The Pittsburgh music scene lacks a few things, mainly a shortfall of music business development, music industry knowledge, and the ability to accept the new movements of the music economy. While many individuals struggle to overcome newer problems such as streaming inflation, and the lack of funds which force labels to recoup from artists’ tour and merchandise sales, Pittsburgh venues, promoters, and more are still trying to deal with properly promoting artist and events.
Artist continue to have a hard time dealing with booking shows, which include “pay to play” bookings, selling tickets to solidify spots as opening acts on bigger shows, and ultimately not finding ways to secure newer revenue streams. But these problems are not anything new when it comes to other cities, and we are not the first to encounter them. So who’s to blame?
There are a handful of problems that plague venue owners and promoters, primarily booked events not gaining enough attention to garner enough business sales, hurting their pockets consistently. The result proves to be damning as they become forced to establish ways to make up for their loses. Some of those tactics include establishing bar requirements, having artists sell tickets themselves in hopes of at least breaking even, and taking a cut from the door earnings.
Artist take on their fare share of bumps also as they now have to handle more promotional duties than they’re equipped to handle. Because financial hits keep venues from being able to update equipment, artists may also have to make due with inadequate sound systems that lowers the presentation of their shows.
Finger pointing and criticism of what’s right and wrong in the public, mainly on the internet, is at an all time high. And while some suggestions may bring temporary fixes, such as getting more support from venues for artist or the city’s government changing laws and regulations that brings the city into the future, these suggestions mask bigger problems that many have unwillingly wanted to take on (or even have knowledge of doing so).
The WYEP has taken a step forward to bring in Don Pitts, former head of the City of Austin’s Economic Development Department’s Music & Entertainment Division, who is now a consultant called upon by cities who are having similar structural problems as Pittsburgh. While Don may be able to implement a music census and needs assessment survey as he did for Austin, will the heads of the city government step up first to create strategic goals that lessen the pains of liquor licenses that could start you in the hole, or penalties to venues that notably discriminate against artist/patrons before they set foot in the door, or how commercial real estate does not play well with music establishments? The list could go on and on.
Ultimately, the inadequate music and venue scene has made the city miss plenty of opportunities that could have pushed Pittsburgh as a marquee stop for artists. Many unforeseen challenges await Pittsburgh in the next three to five months. However while it may seem like more pain than pleasurable outcomes before the clouds part and the sun shines, Pittsburgh will continue doing what it does best; put their heads down, and work their asses off.
Interview by Thomas Agnew
Photography by Sarah Bader
Our 7th “On A Mission” feature is professionally trained Vocalist, Studio Manager of BOOM Concepts, Education Director at Pittsburgh Festival Opera, Anqwenique Wingfield. Not only is she an active opera performer, Anqwenique splits her time functioning as a mentor, consultant, serving on advisory boards, and is highly sought out to assist as a programming manager for children and community productions. Most recently being recognized as a member of the 2017 40 Under 40 via Pittsburgh Magazine, Anqwenique spoke with us about developing the skills she gained to help grow her career flourish, being on the producer side of work, and more.
Photos by Sarah Bader
First we asked the people, took the information collected, and asked three individuals (Jeff Betten of Mistra Records, DJ Motor Mane (Taylor Gang & The Burgh Boyz), and singer Sierra Sellers) to respond to the survey and replies from concertgoers that spoke on why Pittsburgh doesn’t consistently attract big events and touring artist.[All numbers and comments below originate from our “Why doesn’t Pittsburgh get the big shows/popular tours consistently?” survey in which 192 people voted via Twitter.]
Poor Promotion 34%
Weak Attendances 32%
Ticket Prices Too High 18%
Too Risky For Promoters 16%
Do these numbers surprise you and how does that make you feel being apart of events that are affected by these answers/numbers?
Jeff Betten: It surprises me that the audiences identify weak attendance as a primary cause. I don’t dispute the claim, but it’s interesting that concertgoers are essentially blaming themselves. However, since the topic is specifically about big shows, I have a hard time believing that a Jay-Z tour stop (to name one recent high profile snub, for example) wouldn’t be promoted well and think that particular response is misguided. On smaller levels like mine? Sure, but that’s a whole other conversation.
DJ Motor Mane: In my opinion, these numbers don’t surprise me because this city wasn’t built on Hip-Hop/Rap or R&B music. Its historically been known to have a deep rooted Rock (specifically), Soft Rock vibe. The younger generation are changing the demographics but there isn’t enough BIG DOGS that leave here continuing to push the culture back here.
Sierra Sellers: These numbers don’t surprise me. Honestly, I’ve grown apathetic towards them because it has been this way before I was making music so I knew what to expect.
– People don’t care about quality events because it “just Pittsburgh” instead of a growing place
– Poor radio presence, high tax, no one in charge believes in what it could do for PGH
– Pittsburgh’s not a presale town due to population size and low overall median income
– Smaller market and not directly between 2 major cities
What sticks out most about the comments above?
Jeff: It makes me sad that they don’t think anyone in charge cares. I know from talking with people in radio, for example, that there are things they’d like to change, but they’re up against a lot of red tape and limitations. I sympathize with the “just Pittsburgh” mindset, though. It’s something I fight against all the time and even occasionally feel myself. There’s nothing we can do about not being directly between two major cities. It’s not our fault that Cleveland is right on I-80 between New York and Chicago and we aren’t.
Motor: Poor radio, high tax, no one in charge believes in what it could do for PGH – because it speaks volumes when we want the major shows but we don’t have the major radio presence to push it. The high tax would be a problem when it becomes a bigger risk than a reward. Unless maybe your Kenny Chesney.
Sierra: All of the comments stated something negative about the opportunity, or lack thereof in Pittsburgh; however, we are blessed with the freedom to establish a foundation from which artists can flourish.
As a resident, does it seem like Pittsburgh is the D League and people learn skills, leave and don’t add anything to the city (also businesses who come but don’t directly support the cultural infrastructure)?
Jeff: The popular answer would be to say that, while historically this may have been true, Pittsburgh is now changing. However, in my heart of hearts, I still feel that like we have a long way to go (although I derive no pleasure from saying that). Obviously, the problems are bigger than any one fix and I don’t claim to have all the answers. Even if things are trending in the right direction, systemic issues can’t be resolved overnight.
Motor: I think that’s a matter of perspective because the communities are thriving. We may not have the prominent rap communities like an Atlanta but we do have artists that exist in this very community like D.S. Kinsel and so forth. I don’t see it being the D League. We are the WE LEAGUE. Take what we want from this beautiful city and dip. Ask anyone who has left. They’ve been back though at least once.
Sierra: Pittsburgh is not in the D League. This city is a great place to get started. There isn’t a distinct sound or brand, so there isn’t pressure to be someone you’re not. People come and go for different opportunities, but ultimately it isn’t their responsibility to put everyone else on.
Photos by Sarah Bader
Interview by Thomas Agnew
We’re back again for round 2 of the Fresh Lenses series with 4 new photographers (Elise Michaux, Scott Benning, Christine Grago, and Michael Parente). The first time around, we talked to the photographers about how they utilized their creative vision to navigate in the field. This time around, we asked about the business side of working in a saturated market, lessons working with clientele, and more.
When it comes to making it big in any avenue you choose as an artist or entrepreneur, there comes a sense of gratification with being able to take your own vision, and trust your instincts to get to where you want to be. This idea more than accurately sums up Fab 5 Entertainment’s Barry Johnson‘s journey as someone who laid his groundwork as he saw it for himself, and took off from there.
As apart of three summer exhibition openings at the August Wilson Center, “For The Culture” featured the works of Robert Hodge from Houston, TX who recently held residency in Pittsburgh back in 2015. The exhibit speaks to a variety of subjects studying the creation of original forms of music such as blues, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll, hip-hop, and house as it relates to race in America and the African American community. Robert Hodge also called upon multiple Pittsburgh creatives such as Amani Davis, Hannibal Hopson, DS Kinsel, Angelo Maggio, Supreme and Benjamin Swaby to create a mural that featured the iconic Coogi Sweater material made iconic by the Notorious B.I.G. in the 90’s.
Tonight at the August Wilson Center, the closing features DJ Selecta playing an art inspired set along with refreshments provided by The Cultural Trust and curator Sean Beauford. The gallery is for view from 7P-10P. Also, John Kelly will discusses the cultural, historical and political significance of Funky Turns 40: Black Character Revolution celebrating the 40th anniversaries of the Saturday morning cartoons that featured the first positive Black characters in animation history at 6:30P
For more information check the event page HERE
@robertleroyhodge speaks on his creation process, the connection of good art and good music & more in this visual. Check the closing of "For The Culture" tonight at 7P at the August Wilson Center. Presented by @culturaltrust @seanbeauford. Music by @selecta720, 🎥 by @emmai_alaquiva
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Chicago’s art scene is magical, vast and diverse. From the phenomenal Museum of Contemporary Art, which currently hosts one of the largest retrospectives of work from Takashi Murakami ever seen, to the world renowned “giant bean” at Millennium Park, (‘Cloud Gate’, by Anish Kapoor). There are understated and poignant installations; Amanda Williams ‘Color(ed) Theory,’ and the socially conscious community street murals throughout the South Side, many of which are remnants of the contemporary mural movement of the 1970’s and 80’s, and have been restored in recent years.
There is also a burgeoning independent art scene in which artists like Troy Scat are thriving. Working as both an art instructor, and studio assistant to Hebru Brantley, Troy recently exhibited his work in a solo show, PEER, and is continuing to establish himself in the Chi as a multi-dimensional artist. Here, Troy discusses his journey has an artist, artist and race, and more.
Photography by Ryan Mayle
Interview by Thomas Agnew
Who’s been the most consistent out of Pittsburgh in the past 3 years? If your answer isn’t Hardo then you’re definitely not in tune to the Trap Illustrated movement. Or you’re just a hater. Hardo has worked with 21 Savage, Ty Dolla $, Wiz Khalifa, Meek Mill just to name a few, consistently sold out shows to the point other cities called him up to headline in their areas, and his numbers on streams, sales, and videos had major labels taking notice. I sat down 1 on 1 with him to talk his image, not being comfortable with only local fan base love, and how Pittsburgh artist should push forward.
Article by Matt Brown
Starting out in San Francisco and developing his roots across cities such as Pittsburgh, Julio Galvez, better known as The Whooligan, found his niche as both an artist as well as a booking guru within the music industry.