VOL. 10 | NO. 45 | Saturday, November 4, 2017
The Memphis News Editorial
Editorial: Memphis Music Due For Grass Roots Push
Marketing a city to potential vacationers is about appealing to short-time visitors: those who will stay for a few days or a week, then go home again. It focuses on what to see, where to go and what to do in a tight timeframe, and often boils down to marketing the most-recognizable tourist spots.
But when a city known for its music promotes its ongoing creative legacy – and invites the world to explore whether they could be a part of that legacy for the long term – the story unfolds in a new way.
Memphis music reaches much farther than many of us realize, but sometimes the local connection gets lost in the shuffle. When music reaches out and touches a listener, their first question isn’t, “Where did this come from?”
It’s up to Memphis to let them know.
The television show “Nashville” was a walking, talking promotion for that city every time the plot took a break. Viewers saw ads for the Bluebird and other music venues, along with commercial-sized blasts about the city’s music heritage. It was a constant, unspoken invitation: Come to Nashville as a tourist for a week, or come for the long term and build your music career here.
Where was that during “Sun Records”? The production made quite a splash locally, but that attention should have been pointed equally in the other direction – at those outside Memphis. The opportunity for promotion didn’t come down to the storyline and characters, but rather to what should have happened during the commercial breaks of a show built around Memphis music.
When a listener connects with music, it creates an acceptance and trust that’s so much stronger than an advertisement in a stack of pitches. It’s about finding a song, a band or even a single lyric that mirrors one’s experience. Their pain, their joy, their uncertainty. It’s personal to the listener and the artist.
Memphis isn’t a music industry town, as it’s traditionally defined. But the trade-off – besides the lower cost of living – is that artists aren’t an interchangeable cog in an industry machine.
What you create is yours, on your own terms. You can find that balance between staying true to your creative roots and staying afloat financially.
And you can create music that’s personal and truly connects.
Memphis’ dynamic music scene runs the gamut from timeless to the cutting edge of hipsterness. Nevertheless, the city can make more of an effort to tie those individual stories together and show the sum is so much greater than its parts.
Such an effort has the makings of a grass roots revival that isn’t concerned with music industry categories but allows rising artists to carry their talent to the next level with recordings and other merchandise. That can further spread the seeds of a creative environment that, at its best, speaks to all and is open to all.