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A Love Letter to the Buffalo Music Scene

In response to Jeff Miers’ piece in last Friday’s Buffalo News, I was compelled to pen a commentary on it. This is something I wouldn’t ordinarily do, as I have more important (to me) things to do, but this one struck very closely to my heart.

Our babies eventually leave the nest, most likely for better opportunity and success. It hurts, and sometimes really badly even, to see them go. We want to keep them forever, and yet, we want to see them soar, but no one is soaring from mom’s basement.

 

So we wish them the greatest happiness, success, and love, and send them off into the world with our blessings. Surely, they’ll always be from Buffalo, and they can always come home, but the reality is the professional music and entertainment industry is not based in Buffalo, and likely never will be. That’s why they have to leave, and that’s okay.

The music and entertainment industry is based in New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago, I think most know that. And Nashville’s music industry is every bit as good as any of theirs.

Buffalo is not much different than Nashville. There are many great musicians that are ‘from Nashville’. There are plenty of great musicians ‘from Buffalo’ too. But why do they attract so many from all over the world to reside and work as industry professionals in Nashville? Why have they been able to sustain that vibe for generations?

Beyond Nashville, how does a place like Seattle acquire a national scene? How did Minneapolis do it? How did we get Motown? The Sound of Philadelphia? etc…Remove NYC, LA, and Chicago out of the equation, and we see cities with similar characteristics as Buffalo in terms of industry, neighborhoods, and people. These are not necessarily the global, cosmopolitan cities which compete with the Hong Kongs of the world. They are very much uniquely America, and they have their individual stories to tell. Are we capable of doing that through music? Can we sell the story of Buffalo through music to the world, and make them want more? Buffalo, are you good enough?

The music scenes in cities named above, and others, have managed to take one identity of music and see it flourish, attracting an audience and music types from outside of their hometown. Those styles are so great, they have produced immensely talented recording artists, engineers, and industry people over the years. They’ve created economic generators which continue to thrive in many of these cities. They continue to attract talented people looking to succeed as professionals in the music business, whatever their talent is, or whatever their goals are. Can we do that in Buffalo without asking for government assistance, or waiting for someone else to do it? Buffalo, are you good enough?

Our local music industry is a 24/7 operation. All gears are constantly moving. When the stages aren’t lit, the studios are rolling, and ideas are being brought to life in coffee shops, restaurants, or board rooms. The doers in this town are constantly grinding it out, with our signature Buffalo work ethic.

But who are we entertaining? Where is our audience on the slow days? If the audience is there, do we have enough great professional writers, engineers, performers, venues, and studios, to keep them coming back? Are we good enough to attract an audience from outside of Buffalo, or aspiring young professionals from elsewhere for that matter? Are we good enough to elevate our scene to create more sustainable professional careers based right here, whatever your role? After all, the audience members are the ones paying the bills. May as well send them home with a smile on their face, and a hunger for more.

The ball is in our court, Buffalo. If you’re so great, and want to be paid like it, you gotta deliver the goods, or the wages will continue to stay the same, and our babies will continue to search for opportunities elsewhere.

Written by Elias Benavides

Elias Benavides

A goofy kid from Buffalo's lower west side who loved to play the guitar and loved live music. Has moved on to sound engineering, stage lighting, anything live music. Now he's writing about musicians on BR too. Why am I talking in the third person?

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