Houston is an amazing city in many ways, and can legitimately boast of its diverse population, a great museum district, and other things that make it a great place to live, but its live music scene rarely gets the credit that it should. The Bayou City has had great local bands and venues stretching back many decades, with legendary venues like the Axiom and Rudyards having hosted countless hard working Houston bands. But the fact remains that Houston doesn't often get included in lists of great American music cities, and it sometimes feels like playing and watching bands play here is more difficult than it has to be. Here are a few things that I think need to change if we want Houston to become a better place for bands to play and audiences to see them.
5. WALKABLE MUSIC DISTRICTS
Houston is huge, and while that has resulted in lots of unique neighborhoods for people to explore, it makes spending a night out going from venue to venue a difficult or dangerous proposition. Houston is just so big that venues are spread out, and folks wanting to see certain bands might have to drive long distances to make that happen. Unlike other great live music cities, there aren't really any areas of town where lots of music venues are near enough for fans of live music to wander around looking for a new band to discover. One district with an abundance of venues near each other would be good, but in a city this big it would be better to have more than one. A related issue is next on this list.
4. A BETTER WAY TO GET TO AND FROM VENUES
Perhaps some day in the future Houston will have a light-rail system that can shuttle late-night music fans from one end of the city to another with a minimum of trouble, but until that happens getting to and from shows can be a hassle. Another possibility would be a city-sponsored program allowing concertgoers to get a discounted rate on taxis. Houston should acknowledge that live music is an important part of the cultural landscape of a world-class city, and work to address the problems inherent with getting to venues in a city this size.
3. PEOPLE NEED TO BE WILLING TO GO OUT TO SHOWS MORE, AND BEHAVE BETTER WHEN THEY DO
Houston offers a lot of things to do, and plenty of people who are highly involved in the local scene — as members of bands, people promoting and putting on shows, and going out to see music live. I've been guilty of skipping performances by local bands I know I'd enjoy simply because making excuses not to go is easy a lot of the time. Those logistical issues I mentioned earlier are one reason people I know skip going out, but a lively music scene needs people willing to invest the time and effort to go out and see shows. I also hear a lot of feedback from friends complaining about the behavior of some audience members when they go to shows, and it's something that can sour people on the idea of seeing local bands.
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SHOW ME HOW
2. SOCIAL-NETWORKING SITES ARE GOOD FOR PROMOTION, BUT SO ARE OTHER THINGS
It's probably not a popular opinion, but I personally feel like bands and promoters rely too heavily on the Internet and social-networking sites to spread the word about upcoming shows. Good music scenes are helped by personal engagement of fans, and a lot of people can become desensitized to a constant barrage of online promotions. I have friends in bands all over the country, who often send me show invites, so sometimes the local events get lost in the shuffle. Sending out an email might be better than relying entirely on sites like Facebook to spread the word about an upcoming show.
1. HOUSTON NEEDS TO DECIDE THAT LOCAL MUSIC IS A VALUABLE ASSET
Lots of Houstonians know that a healthy local music scene is an important feature for a city like this one, but local music doesn't seem to be valued by our leaders in the same way that other cities have. For example, millions of dollars of both public and private money gets funneled into the Austin music scene through various channels, while an office in its municipal government is devoted to communicating with the local music community. For some reason our city leaders haven't seemed to value Houston's local music communities as much as they should. It's hard for people from outside of Houston to realize that there's great music being played here if so much of the city turns its back on it.