Re-mapping the local musical ecosystem – Tone Madison

Madison Concert Halls began the process of gradual reopening this year, with varying degrees of precautions and enforcement put in place. But even the most concentrated efforts cannot eliminate all risks – we still see reports of local emissions linked to positive COVID-19 tests – and local music as a whole has felt alienated from its live moorings. in 2021, just like she did in 2020. As someone who has found a purpose in attending and playing shows, it is quite clear to me that the cumulative effect of the pandemic still weighs heavily. on our music community. Now was the time to offer a reflection on Madison’s musical changes in 2021.

With uncertainty dominating over organizational ends, it’s no surprise that more and more musicians are turning to self-liberation. Everyone is hit hard, so even bands that have the option to release through a label, as was the case with the recent one. at home with… And Dirtnap Records — there are built-in timelines when it comes to making a recording public. Tighter funding for theaters, labels and creative teams is not a new phenomenon, but over the past two years extreme financial strains have become the norm. And it has become much more restrictive. Artists like Proud Parents have taken on this challenge by leaning more into a DIY approach out of necessity and zeal for the music itself.

Predictably enough, a number of artists from the DIY punk scene have gone through the current adjustment period well. Graham Hunt, Cal Lamore and Tyler Fassnacht of Proud Parents have all had their names attached to an impressive number of local releases in 2021, positioning themselves firmly at the center of Madison’s indie-punk community. These changes have not only been isolated in one genre, as a number of Madison’s jazz, metal, and experimental artists have reached state and country borders more frequently for collaborators; the growing emphasis on virtual partnerships has given many more leeway for creative digital exploration.

Within these virtual partnerships lies the foundation of a framework that offers enticing possibilities to both musicians and listeners. By taking the distant road, there is a small but important chance that we may see, collectively, a lesser emphasis on access; the kind of geographic privilege that previously elevated acts in major media markets like LA and NYC wouldn’t carry as much weight. [Editor’s note: as someone who has lived in both Brooklyn and Madison, I’ve experienced the differences firsthand and they’re notable.] While it was inevitable that musicians in larger markets would still have a geographic advantage (access to a multitude of publicists, high traffic publications, increased networking, high visibility venues, etc.), the rules of the game could begin to be gradually balanced. Listeners, in turn, might also see more opportunities for exposure to artists that they would otherwise have a minimal chance of meeting through the collaboration. Strengthening the symbiotic and community traits inherent in music in general opens an important door to the expansion of diversity at the micro and macro levels.

On the issue of diversity, the 2021 Economic Impact Report on Equity in Madison’s Music Community showed more than ever that Madison has an extremely disheartening problem. Our article, “Music in Madison Can Pay, If You’re White and Not a Musician,” which summarized the findings of this report, perfectly summed up one of the most striking factors in this problem in the title. While Madison’s institutions and systems masquerade as progressives while fiercely struggling against progressive practices – or actively pushing them back through hyper-corporate fetishism – are nothing new, they still pose a surprising threat to the achievement of true equity. Funding opportunities in Madison, and in particular Madison’s music, always greatly favor nationally backed mega-entities over local and independent perspectives.

We’ve had almost two years to think about how to provide more support to smaller names and we’re still pretty much where we were at the start of 2020, except now independent operations are under pressure. even greater financial. Whether we like to admit it or not, our local music ecosystem still faces the looming possibility of disturbing results. We should all be thankful that Madison’s musicians seem determined to keep the city’s spark of independent musical creativity alive. If the larger systems around them aren’t there to nurture that spark in a flame, 2021 has amply proven that there are still people – and places, if they survive – who will and will do so. responsible, even in the face of great personal cost. Our greatest hopes have never rested on national recognition but on local achievements. In 2021, the musicians of Madison reminded us of what this achievement can look and sound like.

This year has proven to be critical for Madison’s music, not only because of the accomplishments or stark callbacks of work yet to be done, but because of the collective knowledge gleaned across that spectrum. We have come to a precipice and if we are to move forward instead of idling we need to invest more in local music. A week of intensive Tone Madison a blanket honoring and reflecting on its merits won’t do much to address the underlying structural issues, but we hope it helps. The enormous, intrinsic and intangible value of our local music community deserves all the support it can get.


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