No matter what you are in to, there will always be a sense of elitism you cannot avoid. This includes local music in Wichita, Kansas. Being involved in local music for as long as I have, there are some things you just get used to. People involved in music in Wichita have a strong sense of community.
Wichita is the largest “small-town” in Kansas. What I mean by that is that even though that Wichita is technically the largest city in Kansas, it still has a small town vibe. There are about a dozen established places that host live music. About half of those are +21 or older bar venues that pay decently well. The rest are house shows or coffee/donut businesses. Once you start dividing up the music scene, (that is already pretty small) it only seems smaller. Some venues only want 1 band that plays covers all night. So now there are only so many cover bands. Because they play shows without sharing the bill with other bands, there generally is no camaraderie with original bands, as there is no need. #betterthanyou
There are some musicians that only want to play a gig if they get paid, so they avoid certain venues. Some venues don’t have their own P.A. so bands that play there are often acoustic. Some bands simply view their band “for fun” and don’t always mix well with bands that are trying to run themselves like a business. #betterthanyou
And then there is the conflict of genre. I’ve played some gigs where we were the only NON-metal band playing. Normally I’d find comradery with fellow musicians. However, the reality is that when metal bands are playing, metal fans are mostly the ones who show up. Generally, a non-metal band does not stand much to gain from playing such a gig. Most people in the crowd will not appreciate your music as much. #betterthanyou
There are a few venues that won’t even respond to your gig request unless you have played at other venues first to prove yourself. Then there is drama of certain people not liking other people. After all these divisions, there is really about 3-4 circles of 5-6 bands (per circle) that constantly play with each other. When those bands break up, the members just find other members of recently broken up bands from the same circles and make a new band.
It is because of all these divisions caused by the #betterthanyou mentality that getting started and moving forward with bands in Wichita has become somewhat difficult. You have to be in some circle to get gigs with other bands. Those circles will determine what venues you play. All of this limits each bands potential locally.
I may be just going out on a limb here, but perhaps its a division of musically educated here in Wichita. Those with actual college degrees in music theory or performance. Perhaps its a mind set that comes naturally when educated people interact with uneducated people. Maybe disdain comes naturally when somebody disagrees with what you are most passionate about.
It is my opinion that our music scene is too small to deal with these nuances. It is not strong enough to survive so many divides. It may be difficult for more privileged bands to take gigs with the “inferiors”. Maybe your band is “too good” to play with them. But the scene suffers because of it. Most of the fans that see your shows are also musicians in local bands. Can you really afford to make enemies in such a small and divided local music community? How much is there for you to gain by reaching across circles? Think of the fans you would gain.
A lot of the fans and supporters of local music are musicians in other bands. But as fans, they should try to be more accepting of other types of bands and other genres. Imagine how much brighter and lucrative it would be for local venues.
I’m not saying you need to buy their merch and like their music. But I am saying that they still deserve respect and should be treated professionally.
Treating some people with respect and denying it to others creates these circles of bands. In order to play with one of these bands, you must first join the circles. Making our music scene cliquey is not making it easier for the “inferior” bands to succeed. It isn’t helping them get gigs or get heard by the rest of the scene. This “us and them” bullshit gets old fast and bands are breaking up, or some people learn to hate the bands in the circle. Either way, the scene gets smaller and more difficult to participate.
In a way, being an elitist is beneficial. It pushes others to improve and rewards those who put a lot of attention to detail. When practiced in moderation, being told to “get on my level” isn’t that bad all in all. It is only when practiced in a ruthlessly exclusive way, that the outer circle of the music scene eventually turns against you. Eventually it just limits how far every band in Wichita can really go.
I want to avoid the rut of the same people playing with the same bands at the same venues. Don’t be so afraid to mix it up.