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Seattle’s Music Scene Is Broken: Here’s How We Can Begin to Fix It
We Spoke to Musicians, Talent-Buyers, Club Owners, and Leaders in the Music Community to Find Out What Happens Next
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Your favorite band is not okay.
Your favorite club is struggling to maintain staff, sell tickets, and reliably fill their calendar every month.
Rent is higher than ever; the cost of gas increased 49% in the first half of the year. The health care system continues to be a prohibitively expensive and inaccessible mess.
These problems are not unique to Seattle! Nor are they unique to the music industry. Bluntly: Shit is fucked everywhere. But Seattle was a thriving, energizing, musical city. It was synonymous with Sub Pop and KEXP. It was home to literally hundreds of rock, pop, hip-hop, soul, hardcore, metal, and experimental acts, and music fans flocked here to bear witness to the greatness that reliably rose from the damp, foggy shadows of the Pacific Northwest.
Now, venues are dark. Musicians are moving away, and those who remain are finding it harder and harder to prioritize their creative efforts over what's necessary for day-to-day survival. There's no growth. There's no energy. There are those who made it and those who did not.
It's time to turn things around. It's time to save Seattle's music scene.
Dave Segal spoke to six talent-buyers from venues, including the Crocodile, Neumos, Sunset Tavern, and the Royal Room to get the cold, hard truth about their current stressful state.
Kathleen Tarrant talked to a number of musicians who are struggling to find reliable mental health care, and how that impacts their ability to make art.
The organizers of Black Fret and SMASH, two aid organizations that launched in February 2020, share how difficult its been trying to fundraise and support artists during these volatile times, and two local musicians—one established and new to town—share their stories of how the lasting impact of the pandemic only fortified problems that existed before 2020.
But it's not all bad news! Ma’Chell Duma shares an idea that, frankly, could change the city forever—and it’s one I’ve heard others echo for years. Our music community needs the people in Seattle with money—the ones who established themselves and their businesses here because they were drawn to its energizing, melting pot of art, culture, and music—to invest back into the communities that brought them to the city in the first place.
And to see a local arts program that is working, read Matt Baume’s story about the 5th Avenue Theater’s First Draft program, an 18-month musical theater development camp that gives writers access to everything they need to develop the first draft of their musical. It offers peer support and access to workshops and meet-and-greets with industry experts. Most importantly, participants are paid for their time.
It's unanimous: Seattle’s music scene is broken. It's time to take a hard look at how we got here and ask ourselves: “What can we do to fix this?”