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  • Writer's pictureLoyd Van Horn

A rough week for original music in Chucktown

I should be over the moon today. I received a box today with the CDs of my new album, Escape, today. I can now bring these with me to gigs, and try to recoup some of the money spent on getting them printed. They turned out pretty good, if I do say so myself!

However, my excitement has been short-lived because in reality, it has been a rough week for original music in Charleston.

Not up to speed? Let me get you caught up.

First, the number of venues that actively seek out local, original content are few and far between. Many venues such as The Pour House or Music Farm are great for original content, but usually from regional or national acts. Local acts, especially those of the singer/songwriter variety, find it difficult to find a receptive venue. You need a following first.

But you gotta gig to get a following. Open Mics are the traditional channel for building those, but turnout is down and often you will find that established musicians take much of the precious audience time when people are there.

So when we lose a receptive venue, it hurts. This week, we found out we are losing Eclectic Cafe & Vinyl, downtown. They are closing their doors May 27th. A new coffee/cafe will popup in the same location, so it will be interesting to see if they are supporters of local, original music or not.

And then, tonight, I found out that WYLA-97.5 here in Charleston is closing shop on May 18th. This is another HUGE blow.

WYLA is one of two local media outlets that consistently and willingly will provide air time to local musicians. Myself, I had recently sent up my entire new album, along with a tag liner at the beginning of each song, to have them added to rotation to generate a buzz before the album release. Kevin Crothers, who ran the station, even was talking with me about doing an 'in-studio' performance/interview the week of the release.

There are other media outlets, for sure, that support local music. Ohm Radio, City Paper and Charleston Scene all do great work, but there are only a select few outlets for ALL of us musicians, so getting air/print space is a tough gig. Again, preference goes to known we find ourselves back at the $50,000 Question: how do I establish a following when I can't book anything or get noticed by media to attract a following?

I don't have any easy answers, friends. All I know to do is to keep plugging away. Scratching and clawing for every gig I can get. Go to as many Open Mics as I possibly can when my schedule allows to get my name out there.

Even if the audiences are largely indifferent, all it takes is a single spark to light a fire. That spark may just be sitting there watching your next performance.

So, if you will excuse me, I must now go back to unpacking my CDs and making them look nice for my merch table.

Until next time

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