Where are some good places for an aspiring performing songwriter to live? Not so much looking to sweep the pop music world as I am looking to find a spot on the
. But I've been thinking it might be helpful to look for locations where there are sizable audiences of people who regularly choose live but thoughtful music as an entertainment option and artists and venues that oblige them.
I've been writing and performing on and off for the last nine years, moving gradually from Teh Suck to the point where can often warm up an audience and I frequently get asked if I have recordings to sell. It's a hobby, one I'd enjoy leaving at that level, but for a while I've been thinking it might be worthwhile to give it a fair shake, quit hiding under the guise of an amateur, and see if I really can work harder, produce better material, and find an audience.
I live in Utah. From dabbling and living I have a small but helpful network here and some idea how to try to reach the local pockets of people I think might like what I do, but my sense is that it's probably a tougher than usual place to try to grow an audience, so I've considered changing that. I'm aware it may be hard everywhere, or that there may be harder places (during a stint in Ventura County a few years ago I was surprised to find that despite the proximity to LA and Santa Barbara, I felt there was much less going on locally there than here). But from visiting concerts and festivals or even just hitting the town in a few places across the country, I've gotten the sense there might be some better locales. For example, I was at a Dar Williams show at a coffeehouse in Bethlehem PA years ago, and was struck by the fact that the audience seemed more varied across age ranges than the teen/college/young adult crowd I see more often in my hometown. And I discovered when talking with people that many of them held "season tickets" to the shows regularly held there (not all of which were folk luminaries of the Dar Williams strata). The level of interest that seemed to indicate was intruiging to me, and I think that's part of what I'm looking for.
Some other potentially narrowing constraints:
- I'm probably best classified in the hodgepodge taxonomic platypus category known by turns as "singer/songwriter" or "adult contemporary." (samples of nominal but possibly adequate production quality can be heard here). I'm guessing some locales are more friendly to certain styles than other. I've noticed that I do better with people over 24 or so and tend to wash right over the emo kids.
- I'm lucky to know artists here who work hard on their art, but cooperate and enjoy association with each other rather than compete, don't have "making it big" as their primary benchmark for personal success, or take their identity as capital-A "Aahr-tists" too seriously. I've found mentoring and advice from these people very valuable. Finding other communities like that would be awesome.
- Expensive places aren't absolutely out of the question, but somewhere you can rent even a small non-hovel for under four figures monthly is obviously a bonus.
So fellow MeFites, where have you lived (or performed yourself!) that was great for local live music? What places do you think would fit my constraints? Where would you go to build an audience? Any other general advice?
I'm aware the standard locations for this kind of thing are New York City or LA or Seattle or Nashville or Austin. I wouldn't mind at all hearing about those places and how they fit, but I'm also interested in less common suggestions too. I have some particular interest in Califoria at the moment, but *anywhere* in the world that might be good for English-speaking performers is game. Sophisticated Scandinavian city-center? Folksy town in the "flyover" U.S.? Feel free to mention it, no matter where it is, if you think it might be a good place to grow an audience.
Finally, I'm also interested in finding other forums that are good to ask this kind of question.