When one thinks of comedy, there are a few icons, movies, cities and clubs that come to mind. Comedy can invoke thoughts of Louie C.K. or George Carlin. It can invoke thoughts of Los Angeles and New York, of Dumb and Dumber or The Big Lebowski, of The Comedy Store or The Comedy Cellar. These cities and countless other clubs, comedians and movies all come rushing forth when you start to think of what comedy really means to you. That goes for everyone, even the comedians of Portland.
I recently started asking myself why Portland wasn’t a main hub of comedy like Los Angeles or New York because it’s clear, if you look in the right spot, that the talent is right under our noses on the stage of Al’s Den, tucked into the Velo Cult Bike Shop or sometimes presenting itself in plain view at Helium Comedy Portland. The reason Portland can never be that hub is because we aren’t the entertainment capital of the world like Los Angeles. We can’t hold 8.5 million people like New York. Portland does have something that those other cities don’t – Portlandians.
This is a city of art, of music, of life. This city is jam-packed with things to do every single day that is both affordable and entertaining. Whether it be a small production of The Three Amigos live, a show at the Liquor Store or a photographic display of the history of Portland at the city archives, this city and all of the people in it are constantly striving to promote art and artistic ability. The only problem is that throughout all the promotions we have, all the print we’re given, comedy is not given it’s fair shake.
When it comes to comedy, whether it be the Hecklevision at the Hollywood Theatre or a standup showcase, nothing more than mere sentences or short paragraphs are published to give our talented comedians their proper coverage. I’d like nothing more than to change that. I would love to show this city that comedy is a wonderful thing that deserves more than just a sentence or two. I would love to show this city that there are people you may see walking the streets every day or attending charity events, selling you legal pot and buying cigarettes at your Plaid Pantry that moonlight as incredible, sometimes life-changing stand-up comics and improv performers.
The Portland comedy scene as of right now is a sleeping giant and I believe that it’s time to poke that giant a few times so it can roar. It’s time that we get to know our comics the way that we get to know our politicians (minus all the scandals and misinformation). It’s time we know what is happening in this city that can make us laugh and brighten our days. Let’s all get into it and support a scene that can only grow but needs the help of the amazing citizens of this city to do so!
As we begin our series on local women in music, I’m reflecting on all the fantastic industry females we have met since Portland Notes originated in January! I’m going to include links to all our interviews and articles, and I hope that you – our dear readers, will submit local women who are of interest to you. I will reach out to as many as I can this month! Thank you for your support! You may use our contact form to suggest local women in the music industry who you would like to learn more about!
Here are the amazing women we’ve talked with so far:
Teri Briggs from Portland Radio Project
Laney Jones, solo artist
Michele VanKleef of the Whiskey Darlings
Cynthia O’Brien from Youth Music Project
Jen Tengs-Howard of PROWUS
Terri Lynn Davis of Yonder Blue
Melissa Dorres from When We Met
Laryssa Birdseye, artist
Sarah Vitort, solo artist, and member of Fox and Bones
Good news for local musicians – local industry professionals, venues, and promoters are getting on board to offer tips and assistance with the business side of the music industry. Putting together a great band and playing amazing music is not enough anymore. How does a band get booked at festivals and outdoor events in the Northwest? Robert Richter spoke to a group of eager musicians Wednesday night at the Alberta Street Pub to address this question. His targeted seminar will be offered again, with an exclusive list of tips and advice. Portland Notes is just offering a few tidbits of information that we found particularly revealing and helpful. For more specific information, contact Robert Richter.
Robert Richter, host of the popular Local Roots live concert series, is a devoted lover of Northwest artists. He offers seminars and consulting services on a regular basis, and can be reached at his email address or through Facebook on the Excel Talent page. Robert has an insider’s knowledge of the festival scene. We were surprised to hear that Robert’s suggestions are completely achievable for any local band – very encouraging!
Some common sense ideas from an experienced musician, music consultant, promoter, radio show host, and lover of local music:
- Know your music and where your band fits well.
- Have a short, to-the-point email that can be tailored to each festival application.
- Keep an email introduction simple – those reading applications and emails are not necessarily familiar with music jargon.
- HAVE A GREAT VIDEO – live performance produced without distraction. This is creating a picture in the booker’s mind of what your band will look like on their stage at their event.
- Include video and links to band bio, photos, etc. within the short introductory email.
- Don’t be afraid to follow up with a phone call – festival bookers can get overwhelmed with applications, email can get lost…
Things that aren’t so obvious:
- Black Friday is the day to start booking Summer events.
- Most festival bookers are only bookers during one season – they have other full-time jobs.
- Many events are run by the local Chamber of Commerce or City Personnel.
- Budgets vary by event, by town, by year, etc. There is no set pay rate.
How to get started:
- Research town by town – repeated events.
- Identify festivals or events that match your genre/style by reviewing past events.
- Create content – links, VIDEO, easy contact information.
- Always be positive – you can’t spell “festival” without “festiv”.
- Remember that you are dealing with people who WANT to help you. They will be kind.
Robert also pointed out that opportunities exist beyond festivals – most cities have outdoor concert series and events. Research is key – festivals and outdoor events are plentiful, but vary immensely in size, budget, and level of organization. The key is to find out where the band fits, identify the contact, make a good introduction, and follow up.
Thanks to Robert Richter and the Alberta Street Pub for hosting this informational seminar!
Portland Notes’ own Kelly Jones appears on Rob Rainwater’s “Songs From the Source” to discuss the new website, and how to efficiently use media to organize a record release. She’ll share a few songs that are influences in her life right now, and talk about a few local artists that are inspiring her. “Songs From the Source”, heard on Portland Radio Project, introduces listeners to Rob’s favorite tunes and music events around Portland. Kelly will join Rob on Sunday afternoon (February 7) from 2-2:30.
Update! Portland Radio Project posted an article and a podcast of the interview. Check it out here!
Kelly is a lover of all things musical. Born with a pitchpipe in her hand, Kelly has been singing and playing music since childhood. As an adult, she turned her attention towards supporting and encouraging musicians in their complicated artistic paths. Kelly thrives on the positive and unifying energy and synergy that are the foundations of music and musicianship. With experience in performance, merchandising, marketing, management, and media, Kelly actively seeks to find local bands and musicians who are wanting to reach out to a larger audience.
I’d like to offer up the idea that original bands largely are fighting a losing battle because they DON’T do all of the things that huge nationals do – and often get hated on for doing. In film and music it is extremely rare that you ever have someone who does it all. Division of labor exists in all creative industries. When original artists try to write their own material, record it themselves, promote it, develop stage presence and instrument proficiency all at the same time – they are trying to do something only a tiny handful of individuals have ever been able to do.
Why is it at a local level you never see bands buying/borrowing songs from local songwriters, or see dedicated songwriters and dedicated performers at all? Why are they handling all of their own marketing material creation and artwork? Doing their own bookings? Money usually is the answer, but that is no excuse. You wouldn’t open a business and then just neglect parts of it because you can’t afford to do it right. There is a cost of doing business and every industry including music has a financial barrier to entry.
Trying to do all of these things is like trying to open a restaurant with no experience, and then hiring no one to fill the key roles. The only way this can ever work for a band is if you happen to be formed around a group of guys who all happen to have perfectly overlapping skills… but few people ask during the band formation process “How are your cold calling skills? How are your web design and photo editing skills? How are your accounting skills? Can you write a hit song? Do you have the ‘it’ factor on stage? Are you a great studio engineer? Live sound engineer? Luthier? Amp technician? Costume designer? Facebook expert?”
No one asks any of these things when forming bands, so it ends up being a crap shoot of whether or not you just created a hapless jam band with no means of creating hit songs, packing shows, or even growing a following at all.
I submit what local music scenes need are better personal assessments by the people involved (we all suck at nearly every aspect of music production and have to admit it) and some kind of marketplace for assisting one another in the areas we are deficient (which again is nearly every area).