Curing the Relocation Blues

While moving to a new place can be motivated by a new job, an educational opportunity, or simply a search for something better, it tends to have the same end result. You’ve left your comfort zone, the place where you’re known and familiar with, in favor of many unknowns, uncertainties and a new adventure – if you can spin it that way. For a musician, moving brings it’s own worries, anxieties, excitement, and an inevitable period of downtime from the gig circuit. If you’re like most musicians, performing is a need, not simply an “it would be nice to . . .” and as the boxes are unpacked, your instrument keeps talking to you from the corner, begging for attention. Making time to practice helps take the edge off, but you feel the need to get out there and get back into performing, playing with others and being involved in the musical community. But how? You have no contacts, aren’t known and don’t know where to go for help. The good news is that there are resources out there to help you find your way into the new local music scene, whether you are a pro, semi-pro, weekend warrior, hobbyist or somewhere in between.

Scouting out the local music stores is a good place to start. Logically enough, the Yellow Pages and your computer are good places to find what stores are in your area and how to get to them. You’re going to want to know this anyway, since you’ll inevitably end up needing either supplies or repairs at some point or other, so any way you look at it it’ll be time well spent. Take a notebook with you, or something that you can store information in, and if you’re feeling confident some self-promotional fliers to post. Most music stores have bulletin boards where musicians can contact other musicians. They’re used by bands looking for members, advertising gigs or CD releases, or by musicians looking for duo partners or whatever else they need. While you’re there, check out the store and the equipment lines they carry. It’ll give you a feel about whether the store can help you in the future. Talk to the sales staff and let them know that you’re new to the area. Usually these people can provide a wealth of information, and it’s in their best interest to help you out – it’s how they build relationships with customers who will happily conduct business with them in the future. Find out if they handle equipment repairs and if they know of any open mics in the area or other ways to meet players.

Open mikes are a great way to meet other musicians and start to network. As mentioned above, you can find out about the local ones from the music store staff or you can hop online and find listings on the inter-net from sites like http://openmikes.org/. Find out where the ones are that are going to fit your playing styles/interests and show up early. Most open mike hosts have-sign up sheets, and if it’s a popular one the sign-up sheet can fill up fairly quickly. Some don’t use a sheet; the host keeps his or her eyes open and notes who comes in with an instrument. It’s always a good idea to introduce yourself to the host and ask what the procedure is to play. Never expect that you’ll necessarily get up on stage, but always hope to. If you get your spot, don’t change your mind and bow out, do it. Most open mikes are nurturing situations that encourage beginners to get up and play as well as seasoned players. Others aren’t quite as tolerant. Get a feel for the situation, and as usual bring something to write with. You’re there to have fun, but also to make contacts. Bring some cards with whatever contact information you’re comfortable passing out. Introduce yourself to players, pass out the cards and see if you can get contact information. If you get a chance to play, do your best but remember to let the others on stage have their chance as well.

So, you’ve done some ground pounding by scouting the music stores, posting fliers, and attending a few open mikes. There are still some other options available to you, not the least of which is the internet. There are many web sites dedicated to helping people find other people, and many of those cater to musicians, artists, and writers. Craigslist (www.craigslist.org) is a great resource for quite a few urban areas across the country, especially areas that tend to be more technologically savvy. You can post, reply and read musical want ads from the comfort of your home, request information about the scene: you name it; it’s there. This can be a great asset, especially since it’s free and covers areas from national to local. There are other sites which serve smaller and more localized areas, and there are also pay to use sites that perform the same services but charge subscription fees.

If you choose to post on one of these sites, there are several things to consider. First of all, it’s always a good idea to avoid directly posting your contact information. Remember that when you post you’re taking a risk – no one else is screening the replies you get, so take advantage of whatever anonymity protection the site can give you. Don’t post your address, and try to keep private information secure. Using the anonymous aspect gives you a buffer so you can decide whom you want to take a risk on in replies and further contact. What type of thing should go in your posting? Primarily what you are looking for and what you have to offer. Focus on your abilities and what you want to find, not your equipment. False modesty isn’t your friend here, but neither is over-stating your abilities. If you successfully make a contact, or get an audition, you’re going to have to deliver what you said you would.

While the internet is a great resource, not everywhere you might relocate to is a hot-bed of technological prowess. Another less technological resource is the local entertainment newspaper. Many urban areas have their own independent entertainment publications which feature arts calendars giving the lowdown on what’s going on in the local music, art, theater and cultural scenes. There are frequently advertising sections related to musicians seeking musicians and a whole lot of live music venue advertisements as well. These can help you ascertain just how active the local scene is, what venues cater to different types of music, and help you find places to catch local and national acts performing.

Depending on your perspective, another way to get involved is to find a music teacher and take some lessons. Most of us could use a touch up or two in some area of our playing, or have an area we’re interested in that we haven’t worked on. Finding a teacher can help you address these aspects, as well as provide you with a resource to find people to work with. Your local music store is a good place to start for this, or contacting the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) local can help you find a teacher too.

Some might find joining the AFM useful, particularly if you’re planning on going pro or semi-pro. While the union has nowhere near the presence it did years ago, it’s still the only way to get into certain types of musical work. The union can provide many things such as access to playing in musical theater, pro recording situations, built in networking, contracts, legal representation and all sorts of other benefits. The national website is http://www.afm.org/. From there you can find your nearest local.

While moving can interrupt your musical life, it’s not necessarily the end. In fact it can often lead to a much better situation, and help you to focus on what your actual musical needs are. Whatever the reason for the move, there are resources available like local music stores, open mics, entertainment weeklies, websites, instructors, and even the musicians’ union that can help you reconnect and cure your relocation blues.

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