Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Why it's a good time to be a musician in Dallas

I've always been a natural optimist. But when it comes to the music industry, especially over the last decade, I've been far too pessimistic. On any given day you could hear me complaining about the proliferation of mediocre artists online who muddy the waters for the "good" artists; about the lack of gatekeepers and culture-makers; about the impossibility of making any money; about the attitudinal shift of our generation that no longer values music as something worth paying for -- the list could go on. So today, I'm going to focus on the full half of the glass and write about some positive things -- a few reasons why right now is a good time to be a musician, particularly a musician in the Dallas area.
Here goes:

1. This was the year of Adele.

File:Adele 2009.jpg
Adele is awesome. That is all.
(photo attribution here)
True, this was also a big year for Katy Perry and other traditional pop stars, but the huge popularity of Adele's music is restoring my faith in the tastes of the music-buying public, and could pave the way for more record labels to sign artists like Adele now that the popularity of her music has been proven. Adele combines excellent, raw vocals, great songwriting, a warm, vintage tone, beats you want to dance to, and melodies that make you cry. And she's the real deal; her live performances are every bit as good as the recordings. True, other artists that combine sincerity, great musicianship, and fantastic writing have found success this year, including The Civil Wars, Robert Plant and the Band of Joy, Mumford and Sons and other acoustic acts that favor musicianship over auto-tuned vocals. However, I tend to single Adele out because she seems to be so universally liked. There's no one I've asked who doesn't like her music -- and that applies to people who are fans of artists from Katy Perry to Taylor Swift to Led Zeppelin. This is why she's powerful -- she's exposing fans of all sorts of music to something truly good, which may lead them to try more good stuff. It's kind of like converting a Bud Light drinker to fine wine -- Adele is the sweet, yet full Cabernet Sauvignon that eases the transition into other wines.  Now I'm probably sounding snobby, so I'll give it a rest. Adele is awesome. That's pretty much all there is to it.

2. KXT

For Dallas musicians and fans of great music alike, KXT is what we've been praying for. The listener-supported public music station (like KERA but with music), airing on 91.7, celebrated two years on the air in 2011, and this is a great sign, because it shows that, even in the midst of difficult economic times, listeners have kept the station going. KXT plays all sorts of music. Sometimes its eclecticism is too much for me (I'm not a big fan of 80s pop or reggae) but I'm happy to take those few songs I don't particularly care for if it means I can hear a mix of all the artists I just cited above, plus the Beatles, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Bob Dylan, Counting Crows, and a mix of local artists like Seryn, who I wouldn't have heard of had it not been for KXT.  The local artist bit may be the best feature for people like me, who happen to be local artists. KXT accepts music submissions -- not something many stations can do -- and proudly supports local music. Maybe 2012 will be the year you will tune in and hear Girl on a String over the airwaves.

3. Art House Dallas

2011 marked the 1-year anniversary for the arrival of Art House Dallas on the arts/music scene here in DFW and the 20th anniversary for its parent organization, Art House America, based in Nashville. The goal of Art House America is "cultivating creative community for the common good." They do this through concerts, monthly pub gatherings, songwriting workshops and workshops for all sorts of creative types, quarterly book discussions, and social networking. I attended a discussion of Francis Schaeffer's Art and the Bible, and I immediately felt like I had come home to people who were like-minded. If you are a Christian and an artist and feel that you're not sure how your calling fits in to the world when it's hard to make money and the church at large isn't always as supportive of the arts as it could be, Art House Dallas is the place for you to find encouragement, friends, and opportunities. Check out their website, because they express it better than I could.

4. Learning opportunities for young musicians: DBU

Yes, I'm biased because DBU is my alma mater, but in the 10-years since I entered their brand new music business program, DBU has grown in ways that would have been hard to imagine when I was completing my college recording projects in a tiny studio in the basement of the library with 1 computer, a microphone and pro-tools. The university as a whole continues to deepen its academic rigor and add to the beauty of the architecture on campus and the quality of the resources available to students, but the biggest change for music business majors is the state-of-the-art recording studio they finished this year. (Read all about this amazing studio here.) Now, if you are a young, Dallas musician looking for a great education in the music industry, you truly don't need to go to Nashville or LA -- everything you need is in this small Dallas liberal-arts school. And the liberal-arts part is important, because you don't merely learn technical skills -- you learn how to use your mind -- and that helps with any job you end up with (just in case you don't make money as a musician -- not that I'd know anything about that... :))

So there you have it: a few reasons for Dallas musicians to be optimistic about what the future holds. I can't wait to add to this list -- is there anything you would add?


  1. Thanks for this, Christine; it was an enjoyable read!

    I would add that it's a good time to be a musician in Dallas because The Pearl--best blues/jazz bar in town---recently reopened!

    PS. My roommate and another friend of mine are gonna try and go next Friday (Friday the 13th... oooh, I just realized that...). You and Adam should come!

  2. Great read, Christine. I saved KXT & Art House Dallas websites to my Evernote for future use!

    Thanks, you've encouraged me with your down-to-earth honesty.

    Press on!