The musical landscape in San Antonio is vast, and a cross-section of its leaders recently came together with stalwart efforts to bolster and elevate the local music economy. Local Music Week, which took place from June 12-18 this year, brought together thousands of music lovers across the city to witness dozens of bands and talented solo artists who stood in solidarity to demonstrate the importance of raising up local talent and celebrating its diversity.
The week kicked off on a warm day at Frank with the Hot Dog Social, where the first 100 RSVP’d attendees received a dog courtesy of the establishment. There were performances by 16 Psyche, Verisimilitude, The Foreign Arm, and Volcan, and El Westside Soundsystem kept the beats fresh in between sets.
The Local Music Week Team (LMWT) agreed that the Hot Dog Social was a solid event, a place to showcase the variety of talent in San Antonio. Yet in order to really make Local Music Week an institution, the team agrees there is a lot of work yet to be done, so they have started the planning process early this time.
While putting on Local Music Week takes many hearts and hands on deck, the core group includes Libby Day of Do210, Kim Johnson of SATX Music, Jeannette Muniz of 91.7 KRTU Live and Local, George Garza of San Antonio Local Music Guild, Sarah Rios of Alamo Music Center, and members of San Antonio Sound Garden.
“We need a street team to blanket the venues with promotional material, make sure there is more exposure at the venues,” Day said, representing the group as a whole. “We also need people who know how to get sponsorships and properly market this effort.”
The effort has been strictly grassroots up to this point, with a majority of promotional materials and efforts being taken on through the team’s own pockets, in-kind donations, or hustling about town to find pro-bono support.
“We plan to build momentum with fundraisers in order to have the money for printing materials and T-shirts,” Day said. “We also want to get with venues beforehand and make sure we get them more involved in the marketing of Local Music Week.”
In order to make the case that Local Music Week is beneficial for our city, San Antonio Sound Garden helped lead the volunteer effort for collecting surveys in order to gather an initial baseline on its impact. Data was collected via online surveys and printed handouts that allowed community members, bands, and venues to share their experiences.
Based on 70 community surveys from various events, more than 75% of those surveyed believed that the musical talent, venue environment, and event organization ranked between 8 and 10 on a 10 point scale. A smaller group suggested that Local Music Week could direct more attention to sound quality and diversity in the lineup during the week.
An open-ended question that asked responders to list who they would like to see in 2017 elicited a call for more jazz, including New Orleans Jazz troupe the Dirty River Dixie Band and Johnny P & the Wise Guys. Blues musician Ruben V and indie rock groups Femina-X and Hydra Melody were also mentioned several times as groups that should be on next year’s docket.
According to Jay Young, musician and data analyst for San Antonio Sound Garden, there is a reason why Fortune 500 companies like Coca-Cola devote millions to top-tier analytics.
“It allows you to identify trends, patterns not apparent to the naked eye,” Young said. “Really, you can discern what the true ‘scene’ is and where it is headed.”
Young was referencing the music-oriented data that San Antonio Sound Garden is collecting and utilizing as a tool to signify the future course of investment in the local music economy.
“It seems to me that the big story is that the infrastructure is in place, the data is lined up,” Young said. “This has been a successful launch and the room to grow isn’t necessarily in getting more responses, but asking more specific questions.”
A father of four and a full-time musician are not often the same person, but Young would love to see that be the case. “I have a day job because I have kids to support,” Young said. “It would be interesting to do a bigger case study to see how we make up the gap in terms of finances.”
Specifically, Young suggested conducting a study that calculates the average living wage for an individual who plays music and then determine the gap between how much his musical efforts provide and how much he has to earn from alternative income streams.
“How much more money do you need to do music full time?” Young asked. “We have a lot of 28-year-olds with a wife and one kid. If we could funnel an extra $100 in there, we could get a lot more people to do this full-time.”
This, of course, means seeking corporate and civic involvement for the investment in our music economy. Music economy in this conversation encompasses all the revenue streams that flow into businesses and the City that are impacted by musicians and the musical arts – anything from artists like Young playing at Pat O’Brien’s, to Bombasta playing a city-wide festival at La Villita, as well as conventions, workshops, and educational initiatives that involve music.
The net must be cast widely in order to truly account for the value of local music in San Antonio, and Local Music Week seeks to become an institution for this conversation.
“We will be offering workshops that offer DIY skill sets at events throughout the week and regulating the bands so that we have a strong lineup representative of San Antonio,” Day said. “We want to get the City of San Antonio more involved with proclaiming Local Music Week as an official event.”
If you’d like to get involved in any way in planning or participating in next year’s Local Music Week, the team can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclosure: Adam Tutor is the Community Outreach Director at San Antonio Sound Garden.
Top image: Nick Long of Lonely Horse closing it down for Local Music Week 2016. Photo by Oscar Moreno.