Music Strategy

Last week, we reported that Indy Chamber, alongside Central Indiana Community Foundation, City of Indianapolis, and Visit Indy had launched Phase I of the Indy Music Strategy, an economic development initiative focused on the city’s diverse and growing music industry.

Following the piece, there was a prompt, asking NUVO readers to answer a series of questions related to the initiative. Below are a collection of responses we’ve received so far.

Note: All videos in this article are recorded discussions from the first-ever Music Cities Forum, held in Indianapolis last year.

Response 1: Ty Winslow

NUVO PROMPT: How did Indy’s laws and policies affect your interactions with live music before the age of 21?

TY WINSLOW: There were many shows I had to miss out on prior to being 21. The all-ages scenes and 21+ scenes feel divided in Indy. Some younger bands never really break into the broader music scene because of the disconnect.

NUVO PROMPT: Do you believe Indy offers enough all-ages opportunities for those music fans under 21?

WINSLOW: I think it's getting better, especially with a place like Healer. Most all-ages venues have had a pretty bad reputation with regards to business practices, or just quality of the facilities.

NUVO PROMPT: What does Indianapolis music sound like?

WINSLOW: I don't necessarily think of a particular sound when it comes to Indianapolis. We've got high quality musicians performing most genres.

NUVO PROMPT: Are there genres that come to mind?

WINSLOW: I come from the metal and punk scenes, mostly. Indianapolis, and Indiana in general, has become an important place for the stoner/doom/metal/rock related genres. Various other metal and rock styles as well. It is an important set of genres/sub-genres that all too often get ignored. Lots of fans show up for the bigger acts that come through, but aren't always aware of the immense local talent.

NUVO PROMPT: Is it more of a mindset (when it comes to “the Indy sound”)?

WINSLOW: I'd say so. We aren't Nashville with country, or anything like that. I think our variety should be celebrated.

NUVO PROMPT: How would you describe Indianapolis music to someone who’s from another state?

WINSLOW: Much higher quality and [more] diverse than may be expected.

Response 2: Dan Birkbeck

NUVO PROMPT: How did Indy’s laws and policies affect your interactions with live music before the age of 21? Do you believe Indy offers enough all-ages opportunities for those music fans under 21?

DAN BIRKBECK: I didn't become really engaged or active in any musical community until my time in college at IU. I just relocated to Indy from Bloomington, so I'm not as familiar with all the venues quite yet. But all the "all-ages" venues in Bloomington were basically a joke.

House shows tend to bridge the gap for underage kids to still be able to get their kicks. The Bishop is the only venue down there [in Bloomington] that was 18+ and hosts a lot of national touring Indie acts. They put it well on their website: "The Bishop does not profit in any way from the presence of minors, and their inclusion is mostly a favor to the bored kids in our town and the bands who would like to play for them."

NUVO PROMPT: What does Indianapolis music sound like? Are there genres that come to mind? Is it more of a mindset? How would you describe Indianapolis music to someone who’s from another state?

BIRKBECK: When I think of Indy, I think largely of hip-hop, indie rock, punk, and electronic. I'm sure there is a lot I'm unfamiliar with. I mostly exist in the electronic realm as a DJ and producer myself. I dabble in punk shows and always enjoy a live band.

I see a lot of experimentation throughout the city as well; people willing to push the boundaries of music. People may not be as wise to it in the general populace, but it’s there for those who go looking for it. As a fan of the alternative side of most everything, this bodes well.

Response 3: Mark Sweetman

Hi Seth. This is Mark Sweetman, a singer, songwriter, musician, and solo artist located on the south side of Indianapolis. I am 63 years old. I perform cover songs of country, classic rock, and original songs.

I was so excited to read your recent article in NUVO. The biggest hindrances in the music community in Indy I have seen are:

1. All the new restaurants and bars opening in town, especially on Mass Ave, are prime places for acoustic music. But since they have built all these condos around and on top, [they] have a noise ordinance prohibiting live music. This is true at some locations in Broad Ripple and a place I played regularly called Mucky Duck on the south side. I can understand prohibiting a full rock 'n' roll band, but acoustic guitar and vocals?

2. All the new winery and microbrew places in town will only let you play original music because they don’t want to pay ASCAP fees.

I don’t think we have a specific music sound, but a big variety of sounds. You want blues, go to Slippery Noodle. You want country, go to Duke’s. People here know where to go if they want a certain type of music. But what about the people who don’t? Wouldn’t it be cool if someone was just out for dinner and or drinks and heard a song, or an artist they loved? A new fan has emerged who will bring friends next time.

Response 4: Mike Jones

Thanks for raising this important topic to your NUVO readers. My name is Mike Jones, and I'm the father of 18-year old singer/songwriter Kevin Jones. He has a band to play his music live, Kevin & the Anti-socials, and we've struggled to really have any kind of impact in this city.

We have firsthand experience with the under 21 issues you raised. First, you have the great venues that serve alcohol but can't/won't allow under 21 patrons due to various reasons. Then, you have the venues that are legally able to have under 21 patrons, but they still won't hire under-21 bands because so much of their profits come from alcohol sales.

I'm really encouraged by the idea of a local Indy Music Strategy.  Here are my thoughts on solutions/improvements:

1. I really like the idea of wristbands for under-21 concertgoers. I'm not in favor of lowering the drinking age, particularly just so kids can go to concerts. That's stupid. But even from my perspective, there's no reason why kids can't be allowed to see a concert at a bar. Wristbands: winner.

2. Music hosting training sessions/seminars. I think many places would add live music if they had some resources to lean on—people/entities they can go to with questions to help them kick start hosting live music. That would take some money, but not a lot.

3. HI-FI has a "New Faces" night once per month. This is awesome, but why is HI-FI having to manage that? That ought to be something the Music Strategy team is in charge of…something that the whole city looks forward to every month, like a Colts game. An event that "makes" a band, at a venue everyone can attend. Again, I'm not saying anything against Hi-Fi—those guys are killing it. But, that idea could be expanded, and made into a big deal.

4. Local benefactors for the Indy Music Strategy, like Lilly does for Clowes Hall (and elsewhere). I believe the music culture would improve greatly if the local wealthy among us could be convinced that the Indy Music Strategy is a good initiative to fund. I have zero experience in the philanthropic world, so I have no idea how to pull that off. But, I believe there *are* people in town who could get local benefactors to invest.

Despite our struggles to grow a fan base here in Indy, I believe there are a lot of really great people on the venue/booking side that truly want to book bands, pay them more, and be a part of a vibrant music scene. Hopefully, the Indy Music Strategy will be the first step in realizing that dream.

Are you interested in joining the conversation? Leave your comments below to the following prompts.

PROMPT 1: How did Indy’s laws and policies affect your interactions with live music before the age of 21? Do you believe Indy offers enough all-ages opportunities for those music fans under 21?

PROMPT 2: What does Indianapolis music sound like? Are there genres that come to mind? Is it more of a mindset? How would you describe Indianapolis music to someone who’s from another state?

Seth Johnson, Music Editor at NUVO, can be reached by email at sjohnson@nuvo.net, by phone at 317-254-2400 or on Twitter @sethvthem

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Music Editor

An Indianapolis native, I love all things music, especially of the local variety. My other passions also include comedy, social justice, and the Indiana Pacers.

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