Incubating the Scene with DIY All-Ages Venues

Music scenes play an important role in a city’s consumption-driven, artisan economy. Is a successful local band that finds a national audience through touring and selling its recordings much different than a local microbrewery that finds a robust regional, then national consumer base? Both operate in a business climate dominated by corporate entities and utilize Do-It-Yourself (DIY) initiative, inexpensive technological tools, and a close allegiance between artisan and consumer to succeed.

Like those behind the scenes at microbreweries, bands develop by constantly honing their craft, learning the business by doing, and interacting with fellow musicians in social and performance settings. DIY all-ages venues facilitate this development and are important ingredients in music scenes. Whether it’s a long-running house venue, marginalized industrial space, or erstwhile commercial storefront, DIY all-ages venues serve as talent incubators offering space to perform, socialize, and network while operating on a largely volunteer basis without the complexities involved with selling alcohol.

The now legendary Metropolis in Seattle and the Cog Factory in Omaha were both DIY all-ages venues that helped scene participants develop their skills as band members, booking agents, photographers, label owners, and graphic designers. These venues were ground zero for music scenes that helped brand their cities as culturally engaging while the talent that played and volunteered at them went on to sell millions of albums, found iconic record labels, and have successful careers in both cities’ creative workforces.

How do you create a DIY all-ages venue in your city? Luckily, a step-by-step guide of best practices is available from the non-profit All-Ages Movement Project. In Every Town: An All-Ages Music Manualfesto is REQUIRED reading if you want to start a venue or if you just want a better understanding of the value music scenes and DIY all-ages venues hold for a community. With detailed case studies of successful venues across the country, the reader gets a glimpse of how DIY all-ages venues are not only great incubators for music scenes, but can also host after-school programs, house writing workshops, develop technical skills, and contribute to the political awareness of community members.

So, the next time you go see a band at that house show a friend of a friend runs or at the former industrial space seemingly held together by duct tape and sheer determination, remember… maybe you are hearing the sound of your city getting ready for the future.

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3 thoughts on “Incubating the Scene with DIY All-Ages Venues

  1. Thanks for this post. I checked out the link on Metropolis in Seattle. It seems every movement needs a center, a place to connect face to face, where those in the movement can learn the rituals and language of opposition, and where they can make the connections to become participants. Metropolis, in particular, seems to have been this place for the 80’s grunge scene in Seattle. And from such humble beginnings came a music that would reshape the tone and structure of global music.

  2. Pingback: We Are City Summit | Provocate | educate ♦ participate ♦ provocate

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