I want to preface this column by saying that I am not one to ever argue that change is negative or evolution of something is a problem.
For the most part, I think that as we adapt and grow as a society, the way we share things will always be adapting and growing as well. This includes how we consume independent music.
The internet has completely revolutionized how we listen to music, especially in the context of independent music. Thirty years ago, sometimes the only way to hear a band’s music would be to go to its show in someone’s basement. Today, thanks to streaming services such as Soundcloud and Spotify, hearing new, local music is as easy as hitting “shuffle” on your device.
However, I believe that this has changed the demographics at DIY music venues here in Bloomington. More than that, the type of people hosting and attending these DIY shows have shifted. And from what I’ve experienced this year, it’s disappointing to say the least.
In my four and counting years in Bloomington, I have seen numerous local bands at great shows in people’s basements, in small bars halfway in an alley and in seemingly stranger places than that. For people under age 21, the only reliable way to see musicians perform is at DIY shows typically located in private housing off of campus.
I remember my freshman year of college spending most weekends at a venue called the Velvet Onion, a house that regularly hosted shows spotlighting some of the city’s unsigned talent. I remember crowding in the basement to watch my friends play, and other times just going on a whim to catch whoever was playing as they had a reputation for putting together new shows.
They vehemently advertised that the door fee was for the bands playing, which made it easy to support local artists you liked. While there was usually a cover fee, at least the majority of the fee and donation money was given to the artists who came to play or to pay off what was provided drink-wise.
The bigger message was clear — the people hosting shows at the Velvet Onion wanted people there for the music. The more the merrier, but you could tell that the people booking the bands genuinely had a love for independent music, and it showed.
After being used to that scene, where people showed up to listen to music, seeing the DIY scene become somewhere for people to mostly party is a little saddening.
I attended a show recently to see a band I love and paid $10 at the door thinking I was going to see them and thus give my money to the artists. However, after waiting for almost two hours as more and more belligerently drunk freshmen poured in, the party got shut down, the band I paid to see did not get to play and I am still not sure where my $10 went because from what I understand it was almost definitely not given to the artist, as they did not perform.
I am not saying that you should not use concerts to have fun, however that may be. But screaming over an act at a somewhat intimate show is disrespectful not only to the performer, but to the people who came to see them. And to those hosting these shows, it should first and foremost be about the music, not turning a profit for yourselves without contributing to the artists making it possible. A house party is a place to be reckless, but that is not really the case for a house show. It takes away so much from the music when there is so much chaos ensuing in the same space.
My sadness is directed towards the people running shows like this, who have no regard for people’s safety and simultaneously do not share profit with the artists who make these shows possible. There is nothing wrong with wanting to host "Project X"-esque parties or capitalizing off of that. However, stop using music as a doormat to do it. Stop wasting the time of artists and not crediting them for their contributions to your turnout.
Go support local music. Go pay to see a band you like. Have drinks and dance. What I am saying is nothing to the contrary of this but simply a cautionary tale. Know where your money is going, and pick the right places to do what you intend.