A lot of what we are trying to do with the T.E.A.M initiative, and our parent organization Arts Industry Alliance, revolves around an effort to place more focus on artists, entertainers and musicians who create and produce their own original work. So much funding for arts, music, and entertainment programming is allocated in ways that do not benefit the talent that resides within the community, and thus the local scene suffers. The gatekeepers of these types of events and budgets will often fall back on the notion that people only want to hear or see what they are already familiar with, but we reject that argument. Art, music, and entertainment is no different then any other business, and when you choose to spend your money on corporate-backed programming, it's sending a direct message. Disney movies, "hits" cover bands, satellite radio and corporate music streaming services are just a few examples. All of these things can be replaced with a product from your own community that is equal, if not superior, in quality. It's no different than choosing Burger King over local farm-raised beef, buying Nestle bottled water instead of using your local spring, or serving Budweiser instead of a homegrown craft beer.
A perfect example of this is Exeter's concerts in the park that happen once a week in June and July. Like most series of its kind happening every summer in 'anytown' USA, almost all of the featured acts are cover bands that churn out the HITS from various decades... "Giving the people what they want". Several professional musicians who live right in Exeter have been offering their services and encouraging the town to utilize original bands, not only to keep the funding and support in the community, but also to add some much needed cultural vibrancy and relevance to the town. TEAM was able to secure one concert per summer the last two years, but that's it. Last Thursday was our second edition of "Groove Lounge in the Park", which featured homegrown musicians, dancers, and performers showcasing only original (and mostly freestyle) material while they interacted directly with kids on the stage. NO top 40 cover songs, NO dance routines from the latest videos, NO problems. Here's a few quotes from the crowd and social media:
"I loved Groove Lounge in the park... easy style... very hip. I felt like I was at a New York night club but with families and kids. :-) Great!"
"We've been coming to the concerts in the park for as long as we can remember, and that's the best one we've seen"
"That was by far my favorite show of the summer... It was like Santana meets Donna Summer, with a little bit of the Doors ... All very fun and very original."
Sounds like the people didn't miss THE HITS !