Guest post by Nick Hardy, first published on Sinizine.net.
I grew up in Memphis, Tenn. and was involved in the punk scene from my first Rancid tape stolen from my high school. I had my crappy ska band and many of my friends had just as horrible punk bands. During the mid 90's Memphis was booming with amazing punk and indie shows coming through venues like Barristers, The Antenna, New Daisy, The Map Room…the list goes on. You could bet your balls there was going to be local support for a national tour coming through town. While the national bands were picking up stream on MTV and college radio, they still couldn't hold a night by themselves with their tour mates. All the local bands would claw at the promoters and venue owners to
This was the locals' time to prove themselves to the city.
The ones who put in hard work and could work a crowd prospered. This cycle of starting a band to be hip, make what you think is interesting music and to hopefully open for your favorite bands created a very healthy music ecosystem of rivalries, camaraderie, ideas, power...MOVEMENT!
Some of those bands were noticed by their heroes, who they were opening for and went out to fulfill dreams of touring, putting out records, finally playing in front of people other than your friends and possibly making a sustainable living off music.
Now, living in Nashville and managing a couple artists, I comb the internet weekly looking for new touring acts coming through town that my artist might pair well with for an opening slot. I go through the motions: contact the venue, find the promoter, contact them, give them my pitch...wait...and get the same reply every time.
"I'm sorry but this tour package won't be allowing local support."
You wouldn't want the option to add a local to the show to boost ticket sales? A 25-minute slot and 50-100 extra tickets sold is not worth your time? I feel bad for these high school kids who drool at the chance to open for their favorite band at Rocketown to only find out they can't because they've built the tour package six bands deep, all running around in huge tour busses while none of them can fill the room in which they're playing.
Nashville does have a ton of great bands, some who are being given national attention and some waiting to be discovered. The local acts that are always being given the opening slots are the ones in the national light. Yeah, that's tickets sold for now but how long can you rely on those fans? Our society's interest changes at a faster rate than ever. Promoters and venues should be cultivating younger acts and guiding them on how to build their following around town.
And shame on these bands with the power of choice. Were you not in your basement wishing to be "famous" a couple years back? Didn't you just want that big break? You'd have killed for it! And now you're playing your shows with two-band packages killing people's dreams.
Here's an idea: use picking a local for each show on your tour as branding alignment and social media to bring awareness about the show and the potential local band. Build a sub-community behind every show; have fan voting and contests that create your band-centric content. On the bigger scale you've just added an extension to your brand and you're cultivating your social media outreach; you're promoting the show, your band and you're getting tickets sold.
This problem might just be in Nashville. Is it as bad nationally as it is here?