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Choosing The Right Location

January 10, 2012

For some bands there must come a time to make a life changing decision: to move to a bigger city or stick it out and try and make it work in their current location. There are a lot of band who make this choice and for a lot of good reasons. Unless you already live in a major city with a dense population it is almost a certainty that making this move will be necessary unless you have a lot of good luck.

With a larger city comes a larger fanbase and a greater number of people who are now much more accessible to you. The drawback to this is an obvious increase in competition as well as being new to the scene forcing you to start at square one. A way to protect against this though is to move where you have already built a fanbase. Travel and play shows frequently at your soon to be new home to establish yourself in the market before permanently changing.

The most obvious question for if one plans to move is when. Like almost everything related to music there is no formula to determine when the correct time, you just have to trust your instincts. The best guideline for this would be once you have plateaued in current region and can no longer grow. Moving to a larger city will facilitate this need though it can also be met by touring and reaching out to other markets with publicity.

An often overlooked aspect to moving to a major city is the people who live there, not only the fans but the industry people. A lot of things like record labels, publishing companies, booking agents and even sponsors tend to be located in the larger cities. While it is by no means a guarantee to gain access to these things by going to where they are it does improve your odds of getting their attention.

There are pros and cons to moving and maybe it isn’t the right move for your band but if you plan to be a professional musician you need to go to where the work is. I once heard a line similar to this which sums up the argument pretty nicely: You don’t hear about shipbuilders complaining about the lack of work in Alberta.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 10, 2012 12:41 PM

    A good article. I’ll weigh my experience from 5 years in Toronto in on this one. If you think your regional east coast venue or scene is tough or cut-throat, then you likely have no idea what living and trying to establish yourself in the big cities can be like. (Disclaimer: this was one of the reasons I moved to Halifax – it was an attractive compromise between Toronto and living closer to Charlottetown, where I was raised).

    1) Promoters and booking agents for the smallest of venues often want a guaranteed draw – “Can you get at least 30 people through the door?” is a question I was asked a lot. These venues will likely work their own door and give you a cut, so they will be counting. This can pose a moral dilemma; if you are unsure but say “Yes” and less than 30 people show up, you may have burned bridges with that venue. If you say “No”, you likely won’t get the night anyway. You might have 30 or more friends and fans in the new city, but will they all travel across the city to see you play on a given night?

    2) Because of the overwhelming amount of players in ‘the game’, which includes artists and business-people alike, the people you meet are generally more leery about your pitch. They won’t necessarily show this outwardly, but often times other bands that have been slogging it out in the city for a while and have played around aren’t looking for new friends to share coffee-house gigs with; they themselves want to get on a bill with a larger act and are making their own pitches daily to more successful bands. However, the style of music you play can have a large role in determining how much of this posturing you encounter. Some musical styles breed scenes that are generally more supportive than say, commercial hard rock.

    All of this is really to re-enforce how much tougher it can be to get off of square one and start building some momentum in a big city. “Big fish, little pond” and “Little fish, big pond” apply very much to this debate. Unless you’re moving for a job you just can’t turn down, or the adventure of living in the big city is attractive, be cognizant of the fact that building a fan base in Atlantic Canada will likely be easier if you are a ‘good’ band. Take that leverage and, like Hassan says, maybe dip your foot into the waters of the big city and test the warmth a few times first.

  2. January 11, 2012 1:29 PM

    Thanks for this post – really informative, and current for us. We are a folk\rock\electronic trio based in London. And everything that is mentioned in both of the above posts is relevant to us. It has been so important to live near gigging venues and specific “scenes” to get our foot in the door. And of course you are near so many important facilities and music business people. I think sometimes we take that for granted. There are also some very good music business conferences held here, which is another plus for being in this city.

    Funnily enough we are considering moving to Canada (Toronto area) and are going to be visiting there in time for the North by North East music festival, to dip our toes in the water and see if our music takes hold.

    I totally agree that as a band you need to hook onto a scene, and this scene will open up all new opportunities. I also feel this scene has to be something you believe in, because you will be representing them. And this will be your niche market! And once you have established your niche, I believe you can live anywhere. As long as you tour and play live for your people often, and have a very strong internet presence.

    Well, this is our plan anyway!

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