The State of Texas Music…
I came across a few social media posts this week basically discussing the state of the Texas music, both as a whole, and it’s parts. Both posts had a fair mixture of vented-frustrations, advocacy, and questions. After a long night of tossing-and-turning, pondering all the various points of views, I decided to share my (unapologetic) thoughts on where I see the state of Texas music and where I think it’s headed. I’ll also follow it up next week with my take on the two most prominent areas of inquiry and frustration I saw: Radio Promotion & Booking
First, let’s start with a few of the points I came across in the article and give you my perspective. (I’m not linking the article because I think it was written to be purposely sensationalistic and I’d rather not give them more clicks, but I’m sure you can find it pretty easily). The author basically states that the after the rise of Jerry Jeff Walker, and then Pat Green, the scene became a joke and is now mostly garbage with a few bright spots. He bases it off of the premise that if half of the Texas Country/Red Dirt bands suck, and there is 10x as many bands in the marketplace today than there were 15 years ago, then there’s 10x as many shitty bands out there today, than there was 15/20 years ago. Couple that with the scene’s broken system and you have a joke of a music scene.
– – – So let’s start there
While I agree with the premise of oversaturation, this is just a simple case of a glass half-full/glass half-empty scenario. If half the bands suck, that means half the bands don’t, and if there is 10x as many bands, then there’s also 10x as many good bands. So feel free to take whichever perspective you’d like, but if you’re a person who cares about music and takes the time to find the good stuff, then you’re actually better off as a consumer than you were 15/20 years ago.
So has Texas Country/Red Dirt gotten progressively worse since the Pat Green era? Well I think to answer that, you have to first make the distinction of what Texas Country/Red Dirt was 15/20 years ago and what it is today. The most noticeable difference is the amount of genre’s that now seem to fit under the umbrella. The scene has most definitely evolved in musical stylings, diversity, and variety. There are plenty of today’s bands who don’t really fit under the labeling of “Texas Country” in the traditional sense: either because they’re not really based out of Texas, or because they’re not a country band. Terms “Texas Country” and “Red Dirt” have really just become representative terms of a scene with it’s own charts, venues, festivals, radio promoters, booking agents, and die-hard fans, rather than the description of the genre. So you can certainly make an argument about the terms being inaccurate or antiquated, but at the end of the day does anyone really care that much about what it is called? (Maybe a few, but for the most part I don’t think it really matters to the majority.)
Not only have we grown out of a specific genre, our scene is also no longer bound to a limited geographical area. We’ve expanded to include artists from, or based out of, Oklahoma, Louisiana, New Mexico, Missouri, and Kansas, and we’ve also become 2nd homes to acts like Sean McConnell and American Aquarium (and plenty of others), who are based out of completely different areas. Go look at the schedule of our mid and upper tier acts and you’re likely to find dates all over the country, and maybe even overseas. Hell we even have Texas music festivals in London, Ireland, and Mexico now, and while there may be some pushback from some people who aren’t necessarily on board with the expansion, the vast majority can see the big picture at hand.
So our scene is definitely different in musical stylings, the amount of current artists, and geographic size than it was 15/20 years ago, but there’s nothing to suggest that’s it’s actually worse; in fact it’s probably better. Sure there’s been plenty of redundancy, over-used gimmicks, cliche’s, pandering, imitation, etc… over the years (just like every other industry), but there’s also been a lot innovation, evolution, and expansion. With the emergence of Bro-Country in Nashville, it actually gave rise to our scene by being the antithesis and provided a clear example of what kind of music not to make. Over the last 15 years our scene has produced some AMAZING artists and music, and by listening to the catalogue of some of the up-and-coming artists, it’s evident that there’s going to be no problem keeping, and expanding, our scene’s integrity and popularity (IMO). Hell in the last 2 months, I’ve come across 4 fantastic albums from up-and-comers alone. Go listen to John Baumann’s “Proving Grounds”, Dalton Domino’s “Corners”, Kody West’s “Green”, and Eddie Saenz’s “17 Hours” and then come back to me and tell me our scene is devolving. The fact that I can give you 4 fantastic full-length albums from up-and-comers, in just the last 2 months, I think speaks for itself.
Here’s my take: As far as the music goes, there’s plenty of good stuff out there, and if you can’t find it, that’s your own damn fault. Trying looking a little harder I guess, but it’s definitely out there; and there’s an abundance of it. Our scene will only continue to grow and provide artists, and fans, a place for REAL and independent music to thrive! There’s going to be plenty of people who “don’t get it”, and plenty of artists who choose to go the opposite direction,…and that’s fine. We don’t care. We have our music, our venues, our artists, and our community and we’re doing just fine with out you! There’s a bigger picture evolving here, and we like where it’s headed! Sure we have some shitty bands, and acts who don’t live up to the musical standards we’d like to see our scene synonymous with, but we’re also producing a lot of great artists and some fantastic music and there’s nothing to indicate that it is stopping anytime soon.
So what about the current system? The charts, radio promotion, talent buyers, etc..? Is it broken? How do you navigate it? Where is it headed?
I’m currently working on a piece that covers that and should have it out next week!