the-ordinary publications like Inside Indiana Business and the Court and Commercial Record.
Indy music is also finding a home in new media outlets. Two new Web sites, Indymetal.com and IndianapolisMusicScene.com, launched this year just to cover music. Add those newcomers to sites like IndianapolisMusic.net, IndianapolisHardcore.com, IndyGoth.com and PunkRockNight.com and you realize our community may have more online music media than any other city our size.
Broadcast media is getting in on the game as well. It’s still amazing to realize that Indianapolis has its own version of MTV in Indy’s Music Channel … and they actually play music videos. Plus, they’ve recently mixed in local music news and clips from area artists. The Fox 59 AM show continues to be music-friendly as well, scheduling “Battle of the Bands” weeks to showcase area artists to new audiences.
For a change, Indianapolis added rather than lost live music venues this year. The Lawn at White River State Park provided a great setting to lure tours to town that weren’t big enough to fill Verizon. Later this month the Music Mill is due to open with a restaurant and 750-person capacity venue. I’m picturing it as being similar to the House of Blues clubs. If the venue can live up to that comparison, it will be a great addition to Indy’s music offerings.
You know things are good when the city gets in on the act. A grant from the Mayor’s Office financed the Indy MP3 Project, a freely distributed disc featuring 170 local artists. To date, over 15,000 copies have gotten into the public’s hands. The Convention & Visitors Association helped partner the North American Music Merchant (NAMM) and the Midwest Music Summit so that the Summit coincides with NAMM’s trade show when it visits Indianapolis this summer. That weekend will see more artists and music industry reps in town than has ever hit Indy. We might even give Nashville, Tenn., a run for the title of “Music City, USA” that weekend.
To top things off, our local artists are giving people reason to hit the clubs. Indy acts Loretta and Otis Gibbs both placed records on national airplay charts this year. Area acts also caught the ear of major independent labels. Haste the Day, Brazil and John Wilkes Booze all garnered national attention with their releases while artists ranging from Jennie DeVoe to The Shivers get record spins outside of town. Indy even landed an artist on a big label this year when Rhymefest signed with J Records.
There is still some suckiness lingering despite the positives. All-ages audiences continue to see their venues close and their opportunities to take part in the community fade. Local artists still struggle to find a radio outlet for their music. Though a movement to start a student-run broadcast radio station at IUPUI recently got underway, the valuable on-air exposure needed to help introduce potential fans to local artists is difficult to find.
Yeah, things don’t suck, but they could be better. With a few more swift kicks in the city’s ass from talented artists, enterprising promoters and interested media, Indy could grow into the music town it’s always had the potential to become. Maybe then I’ll convince Fecher to update his mantra.
Steve Hayes is the editor of IndianapolisMusic.net as well as a musician in local acts The Common, Nashville TX and no*star.