The Perks of Neo-Bohemia

Yes, I know. Here I am, talking about music again. It’s almost impossible to believe that I once never talked about this thing called music. Like honestly, here I am with yet another blog chiming on and on about what seems like the same idea. But see, with my mind, that is constantly the problem. From the second I wake up, the moment my eyes open up to the world, my mind just constantly hears and sees music. Actually, I most likely even think about music in my sleep so I’m not sure I’m really allowed to say there’s ever a stopping point. So, because of this non-stop need for music, every time I read things like Richard Lloyd’s, Neo-Bohemia, or Richard Florida’s, The Rise of the Creative Class, I can’t help but connect the concepts discussed to my passion of music.

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Avid Pro Tools Computer Software – One of the many recording softwares available for personal producers.

In this weeks case, I kept the words of Florida’s on page 193 of The Rise of the Creative Class in my mind. “Musician’s don’t require a lot of equipment or capital” he says, “using the computer and the Internet, they can make and record music virtually anywhere they want”. As I’ve mention before, I clearly know this statement of Florida’s to be true. If I’m sitting in my dorm room, if I’m on someone’s back porch collaborating on lyrics, if I’m sitting in traffic on the bus to a softball game, as long as I have my laptop and the vocal track recorded, I can honestly finish the entire demo with just my laptop. I mean, even when the softball team was in route to Florida last year for spring training, up in that plane, I completely finished my first official demo for the Universal Music Publishing Group. On that computer I had one little choppy vocal recording to work with and the rest I would create right in the cramped, uncomfortable seat that Jetblue had assigned me. Even the smallest bit of technology has the ability to provide you with any instrument sound.

Hunter Hayes - back of the bus studio corner.

Hunter Hayes – back of the bus studio corner.

For example, the symbols of the drum set can be made by pressing the “T” on the QWERTY keyboard and the “D” represents the deepest base drum sound. I’ve written so many songs on just a single laptop that it’s gotten to the point where I don’t even have to think to know what type of sound will come out of a certain button. Technology makes music making almost a thoughtless process and not only that, it also has the ability to make the sharing of music that much easier. However, I don’t want to talk about this aspect of the music industry again. The point I want to make this time is that maybe this Internet and technology factor can only do so much. Maybe, just maybe, something such as Neo-Bohemia still plays an important role in an artists success.

Florida gives an example of this on page 193 when he says that “Nashville was different. It was more professional, less confrontation, less melodramatic. Like Silicon Valley, it was a place where the best and the brightest could collaborate with other top talent and make the most of its world-class infrastructure”. Nashville is a large community that has the ability to provide the life of a new bohemia. The city has perfected the ability of holding on to old traditions that allow for physical, face to face communication but at the same time it leaves space for upgrades and changes. What I mean to say here is that Nashville does see transformation but keeps the old strategies functioning. The artists come in with their big dreams and passionate personalities and when they move in, they provide the neighborhood with a community of “wanna be rebels” who are willing to buy and do whatever it takes to find success. With so many new artists moving and traveling to Nashville to begin their creative journeys, the options for places to showcase ones talent almost becomes limitless.  Things have the ability to become much cheaper because so many bodies are bringing in not just revenue but also interest. It’s an endless list of cafes, restaurants, and local businesses in Nashville and these things provide a place to socialize as well as allow for a city like Nashville to thrive.

In fact, Libby Callaway and Van Tucker are media consultants in Nashville who chose to write about this big characteristic in an article for The Tennessean on October 13, 2015. In this article titled, Nashville Must Invest in ‘Create Class’ to Thrive, Callaway and Tucker mention that “music, fashion, design, film and television production, technology, and the culinary, performing and visual arts are what set Nashville apart from cities like Indianapolis and Atlanta”.  Nashville is listed as being fourth in the nation when it comes to creative vitality, and the city is populated with over 40,000 creative workers. But Callaway and Tucker worry that if there isn’t enough appreciation shown to all these artists by the government, then there is a big possibility that the city won’t continue on such a successful path.

But in my opinion, it is this laid back atmosphere and lack of analysis that allows the city to remain so attractive to the creative class. It isn’t the technology or the monopoly names that make Nashville a popular destination for many artists. It’s the laid back yet professional atmosphere a neo-bohemia sees that make the city so attractive.

The Band Perry doing some recording before the show. So much can be done in a little bus.

The Band Perry doing some recording before the show. Crazy how so much can be done on a little bus.

Maybe it’s because I was able to catch up with her over the weekend but once again, songwriter and musician Lori Mckenna is where my mind goes for examples when thinking about why an artist would be able to strive in a neo-bohemia. If you were to erase the current musicians ability to share and upload their works online, if you were to give them an old fashion template with no access to the new medias of today, the need for something such as a bohemia grows even larger. As Richard Lloyd mentions on page 56 of Neo-Bohemia, “What emerges in bohemia is a milieu that provides aspirants with both material and symbolic supports for the plying of such an uncertain trade, from inexpensive dwellings and tolerant cafes, to a local status system with rewards that are unhinged, at least partially, from the vargies of the market”.

Mckenna was just a mother who had a masked passion for music much like mine when her creative career took off. She had written poetry through out her high school years and she would later learn how to put a few notes of the guitar behind those words she’d write down. But it wasn’t until she was a 27 year old mother when her music began to take the shape of more than a hobby. She would write a song for her sons second grade project and he would go on to play it for the class. After that, her family began to push and beg her into the idea of sharing her music with faces other than the pictures that hung on their refrigerator door. After all, the only place she would ever play her music was at her kitchen table once the children had gone to sleep. But Lori did finally listen to her family and eventually found the courage to go on stage during an open-mike event where she wouldn’t just perform a self written song, but also end up captivating the audience. So much so that when the event ended, the owner of the place, specifically the Old Vienna Kaffeehaus in Westborough, MA, came down and begged for her to come back on a regular basis. From there, Lori’s career as a songwriter would take off and now she is recognized as one of the brilliant minds in the country music industry.

The Listening Room in Nashville

The Listening Room in Nashville – One of the many popular social spots.

So in this case, as Lori expressed to me jokingly when asked about her starting point, there was no access to technology for her. For Lori, what gave her the satisfaction after those many years of playing in her kitchen was the ability to play her songs for other local artists in these small shops of Massachusetts. She wasn’t performing in any major concert halls. She wasn’t uploading her stuff onto Youtube to attract major viewers. All she was doing was connecting with other musicians in her community at a comfortable level, a social and laid back level. But even with this quiet tone Mckenna was able to find her way to success. So maybe, just maybe, the cases of the neo-bohemia’s are actually the more important factors in an artist’s career. Technology obviously has the ability to showcase an artist in many important forms but in the end, that face to face connection and local spirit is something that is hard to capture any where else.


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