Posted: October 29, 2012 at 5:52 pm
By Kamala Gopalakrishnan, Bree Marquand, William Rochinich
Morgantown, WV- It was Friday night, and Andy Tuck had just finished playing a three-hour performance at Black Bear Burritos; the air was much cooler outside.
“[Black Bear] is great because it enables me to write and be creative,” Tuck said. “It’s kind of like a workshop.”
Tuck now works in a Morgantown law office as a paralegal.
“Once I had a baby (Ella Mae), it was time to make some more money and provide for her,” Tuck said.
At one time, Tuck played professionally full-time, performing almost every day of the week.
Playing music locally as a source of supplemental income comes with many struggles, especially when major decisions part of the picture, due to the uncertainty of the occupation. Musicians like Tuck find themselves balancing their artistic lives with nine-to-five jobs, which he finds too structured.
Kimberly Prosa, author of a Be Your Art news blog about the arts as supplemental income, writes about her struggle with juggling her artistic pursuits with a practical day job in the face of an unstable economy.
Tuck currently plays twice a week, and considers performing music his primary occupation and his paralegal job as a “necessity” that works as a reliable income source.
“Eventually, I would like to be able to make enough money from playing music that I won’t have to work at a job I don’t like,” Tuck said.
While not playing as a solo acoustic artist, he also performs in a full band called “The Greens”.
Later that evening, The Soul Miners began performing at the Morgantown Brewing Company. Couples slow-danced in the wooden floor space beyond the stage. The band was playing “My Girl” by The Temptations.
“The Soul Miners definitely know how to play a crowd,” Laura Sandberg, “They’re probably the most popular band in the greater Morgantown area.”
Sandberg, a 22-year-old marketing director for the brew pub, said that there was an especially large crowd that evening because it was game day weekend and an established band was performing.
“The biggest challenge when someone performs here is getting people to pay the cover,” Sandberg said. “People are reluctant to pay the cover, but after a few beers and watching the band play, they don’t mind at all.”
The process for booking familiar bands in the brewery is relatively simple, according to Sandberg. For The Soul Miners, all the team had to do was to send out an e-mail to the band telling them that they were welcome to “add us to their musical performance circuit.”
For newer bands, however, the process is more complicated.
“First, we have to cast a net to see which bands would be interested in playing for us,” Sandberg said. “Then we have to make sure their music fits the scene here—for example, softer, easy listening for dinner music, and pretty much anything goes after 10 p.m.”
The biggest tool that Sandberg uses to publicize upcoming musical events is social media such as Facebook and Twitter.
This New York Times article seems to apply that to musicians as well, stating that social media, message boards and blogs promote independent music growth, compared to antiquated radio playlists.
Soul Miners frontman Adrian Michaelz says that since their first performance at the Blue Moose, they haven’t looked back.
“We’re mostly local,” Michaelz said. “We have the freedom to do what we want to do. We stay true to our genre as a 60’s and 70’s cover band.”Both Sandberg and Michaelz agree that the Morgantown music scene is a multi-faceted binding force for the local community.
“The local businesses help each other out when it comes to the music scene,” Sandberg said. “ We’ll publicize events going on at other venues, and they do the same for us.”
“As far as bands are concerned, I’ve seen that bands will go to shows featuring newer people for recruitment purposes, or to help bolster their fan base by acting as an endorsement,” Michaelz said.
Earlier this year, 123 Pleasant Street hosted a music marketplace, which reinforced ties in the local music community by showcasing different artists who represent a facet of Morgantown: not only as a city, but as an artistic mecca.
“Playing locally is all about getting out there and performing and taking chances,” Tuck said. “Even though I play professionally, I’m not really in this to make money. I just want to make friends.”