Portland Maines MusicCommunity and the Impact of Local Media Kim Morrison
StatementWhat role does local media play in the Portland music community? What is bringing fans out to shows? I was interested in finding out what sources local music fans rely on for information about local artists and updates about shows, and if those sources actually have say in swaying the public towards one artist or event. I also wanted to get the perspective of many local musicians to see how they aim to reach their audience, bring new people out to shows, and sell their records.
Relevant LiteratureI havent found anything written about this topic specifically.The idea for this study came overtime, as I have been involved in small musiccommunities in various places for a while. I started looking at how pop culture andthe media control a lot of what becomes popular in our society. Portland is asmaller city with a healthy music scene. I study things like show reviews and listento what people are saying about different aspects of the music community. Thereare many things that seem to be presented by promoters as much larger and moreexciting than they actually are (great marketing!).Due to the lack of information on this topic, there werent many other optionsexcept to do the footwork myself!
ExpectationsThere was a lack of literature, so in that regards I was a little unsure of what my findings would be. But due to my experience in the area, I am expecting to find that the most effective source for a thriving local music scene is based around the social scene and social media.I believe local media will have a decent effect on the listeners decision on what albums to buy. Local media will also be capable of creating a buzz around an event, but will not be the ultimate force convincing one to attend an event.My hopes are to find that the general audience members are reaching out to find new music more often than not. And that musicians are seeing new faces at shows, and local media is helping to benefit both artists and fans.
Study Design/MethodsSurveyParticipant Observation I spend a lot of time at shows, with music fans, and with musicians, so I felt participant observation would be a great place to start. I also wrote up two surveys; one for the musicians and one for the fans. There was a mix of open and close-ended response type questions.
Survey Results (Fan Survey)Question 1: How often do you go out to see live music in Portland?The average answer was 1-3 times a month.Question 2: Where do you go?(feel free to choose more than one answer)a) Same few bars (they always have good music)b) Where ever theres no cover chargec) Where my friends are goingd) Where the bands I like are playinge) The land of cheap drinksf) other:The majority of participants answered with the combination ofA,C, and D.
Question 3: Out of every 5 shows you go to, how many times wouldyou say you purchase something like a CD or shirt from the merchtable?90% said they purchase something one out of five times, and theother 10% said never.Question 4: How do you find out what shows are going on aroundPortland?a) The Phoenix b) Dispatch Magazinec) smaller, independent and locally focused blogs/zinesd) My friendse) Social mediaf) Fliers around town100% answered with E, with other combinations as well, mostlywith option D.
Question 5: What genre of music do you feel brings the most peopleout for shows?This had an interestingly mixed response including answers likerock music, cover bands, electronic music, and funk.Question 6: If you dont have the chance to grab a local artists albumat a show, where would you go next to get it? Internet? Bull Moose orother local music store? Contact the band and make them mail it toyou?90% of fans will use the internet to find an album, 10% said theywould check Bullmoose.
Question 7: If you read a good review of a local artists album buthad never heard their music before, how likely is it that you willpurchase that album? (On a scale from 1 to 10, 1 being very unlikely,10 being very likely)The majority answered with a 3Question 8: Would you pay to see a band youve never seen beforejust because your friends are there?100% answered Yes.Question 9: Would you go see a band you hate for free because yourfriends are there?This answer was split into thirds; 1/3 said yes, 1/3 said no, and1/3 said for a little while.
Survey Results (Musician Survey)1.) What do you use to promote yourself to the Portland community? (pick as many as you need) a) Social Media b) Ads in local print media c) Tell my friends/word of mouth d) Fliers e) Someone else does it (venue, promo company, another bandmate, etc) f) Promote? I just show up. g) Other: 100% of those that answered chose A. Some of those answers included a combination of the other choices as well, and a few had said they also buy ads on the radio (something I missed!)
2.) What local media do you feel is best for increased showattendance/sales?a) The Phoenix b) Dispatch Magazinec) smaller, independent and locally focused blogs/zinesd) My friends are more effective than mediae) Drink deals determine everythingf) OtherAbout 90% answered with D, and a few others wrote in WCYY3.) Do you see a lot of new faces at shows, or typically the same few groupsof people?The general answer was that there is usually the same main groups ofpeople, but that group seems to always be growing. There are alsousually temporary new faces, but thats more about bar-hopping.
4.) Do you have an album available at a local music store? Where?Only 15% said they did not have an album any of the local musicstores. The other 85% all had their albums available at BullMoose, and the second most popular store was Moody Lords.5.) As a musician/artist, do you feel its more important to branch outof Maine rather than build a strong following in Portland?There was only one person that said they viewed traveling to bemore important than building a strong following.
6.) How often do you go out to see local music (if youre not on theline up..)a.) 4-7 times a week b) 1-3 times a week c) 1-3 times a month d)NeverTwo-thirds of the participants said they go out to see live musicone to three times a month. One-third answered with one tothree times a week.7.) What genre of local music do you feel is currently attracting thelargest crowds?The answer for this was split pretty evenly between rap/hip-hopand electronic music.
Conclusion/DiscussionMy findings show that local musicians and fans are on a similar page, and in orderfor artists to best target their audience, they should keep on this path. It seems tobe more important to build a network within your home town for many reasons.Question 9 on the fan survey points out that two-thirds of people will attend ashow if their friends are there even if they personally dont like that band! Theartists need to make sure to keep some sort of personal connection with theiraudience, and I believe people will continue to attend their shows. Unfortunatelyfor small print media, local blogs and zines etc, it seems the direct connectionbetween fans and artists could cause those medium to be deemed irrelevant or outof touch.I found it interesting to see that the musicians mainly viewed rap/hip-hop to bethe most popular genre at the moment, and the fans did not list it at all. Theyseemed to meet eye to eye in acknowledging the popularity of electronic music.
This study makes me wonder more and more what will be thenext thing to make the music industry more navigable. Socialmedia is basically taking over, and if small music communitiesand pop culture ultimately have the same resources consideredto be their strongest way to promote, will there be less of a gapbetween the two cultures? Will the bar be lowered for this whohave made it or will the small-town artist have a better chanceof making it (or both)?