Everybody wants Kansas City to blow up. People in the scene are dying for the world, the blogosphere, the pope — anyone — to see what a great music community we have. Some folks are cooking up schemes to make that happen. Among them are the people behind Bands Across Kansas City.
Since its inception in mid-2005, BAKC has been known, if at all, mostly as a band-battle organizer. It set up concert playoffs in 2005 and ’06, affairs backed by advertising dollars from Time Warner Cable and The Kansas City Star. The final showdowns crowned Cory Ryan (’05) and Seeking Surreal (’06), who were awarded prizes such as a music video, a spot at a festival and free studio time.
The winners still aren’t famous, locally or nationally.
Battles of the bands can be fun. They can raise a little awareness, make a little money and help connect audiences with new bands they’ve never heard of. But the fact is that successful bands don’t battle — they book.
Now, that’s what BAKC is doing. The company started booking shows four months ago. It also maintains a Web site (www.bandsacrosskansascity.com), which essentially seeks to become a local-music-oriented MySpace.
It’s free to register and maintain a profile, and members can upload pictures and songs, list show dates and sell CDs. More than 500 area bands have signed up.
The company behind it is Brandon and Brandon Inc. , a marketing and design outfit owned by married couple Carrie and Bill Brandon. About five full-timers work on the BAKC division, booking shows, getting sponsors, producing videos and ads, and generally making things look sexy.
But for all the slickness of BAKC’s Web site, there sure are a lot of crappy
bands on it. After all, what would a band that can book its own shows and create its own buzz want with a middleman?
Event coordinator Chad Prichard hopes they’ll do it out of a sense of solidarity. He challenges established acts to share their experiences at BAKC’s site.
“If we all rise together, we’re going to become something huge for the city,” he says. “If everybody wants to do it on their own, you’re going to struggle, and maybe some are going to have better luck because of who they know, but this is a way for people to meet each other.”
But Brandon Phillips, frontman of the Architects and label manager for Anodyne Records, thinks meeting people is easy, as is booking shows.
“Not knowing who to talk to is a stupid excuse. We still print a phone book in this town,” Phillips says.
As for networking and marketing, Phillips doesn’t see that being a problem around here, either. “Social networking is a nice thought. It addresses a symptom, not a disease. The disease in this town is that there’s not a professional music industry,” he says, explaining that there aren’t enough people who make a living in music to create a professional culture here.
“There’s plenty of outreach,” he points out. “There’s plenty of people like the Pitch, the Star, whoever, Patchchord.com, Homegrown Buzz, who are totally looking out for cool local stuff. They put us on the cover of magazines. They put us on the radio.” Those kinds of marketing efforts might work for Fall Out Boy, Phillips says, but without a professional music industry here, there’s really no one to create that kind of excitement.
A marketing company such as Brandon and Brandon might be able to help a little bit, but not enough to change an entire metro’s clubgoing habits.
It’s not as though BAKC’s effort isn’t worthwhile, Phillips says. “It just strikes me as being unfocused or not focused on the real problem.”
And then there’s the issue of talent.
Record Bar booker Billy Smith contends that most BAKC bands are “on the other side of the tracks” from what’s viable for his venue. Still, he says of the Brandons, “Whenever intentions are for the betterment of the local Kansas City scene, I don’t see how you can complain about their efforts.”
OK, I won’t complain. I’ll encourage the people at Bands Across Kansas City to do what they think will help the scene — hell, prove guys like Phillips wrong. Keep the live shows coming. Maybe the TV and radio spots they’re planning will get more people out to see local concerts.
There’s always hope.