Posted: March 23, 2017 at 6:21 pm
By Alison Kaiser, Morgan Krieger and Kristen Tuell
Being surrounded by strangers, not having a care in the world, and getting lost in the music at Mainstage are among Joey Majestro’s fondest memories as a student at West Virginia University.
“The music scene has grown a lot since my freshman year,” said Majestro, now the marketing department manager at Mon Hills Records in Morgantown. “I think there is a higher demand for good music in Morgantown.”
Venues are popping up everywhere, Majestro said, and artists are fighting for stage time. Artists rely on word of mouth in order to get their music heard by the Morgantown record labels.
“If someone comes to us and is like, ‘This guy is pretty good you should check him out,’ we will do a hearing for him and see if he is worth signing,” he said.
Artists also rely on word of mouth to get booked at one of the many Morgantown venues. If there is an adequate fan base, artists are much more likely to get booked.
“Artists travel here from around the state to get name recognition,” said Majestro.
When classes are in session at WVU, Morgantown is a town of over 30,000 students roughly between the ages of 18 and 24. If musicians can get the students attention, they will have an easier time promoting their work.
Chris Allen, a senior student at WVU is one of 11 artists signed to Mon Hills Records. Majestro and Allen met in Boreman South dormitory freshman year. Although Majestro could not think of any band or individual artists who had gotten famous from starting in Morgantown, he believes Allen is the closest to stardom.
“He [Allen] raps and just has such a huge student following,” said Majestro, “I can see him going far in the music industry.”
Majestro described the Morgantown music scene as competitive. However, the city has multiple different venues that attract specific genres and artists. The map below shows the different venues and the genres they typically attract according to Majestro.
Matt Showalter, co-owner of Black Bear Burritos has seen it all when it comes to the Morgantown music scene. Showalters business partner was his college roomate when they attended WVU, and is still his best friend.
“We have been here for 14 years, so we have had the pleasure of seeing bands come and go,” said Showalter.
Showalter said he’s seen a wide range of genres in Morgantown, from jazz and bluegrass to old time string band and acoustic rock and roll. Showalter says they have, “run the gamut.”
In contrast to other venues in the area that are tailored solely towards music, Showalter and his business partner face the challenge of finding the balance between entertainment music and a comfortable eating environment.
The restaurants budget is also a large determinant when it comes to what musicians will perform.
“At a club with live music, they can take a cover at the door to help pay for the band,” says Showalter, “Being that we are a restaurant, it would not be fair to ask our customers for money as they walk in to help pay for the band.”
This limits who they are able to bring in.
“We have had a couple artist play here for years and then they grow out of our restaurant and we can no longer afford them,” said Showalter.
Although the restaurant is not able to ask customers for contributions for the band, it has other ways of helping the musicians.
They have had the opportunity to host groups that have gone on to win Grammys; Mike Compton, a man who went on to play the mandolin on the O Brother Where Art Thou? soundrack; and Larry Keel, an individual who has gone on to sit in with The Grateful Dead.
“We have been lucky enough to have some bigger names,” said Showalter.
Bigger bands gracing Black Bear Burritos stage seem to be far and few between, but that is how the owners intended it to be. The stage was geared towards newer artists trying to find their niche in the industry.
One of Black Bear Burritos regular performers is a man named Andrew (Andy) Tuck, who Showalter described as a guy with talent who really sells himself every time he gets on stage no matter how large or small the audience is.
“He is just really fun to watch and listen to,” said Showalter.