Rural bands have it tough. A lot of times big tours don’t hit you and often there isn’t enough of a population density to have any sort of tangible scene. A lot of bands who have a great sound and a lot of passion find themselves having a hard time because they are in a remote area that makes it difficult for them to get good opening slots with any regularity. This is something I see coming up all the time. So I wanted to talk about how this can actually be used to your advantage and how being a rural-based band is in some ways more of a blessing than anyone might otherwise realize. Though you may have to make the scene come to you, you have minimal competition, which means you can be the best thing going on a Friday night in your town and consequently you can build up a devout home base that will always support you.
4. You Have To Make The Scene Come To You
This is the key thing about being in a smaller town – you are going to need to book bands yourself. On the plus side – the DIY community has a long history of bands who have risen up by doing just this. From Corrosion of Conformity to Oxalate, many of the biggest bands in the history of rock and metal started as guys who would bring bands they wanted to see to their hometowns and then gave themselves the opening slots. The thing is though – DIY bands want to play more shows, booking agents want bands to play more shows, if you are willing to take the risk and book something meaningful – guess what? It will pay off. Maybe not right away – but you CAN build.
3. You Have No Competition
This is the big one if you are booking in say… Eastern Washington state, you have minimal competition. There aren’t a lot of people booking shows in Tacoma so why not make a point of being that person? It can help to break up drives, especially if you can help put an extra few hundred bucks into the touring bands pocket. The thing is – the audience for underground music is often bigger than you think. Places starved for the arts tend to siphon off elitists, because if you want to see, for instance, a heavy show, you don’t have the luxury of choosing a hardcore show this week over a sludge metal show the next. So you can easily crawl to the top of your local scene.
2. You Are The Best Thing Going – And Have The Most Freedom
In other words – you are becoming a big fish in a small pond. The beauty of this is that, it’s generally cheaper to live in rural areas. This only helps your band because it means you can tour more since you need less money to live on. That’s why there are so many solid bands that emerge from the deep South or Midwest because they were able to cut their teeth and not worry about bleeding on rent. It’s why New York City has so few good bands emerging these days – people have to work all the time in order to maintain any sort of standard of living. So you have an ability to tour and hit the road in a way that many of your peers could never dream of.
1. You Can Build A Devout Home Scene
This is, of course, the final key. Rural cities have a lot of hometown pride. If you can become the hometown heroes, not only will you get every opening slot, but you can use your hometown as a resource that will support you even when your band is in a lull. Look at how Every Time I Die have their own day in Buffalo where people come from all over the world to see them! Or on a much lower level; 20 Watt Tombstone has been able to cultivate a great local audience, in goddamn Wisconsin! What it means is that they have protected their line of supply, they’ve built up a strong hometown presence and it will pay off time and time again. So embrace the rural – it’s your only hope!
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Matt Bacon is a consultant, A&R man, and journalist specializing in the world of heavy metal. Having worked with everyone from Glam Rock icon Phil Collen of Def Leppard, to post Black Metal titans Alcest, by way of legendary thrashers Exhorder as well as labels including Prophecy Productions and Ripple Music, he has dedicated his life to helping young bands develop. Having started his own blog at the age of 14 he views his career in artist development as ‘a hobby that got out of hand’. In 2015 he formed Dropout Media in order to better support the artists he loves. We sit here now, years later with countless tours booked, records released and deals signed, and loving every minute of it.
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