Making a scene in the local music scene

Making+a+scene+in+the+local+music+scene

By Boswell Hutson

Last week, our Illini Media compadres over at Buzz Magazine published an interview with local musical artist Telepath. The interview was at times enlightening and at times infuriating, but most importantly, it sent ripples through Champaign’s music scene, prompting Facebook comment threads and think-pieces from local blogs for days.

Here’s another response.

Telepath, who chose to remain anonymous for this infamous interview, makes a unique brand of ambient and ethereal sounds that have vaulted him to a cult-like amount of Internet fame. This has even included him personally selling six albums to people in Japan, which he kindly mentioned twice in one paragraph, in case any readers forgot.

In his interview, Telepath was asked a fairly uncontentious question: “At what point did you start to grow a following for your music?” He responded with a plethora of acidic (and seemingly irrelevant-to-the-question-being-asked) swings at the local music scene here in Champaign-Urbana. He criticized bands that sign to local, independent record labels and the perhaps overly-supportive nature of local critics. His interview pretentiously focused on demeaning the way local artists here share their music, which is largely subjective. Some of his complaints may hold some truth.

But here’s something that’s definitely true: Champaign-Urbana seems to have one of the most vibrant music scenes in the entire world for a city its size. The lists of record labels, live music venues and journalistic outlets that report on music are surprisingly vast.

Citizens committed to fostering a community which is helpful to musicians and music enthusiasts alike is something that is envied by many, which Telepath seemingly doesn’t acknowledge.

Instead of this large community, he insists that the Internet is a more viable platform for music circulation and criticism. Please, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that this Internet-popular artist is spreading his music in the wrong way. Some of my favorite artists have sprouted out of the digital revolution of the music industry.

Artists such as Chance The Rapper and Vic Mensa (I like hip-hop a lot — sorry) have been reliant on platforms like Twitter, SoundCloud and Bandcamp to share their art — and that’s a perfectly legitimate medium to spread music.

Any kid with a MacBook and a microphone can drop a mix-tape or an album now, and while that certainly floods the market with content, it also creates an endlessly fascinating sea of music. It’s great.

What’s not great, however, is seeking to demean an avenue of sharing and criticizing music that is different than your own.

One of the most infuriating lines of Telepath’s interview reads: “The Internet gives bands this huge advantage to share their music for free on their own, but most of [the artists] focus on getting their salad tossed by some immediate peers or promoters, or unreasonably local terms of success.”

Cringe-city.

You see, Telepath, this situation doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive. This may be hard to believe, but an artist can both be integrated in the local music scene (playing shows and getting their albums reviewed by local media), and use the Internet as a form of marketing. In fact, nearly every local band I know does have an online presence.

There is no need to tear down all of those avenues that vary from yours. It’s simply unnecessary.

Champaign-Urbana’s musically-interested citizens continually put a lot of effort into releasing music, coming to concerts or buying albums. Honestly, I’m happy to live in a place where I can go out to live shows, see some of my friends and have a good time — not just sit on my Soundcloud endlessly digging for the perfect album to meet my specific standards (though I do that, too).

You can go out on a Saturday night in Champaign-Urbana and the chances that you’ll find a good show at The Canopy Club, Cowboy Monkey, The Highdive or Mike ‘n Molly’s are likely. Maybe even all four with an occasional outdoor concert in the summer. Because of this local focus, maybe the bands I go out to see aren’t going to be extremely critically acclaimed on the Internet — but that’s OK with me.

Have you ever seen Ryan Groff (of Elsinore) in a wig belting Whitney Houston at The Great Cover-Up? Or perhaps the way Church Booty can get an entire house party vibing? What we have here in Champaign-Urbana is something special — and even if you disagree with that, there’s no reason to crassly rip a community that is continually devoted to fostering a vibrant scene.

It’s clear that Telepath doesn’t want to be a member of Champaign-Urbana’s local music scene, and that’s fine. But tearing down those who choose to engage — and devote significant time — to such a community is careless at best and malicious at worst.

Boswell is a senior in LAS.

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