MDN: Editorial: Listen to What Musicians Say, as Well as What They Play
“If you are looking for what has become of the troubadour – or where the troubadour lives when he or she isn’t on the road less traveled – you are in his or her capital.
It’s hard to think of anyone able to make a living as a musician today in Memphis who isn’t totally consumed by it, immersed in all of it.
That doesn’t mean they have their head in the clouds: It’s consumed as in how to continue to pay the bills, keep working and watch closely for a steady situation to change at any point. And then advance what they are doing creatively and make that growth part of what they do for a living.
Along with playing Mustang Sally one more time. Or a band of four playing for a house of three and a bartender on a slow night.
No one is going to mistake Memphis for an industry town. And there are a number of creative reasons why that probably wouldn’t work.
There are vivid examples of local government trying to create the industry here that show the folly of that approach. It is one reason we think disbanding the Memphis Music Commission was the right move, at least for now.
The music business probably has its own bureaucracy. If it does, it has no resemblance to what the masters of bureaucracy in government create.
It doesn’t take a lot of detective work to discover that Memphis is brimming with good live music, which we tend to take for granted. It is a quality that would cause the live music scene in most other cities to pawn their guitars and Casios en masse.
As the larger region continues to rediscover Memphis, the live music scene is blossoming, with stages sprouting up all over town.
But just like all of the other efforts underway in our city, the challenge is not to maintain that. The challenge is to use that to grow in new directions.
Efforts like The Consortium Memphis Music Town and Memphis Slim Collaboratory, mentioned in our cover story, are part of the push to a new direction.
To be sure, this has been trial and error over many years when it was assumed just saying Memphis music, staging a free showcase of the safe stuff in which the musicians also played for free and putting up a few posters would work its magic.
This is hard work on numerous fronts. And the musicians who have endured and become institutions in our city have already put in a lot of it.
It’s time for those who profess to support them to listen to what they say, as well as what they play.”