Guest Opinion (response) by Philip D.
“So, I’ll say it here: if you haven’t seen a local act playing original music in the last six months, you’re the problem” Salem Weekly September, 2017
This ain’t Field of freekin’ Dreams. Just because you build it doesn’t mean the community is obligated to come. Ask Ken Ham how that approach is working for the Ark Encounter. If you want us to get our collective asses off the couch on any given evening you need to offer us something worth getting off the couch for.
There are 15 year olds at River City Rockstar Academy that are as good as adults in working bands. A sophomore at WSHS that writes better songs than the grownups she shares the stage with. Musicians, look at your peers. How many do you think are untalented? Probably not very many.
If talent isn’t the issue, why don’t people come out more often? There is an answer, but you’re not gonna like it: If people don’t come out to your shows a second time (and bring their friends), there is a pretty damn good chance it’s because you’re just not all that compelling to watch. (It is possible that some of you don’t draw a repeat audience because you’re onto some next level shit, that the plebes can’t comprehend. That’s a different discussion).
There is more to world domination than being proficient at your instrument. That just gets you to the starting line. I don’t have a “favorite song by a favorite local artist” like Chris said I should, because there is a local allergy to writing hooks. Sounds flip, but I am being serious. After watching hours of performances, I’ve heard three songs that had ‘hit’ potential.
I don’t care who you are, if you don’t have a chorus that people can sing along with and relate to, you’re gonna have problems finding a mass audience. You can get artsy but throw the audience a bone. Draw us in with hooks, we’ll stick around for the art. Even Trent Reznor bowed down to the pop music gods he serves when he wrote, “Head like a hole/Dark as your soul/I’d rather die/Than give you control.”
Next, you don’t need to be good looking but you should have a “look.” How many of you go onstage in t-shirt & jeans? How can we differentiate between performers, if we can’t even tell you apart from the audience? The M-69s dress like rock stars; The Pumps had (have?) a look; most other bands – not so much. If you look like a garage band you’ll be treated like a garage band, (unless you write hooks like Ed Sheeran).
This last part is tricky, but it can be learned or overcome – have some stage presence. Too many times I’ve seen a young band I want to like, they have a decent sound, and if they keep honing their songwriting they might have a shot except…the front person has the star quality of a rock.
If you don’t have any magnetism, cover that up while you learn (seriously, make the effort to learn how to be engaging). Until then buy a fog machine, hire a hype person, get lasers, project videos, perform naked etc., anything to distract the audience from the fact you are charisma impaired. It worked for KISS.
If you want our love, if you want us to rave about you, and drag our friends to your next show, you have to do more. Give us an experience we want and need to tell our friends about. Write songs that people can relate to with choruses that we can sing along to. Perform them in a way that makes us believe that you are truly feeling what you’re singing.
And for god’s sake don’t go onstage looking like you just came off your shift behind the bar at the taphouse/weed dispensary. “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have” applies to rock stars too…
Phillip D is a transplant to Salem. He has worked extensively in the music industry and is dedicated to being an active and productive part of our scene. He was hesitant to give his full name, because he did not want to offend anyone with his opinion. I found that unfortunate, but ultimately respected his decision. Nothing thrives without constructive criticism and leaders who have the courage to speak out. But sometimes it takes baby steps. Whatever it takes.