So, What’s Wrong With the Brooklyn Music Scene?

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04/27/2011 4:00 AM |

The issue you’re holding in your hands, or reading online (what up internet!), is obviously a celebration of the always vibrant music scene we’re lucky to have here in our city and, specifically, in Brooklyn. There is so much that is beautiful and inspiring about what happens here every day, and we’re forever grateful for it. But we’re starting to think it’s not all flowers and sunshine around here, that in a lot of very dangerous ways, we are being led, and are leading ourselves, astray. So with that, we turned to some local notables for their input. And lest you think we’re just making everyone else do our dirty work, fine, we’ll go first: So many of the young bands here seem to feel it’s their god-given right to never have anyone criticize their music, that they should be praised unconditionally for summoning the guts to have left whatever shitty town they came from in the first place to make music here at all. See? So much fun! And maybe even productive!

Jason Diamond, Editor, Vol. 1 Brooklyn

It’s something of a crime that Oneida is still around and they aren’t looked at as the best and most important band to come out of this whole Brooklyn renaissance of the last decade. I have no affiliation with the band, but I’ve watched for years as their contemporaries become famous, or far lesser bands jock their sound. That’s a shame.

Brandon Stosuy, Stereogum/The Believer

There’s something inauthentic, opportunistic, and cheesy about what’s going on in certain realms of Brooklyn right now, folks requesting “VIP” at every corner, toasting the newest flavors of the month with free, sponsored alcohol. A friend of mine who’d moved to Japan for a decade returned to the area recently, went to a couple shows, asked me why there were so many “corny” people in attendance. He was honestly shocked, which I found funny. I blamed the Internet, though who knows. I love a lot about my neighborhood, but too often it’s like 30-something’s become the new Freshman Year in college.

Pow Wow!

I can immediately sound off on certain local venues that have recently expanded and now impose a minimum number of people (let’s say 30!) that bands “have to!” draw, complete with a contract/disclaimer. A once cool art/music space has become the new Arlene’s, and we feel the DIY community aspect of booking shows has become heavily focused on money. I blame the two Duane Reades and a CVS opening up in a one 
mile circumference.

Kevin Diamond, Shark?

Brooklyn is a big pond, so being a medium-sized fish can be tough here. There’s always something cooler going on than whatever you are doing. So while it’s amazing to live in a busy, bustling pond of coolness, it can get overwhelming, and it can drown out smaller shows and events—it doesn’t matter how good the line up of your show is if Lightning Bolt is playing a garage down the street. That being said, if Lightening Bolt IS actually playing in a garage down the street, then you should go to that.

Jack “Skippy” McFadden, Tiger 
Mountain Presents

I think what’s the most frustrating with regards to career longevity is the fact that a band can have literally NOTHING recorded and just because they play a party in Williamsburg that is well attended, some agent picks them up. It’s a false weather balloon. Follow a new band like this when they go to Chicago or Philadelphia or even South Brooklyn and you’ll see that they don’t fare as well. And by the first EP, they are ‘over’.

15 Comment

  • No one said Capitalism! Greed! Capitalism!

  • I think that Carlye Wisel and Donald Rasmussen got down to the heart of it. “but to be able to stick to that sentiment and not be influenced by the hype has been difficult, and at some times, a real challenge.” This is something that most people I encounter in Brooklyn are dealing with. We want to be true to ourselves, but we’re living in a city that is constantly telling us what to like, listen to, eat, buy. And now, technology that some choose to carry around in their pockets is tracking their every move. With instant access to millions of bands one click away on your PHONE, people tend to get carried away. One click of a mouse, and everything that pops up on your computer screen was specifically put there based on bands you’ve already ‘liked.’ There is no room to be an individual; to create your own opinion based on what you’ve actually experienced. It takes less than a second to get on facebook and like one of the bands mention in the article “8 NYC Bands You Need to Hear.” And boom, you get a line up of their shows and posts from the band right on your homepage. This is all possible before anyone even takes 10 minutes out of their day to listen to a few songs by the musicians they just liked on facebook. And then there’s the pictures. Professional photographers at every show. Not taking pictures of the band performing–but of the people in the audience! Who gives a shit? So now everyone is a celebrity running around doing cocaine and having their picture snapped by a professional photographer. In my opinion, that’s what’s going on with the music scene. The people attending the shows feel that they should be as famous as the bands playing. So everyone is out there looking for the next big thing, but mostly settling for a quick fix.

  • Half of you don’t know what you’re talking about or being upright snooty about this.

    #2- This isn’t Japan. The L throw all sorts of free “alcohol sponsored” shows with great bands. What is your definition of “corny” anyway?

    #3- Very convenient to blame gentrification. A safer neighborhood. This isn’t the 80s anymore, get over it.

    #5- Some of the best bands I’ve ever seen had yet to officially put out a record. Give me one example of a real band that played “some party” in Williamsburg and then were immediately signed. Let them record a bad album and embarrass themselves or their label.

    Second to last one: There are like a zillion shows that are less than 10 bucks. Sounds like you need to look a little bit harder.

  • All u need to do is go to great resources like… to find out the myriad of free or cheap choices u have in NYC. Anyone who says there’s nothing to do in New York is either lazy, stupid, or woefully uninformed!

  • My Teenage Stride has suffered a similar fate as Oneida- better than nearly all the bands that sound like them in Brooklyn yet not as famous

  • Well, one thing everyone seems to have ignored is THE MUSIC. Maybe we should start there?

  • >So many of the young bands here seem to feel it’s their
    >god-given right to never have anyone criticize their music,
    >that they should be praised unconditionally

    Well let’s start criticizing also the L Magazine’s writers when they say stupid things like this one then. At least they get paid for writing, while criticizing an up and coming artists is like shooting on the ambulance. If you don’t like them, don’t cover them, silence and lack of an audience will speak for itself, they’ll understand.

    The only thing that’s objectively wrong with the music scene IN GENERAL is that there are too many bands, and many of them are really good, and that unfortunately the music industry can’t support lasting careers of more than a handful of really talented people. It’s sad to see incredible musicians struggle or give up doing what they were born to do.

    The rest is just opinions – there’s nothing objectively wrong with “corny people” attending gigs (Gee dudes, it’s corny even just to say that!), or agents picking up unknown bands, or venues wanting to make sure bands actually promote their shows.

    As far as the commercialization of rock music is concerned – well, it hasn’t begun this year in NYC. There’s a layer of people in the scene that “thinks commercial” in a bigger way and another that has a more moderate commercial approach (indie or DIY). The minute you sell tickets for the show you are commercial. But I mean, nobody starts in this business just for the money. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong in either approach, unless you somehow can demonstrate that you can survive and feel good about yourself without making any money.

  • I think two significant changes in the past decade have led to the “problems” described in this article. First, there are more people than ever making and performing music, and second, there are more people than ever listening to music. These have both happened because technology has eased many barriers that used to exist.

    It’s tougher than ever to find the band that’ll stick with you for a lifetime. It sounds like people are just having trouble adjusting to change, as happens with every culture shift. Let’s try and view the positive elements of all this…we have an abundance of music at our disposal, we have an abundance of web sources who try and filter out the crap for us…and it’s all free! I’m pretty happy with the state of things.


  • Yea. Too many entitled little fucking cunts who only play in bands as a means to an end. They miss the most beautiful point of all and that’s how playing in a band is an excuse to have fun with your best friends. No one wants to read your shitty little interview about your influences and no one wants to see you play for $10. People need to start rocking for the right reasons again and in Brooklyn there is pretty much none of that.
    And can we please get the fucking floor toms away from the front of the stage?

  • I’ve been seeing this go down for the last three years and frankly, I think it might have been going on for a while before I even noticed.

    The other day it dawned on me: the bubble has burst in the music industry.

    Now, even to me this idea seems ludicrous, but look, it kind of makes sense: the costs of production have gone down in every segment (production and marketing), there is so much supply that frankly most of it isn’t even that interesting. Promoters, bands and managers rely mostly on hype to get people excited about shows. It’s always about the next great thing, when it actually should be about good music and musicianship (don’t get me wrong – this trend is endemic to the music industry).

    I agree with nearly every perspective above, it makes sense in one way or another. It’s the end. It’s been the end, the bubble burst more than three years ago. On one side, we’re left with bands that chase a Brooklyn address because of the prestige such an association affords them. On the other, the people going to shows don’t seem to be all that interested in the music. Frankly, Brooklyn has been taken over by the scenesters.

  • “I’m tired of this life. I’m tired of this generation. I think it’s a suck-ass world.” ~ Bill Hicks

  • @Charlespow – #3. I think the move-in of large chains (and modifications specific to the local demographic) points to increasing commercialism / exploitation of previously untapped demographics, not gentrification. And anyway, unless you’re talking about Park Slope, the influx of people willing to pay $2k/month to live in Brooklyn are a transient population. Those people aren’t making babies (well, to full term, anyway) – they’re trust fund college kids.

    Which leads me to what I think is wrong with Brooklyn these days –

    What’s wrong with Brooklyn? Well, what’s going on in Brooklyn? These days, if it’s not twee or self-consciously noisy, and/or if it lacks at least 75% suburban white kids with average-to-moderately-attractive looks with and a stand up drummer and tons of reverb or echo on the vocals (vocals) and a keyboard, then most bloggers and venues don’t care.

    Bands line-ups/tracklists are well-curated, but the music is dispassionate and extremely calculated. It’s true, there are some polished, well-practiced groups out there. But innovative? Candid? Open? Those qualities I have rarely seen at shows in Brooklyn. The scene is anemic. How about some heart?

  • “So many of the young bands here seem to feel it’s their god-given right to never have anyone criticize their music, that they should be praised unconditionally for summoning the guts to have left whatever shitty town they came from in the first place to make music here at all.”

    The L is as guilty as many others of creating the atmosphere that breeds this sort of arrogant entitlement. You put in the time to check out these artists the hipper than thou blogosphere are always going on about and almost invariably a boring exercise in futility is the end result. Why? Well, it’s hard to be won over by many of these amateurish upstarts. (And before you get off on a

  • That actually just doesn’t make any sense. By taking the time to listen to young bands, we’re creating an environment where they feel they shouldn’t be criticized?

  • Not by listening, MC, but by over-hyping much mediocrity–and the occasional decent band.