smart phone killed the local music scene

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by GlennRH, Oct 20, 2018.

  1. The idea of "Video Killed the Radio Star" keeps coming back to my mind when I reflect on local venues (pubs, nightclubs, hotel ballrooms, strip joints) that no longer host live music on stage.

    The more I reflect on what happened and try to put it simply, I think: the smart phone is killing the local music scene.

    Over the last 15 to 20 years, fewer young people have taken up learning to play guitar, bass, drums, or even how to sing. Hence, the project of getting all your friends to the gig to check out your or your buddy’s band has become uncommon. Likewise, putting up posters around town and making the phone calls to get your classmates, workmates, and people’s friends and neighbours to come to the gig happens less often.

    Over the last 15 to 20 years, more and more people accept music not performed by people playing instruments. Many do not have the ear to detect e.g. the difference between the sound of a drummer playing drums and synthesized percussion programmed separately. Often, the only melody is the singer’s voice, and background instruments are not instruments at all, but synthesized tones that do not attempt to replicate any actual musical instrument.

    Over the last 15 to 20 years, more and more people in their late-teens to mid-twenties connect with friends, meet people, and check out bands through their smart phones. Hence, the thrill of checking out a new band does not require getting into a pub or concert hall. Connecting with friends and their friends is no longer best done over a pitcher of beer where bands play. You don’t have to yell into anybody’s ear, and any “scene” that you might be part of exists online instead.

    In too many cities, the sprinkling of pubs that once hosted live bands mostly do not exist as pubs at all (e.g. buildings converted to motels or to apartments with shops on the main floor). Local bands have shrunk in number and their local followings have shrunk in size as they compete to perform on a shrunken number of small stages. The feeling that you’re part of a local scene is mostly gone. Many do not know that that sense of belonging ever could have been accessible to them.

    Somebody please convince me that the pendulum will swing: that new venues will emerge attracting audiences for local musicians to entertain gathering crowds in live performance playing musical instruments.
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2018
    etb, babaseen, nbsipics and 5 others like this.
  2. Selta


    Feb 6, 2002
    Pacific Northwet
    Total fanboi of: Fractal Audio, AudiKinesis Cabs, Dingwall basses
    I don't think you can blame any one single thing, eg smart phones, for this. It's just a general cultural shift which many aspects have contributed to. Income inequality of course also has a lot to do with it - wages have stagnated for decades while costs of goods rise. People have less money to spend and/or less time (working more jobs/longer hours). People also have many other forms of entertainment available to them (or cost of it has just declined) - phones, TV/movie/music streaming, video games, travel, etc.

    I'm not going to just say that the "pendulum will swing" because I don't believe it will. It certainly doesn't help that most local bands still don't understand that their volume is a massive issue, for example ;). Adapt or get left behind is about the best I can offer.
    MarkJC8, BassilPesto, lfmn16 and 15 others like this.
  3. Killed_by_Death

    Killed_by_Death Snaggletooth Inactive

    Just last night saw this:

    Beautiful woman gets up to dance
    Creepy guy starts to record video of her dancing
    All the other women stare in disbelief & no one else dances
    True story!

    When the guy took a bathroom break we made sure his dance floor adjacent seat was taken when he returned & dancing resumed.
  4. glocke1

    glocke1 Supporting Member

    Apr 30, 2002
    I think there's good and bad with smart phones and the music scene. From a social media/networking standpoint, it keeps the folks that are interested in music in touch with the local scene.

    However I've seen far too many poorly recorded videos of live local bands, that when I listen to on the poor recording a smart phone makes has me thinking that the band doesn't sound very good. Sometimes the band just doesn't sound good for whatever reason, (lack of rehearsal, etc), but more often than not its a poor recording that makes the band sound bad.

    I wish people would use more common sense with these things. Listen back before posting, if it doesn't sound good don't put it out there.
    BBassBassington likes this.
  5. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member

    On the other hand, the smart phone might be helping to boost live music too. Go to a show, take a video, post it to your social media - it communicates among networks that there are shows happening and builds positive associations around being at them.

    When people say live music is declining, I think in reality it's only a particular kind of live music that is - local cover bands in bars. The middle school band in our local school system seems to have as many kids as ever involved. You still see guys with acoustic guitars hanging around college campuses. Libraries and parks and rec departments still have local concerts series. People still go to concerts to see their favorite stars on tour. Broadway seems to be doing pretty well. Smart phones haven't diminished interest in any of those.

    I was reading a history of the music profession in Britain. The peak of employment of musicians came in the 1920s. It was driven by silent movies hiring pianists and organists. The talkies did more to kill employment than anything before or since. The cover band scene, itself, was the creation of particular circumstances in society, economy, and culture. Nothing lasts forever, not in the same form. Music will keep happening.
  6. seilerbird


    Apr 12, 2012
    Concert ticket prices are at an all time high. Music is most definitely still alive and the phones are only helping.
  7. friskinator

    friskinator Supporting Member

    Apr 5, 2007
    I agree about the cover bands in bars thing. I think at some point, some bar owners started noticing that nobody was paying attention to the band. There are just so many other competing options for entertainment now. Netflix is competition for bands now, if you think about it.

    On the national scale, it seems like a lot of people are paying exorbitant prices for concert tickets just so they can post about going. I saw Sting on his theater tour a couple years ago (at close to $200/ticket), and the people in front of me literally never put their phones down. They were posting every couple minutes, and I ended up watching most of the show through their screens. At that moment, I decided I was done with going to concerts. It's just not fun anymore.

    I know this topic has been done to death on TB, but has technology changed the music environment? Absolutely. And not always in a positive way.
    928cat, MarkJC8, mikewalker and 2 others like this.
  8. DirtDog


    Jun 7, 2002
    The Deep North
    I don’t dispute the observations made by the OP, but I also wonder what the data tells us?

    I agree that the local live music scene is not what it once was and that individuals’ consumption of musical entertainment is online these days and a significant proportion of that seems to be geared toward mobile which then implicates the smartphone.

    Same can be said for many other sectors of the economy.

    My theory is that the profit motive for running a live music venue has disappeared. Could be many reasons for that, real or perceived.


    My response as a musician has not been to wait for the pendulum to swing back (it probably won’t) but to adapt and overcome.

    In short, if you want people to enjoy your music, whatever your music might be, bring it to where people are spending their time...and that might mean going to an online platform for many of us.

    I actually see a greater number and variety of opportunities for musicians plying their trade in the digital realm. But it’s an unfamiliar concept for those of us who were brought up in an era where we could go see a live band almost any day of the week.

    And really, was that all it was cracked up to be?
  9. DirtDog


    Jun 7, 2002
    The Deep North
    Well stated, @hrodbert696
    hrodbert696 likes this.
  10. lokikallas

    lokikallas Supporting Member

    Aug 15, 2010
    los angeles
  11. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    00 images2b2.png

    also: when was the last time that every dinky venue in town was filled to capacity with only a mediocre band?

    mediocre bands compete with other mediocre bands to get mediocre gigs. better bands get better gigs. the best bands get the best gigs. nothing has changed. it has always been that way.

    but i wouldn't expect rotary dialed phones to make a comeback. :D
    MarkJC8, babaseen, mikewalker and 3 others like this.
  12. blue4


    Feb 3, 2013
    St. Louis area
    It's a myth that kids don't play music or learn instruments anymore. I don't know why people keep believing this. High school bands get bigger every year, online sites and brick and mortar stores have no shortage of kids taking lessons. YouTube has a legion of kids playing daily. I see no evidence that kids aren't playing music. They don't seem to be interested in playing the Rolling Stones in taverns anymore, they're much more likely to be at events and festivals. They may not as interested in the traditional 2 guitar, 1 bass, 1 drummer format. The huge increase in bands playing Americana music should show that music is not dying. People do seem really invested in believing that kids don't like or play music though.

    IMO drunk driving laws did more to kill the traditional live music scene then any other factor. The musicians themselves had a large hand in it too. How many of us remember going to a bar for a few hours and hearing two different bands play the same set list? I do. How many times have you heard guys complain that their band mates like to change up songs or won't play note for note? You can get a music player the size of a postage stamp to do that. Why would someone pay 5 people (who often WON'T control their volume. Today's technology if you're too loud its because you want to be) to sound like the radio?
    IMO kids and smart phones are just an easy scapegoat for a changing market and changing musical opportunities.
    Crusher47, Wasnex, MarkJC8 and 14 others like this.
  13. Inara

    Inara Fierce Fun Fretless Female Supporting Member

    Jun 12, 2017
    Seattle, WA USA
    I'm a generation--x person who plays in bands with mostly millennials and younger. I've found the opposite ... smart phones are integral to the younger generations' lives, and those with musical interests and motivations (and I don't have statistics, but I don't see any fewer than in older generations) employ them extremely well to enhance their communications, get interested friends and followers out to see our shows, go "live" on social media to build interest in the band, etc. The music scene among younger audiences is very vibrant and alive here, and social media, fueled by smart phone use, is a big part of that. It is a big change from how things worked when I was in my first bands in the late 80s / early 90s, but it works much better, imho and ime, than what we used to have to do to publicize our shows and build a "buzz" about our band. The scene is different now, for sure, but I for one am loving it.
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2018
  14. FugaziBomb


    Jun 5, 2017
    I just did a show in my hometown to a crowd of 400+ people on a Thursday night and we do shows like that all over Florida.

    The entertainment industry has competition just like any other industry. If I made cars, and kept making the same car I did in the 90s while other competitors evolved with the changing market, wouldn't it be ridiculous for me to blame the other companies for ruining the industry? Isn't it your responsibility as a small business to continue to adapt to changing trends? I see a lot of people on this board complaining about how no one goes to see their band play, but their "act" is just 4-5 guys standing on stage staring at their feet playing tired old covers or originals that sound like tired old covers.

    For us, our success is based on a stage show with energy and movement, charisma and stage presence. People come to our shows because they know they're going to laugh a little, experience a little awe, and most importantly, be impressed with our SHOW that we put on. It's something we cultivated, practiced and (for me anyways) trained for via stage and acting classes on off nights. Every industry has competition - the trick is to be better than what your competing against instead of complaining about how your competition is beating you. The smart phone isn't going anywhere, and neither are you if you keep harking on it.

    All that being said, I hope this doesn't all sound too harsh or condemning, because it wasn't meant to be. :thumbsup:
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2018
    Fretless1!, babaseen, Ayce and 6 others like this.
  15. saabfender

    saabfender Inactive

    Jan 10, 2018
    I thought DJs killed the live music scene. Now it’s mobile phones. Next it’ll be DJs with mobile phones.
    Ayce, mikewalker, btmpancake and 5 others like this.
  16. JohnnyBottom

    JohnnyBottom Supporting Member

    Nov 27, 2002
    New Jersey
    1 word.... Couch Tour
    Son of Wobble likes this.
  17. MrLenny1

    MrLenny1 Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2009
    New England
    Social media is a great tool to get the word out about where
    you're band is but venue turnout is still skimpy.
  18. Skillet


    Nov 25, 2011
    When I was coming of age, the drinking age was 18. There was a thriving local music scene. Those who know better than us raised it to 21. That and the absurd DUI laws have hurt us a lot.
    packhowitzer, blue4 and vvvmmm like this.
  19. frnjplayer


    Feb 3, 2014
    The demise of the chicken wing cover band bar is real. That scene died in the 90s as more entertainment options surfaced. The ability for a bar owner to get 50 different sports feeds rather than just what was on the local cable is one example. Now the music scene does consist of higher level clubs and festivals.
    The problem with that model is that there is no longer a place to learn the craft. Those dive bars were the place where we graduated from being a bunch of kids making noise in the garage to musicians and entertainers. We've lost the public schools that prepared us for the working world.
    It now takes some significant drive to be, essentially, self taught and make the jump to the stage. There are still lots of kids learning and interested in music at in the schools. Unfortunately the large barrier they have to climb to go any further prevents a lot of new blood from entering the industry
  20. Evolve or stand aside, simple as that. Live shows have always been about the visual aspect just as much as the audio.

    In the current day, the ability to sound and look amazing on stage has never been better. Sound systems sound ten times better than years ago. The lighting/visual aspect of a show can be raised to a level only dreamed about in the 60-90's. The ability to be amazing is still there, and even easier to do these days.

    I would agree the cover band with mediocre players playing beat to death oldies is singing its swan song. You can die with it, or find a different route.

    Look around, adapt, overcome.
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Jan 28, 2022

Share This Page