I have this friend in town, a DJ who has been making music for a very long time and absolutely loves Denver. He played in hardcore bands back in the day and can wax nostalgic for hours about cruising down from his teenaged home in Evergreen to explore the underground punk scene. Nowadays, he's a pretty successful DJ who gets to do things other DJs dream of -- like touring with rappers, playing huge parties in places like Las Vegas, New York and LA, and actually making a living. And even though my buddy still returns to his Denver home every chance he gets, he still thinks there's something fundamentally wrong with our city's scene that limits an artist's ability to find his fans. What is it?
In my friend's opinion, the biggest challenge to finding and expanding his Mile High fan base is tied directly to the very creative fertility that I often celebrate. There are just so many interesting musicians -- and yes, I'm including DJs in that category; feel free to pour on the haterade -- in this town that the finite audience for music is spread way too thin. Whereas I thrill to the fact that any given night in this town offers up at least a handful of interesting musical events, my buddy laments that same fact.
Getting specific, the DJ cites an Italian disco night in which he participates. When the night started, there was a lot of support for it. Excited about this peculiar niche, lots of folks showed up to shake it in support. Recently, another Italian disco night has popped up in town. Generously, my buddy assumes that the folks who started this competing night did so on an original creative impulse -- motivated by love for the music rather than by a desire to capitalize on or poach from a proven success.
Nevertheless, the effect of having two Italian disco nights -- or three anthemic rock bands or five experimental electropop acts or eight industrial country outfits -- in our little town is to dilute the available crowd that might enjoy such a thing. Instead of 400 people showing up to see one of those industrial country bands -- sustaining the act's artistic efforts -- only fifty show up to see each one, making none of those outfits successful.
So, in my DJ friend's worldview, the embarrassment of musical riches in Denver is also its greatest weakness. On the other hand, if we didn't have so much exciting musical action, the whole scene might be so far underground that the mainstream wouldn't even know it existed. Rather than dilution, the cause of death would be starvation. It's an interesting conundrum in which we find ourselves -- caught between the intoxicating, consuming rock and a potentially fatal hard place. While my friend, the singer-songwriter, struggles to reach an audience that doesn't feed at the usual Denver troughs, my friend, the DJ, struggles to reach an overfed audience.
What's the answer?
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