On Thursday May 24, The Space at Westbury held an open forum for musicians, artist managers, the press, and music enthusiasts to discuss the state of the Long Island music scene. Appropriately titled “Are Tribute Bands Taking all the Gigs?,” two separate panels of Long Island music scene veterans sat down and had a necessary discussion on where the scene is currently, what it once was, and the direction they would like to see it move towards in the future.
The first panel titled “Putting the Long Island Music Scene Under the Microscope” did just that. This panel was moderated by Jim Faith (musician, promoter, talent buyer, producer of Great South Bay Music Festival and Co-Founder of the LI Music Hall of Fame). With the guidance of Faith, a group of musicians, old and young, sat down to dissect what exactly is going on in the LI music scene. While many topics were brought up, the main theme discussed was whether the influx of tribute bands are oversaturating the market. To ensure everyone’s voice was heard, the panel was split nearly down the middle with musicians in tribute bands and musicians who play their own original music, accompanied by an unbiased voice from Newsday Pop Music Writer Glenn Gamboa.
A major consensus that was agreed upon was that while tribute bands are on the rise on Long Island, it does not mean original artists must suffer as a result. Demographics reveal that the typical music listener on Long Island tends to be older, have a job, and family obligations, so it makes sense that they would spend their one night out a week seeing a band they know they will enjoy and can sing along to. However, this does not mean original music is a dead artform on Long Island. Almost every venue provides at least one night a week for original artists to play and gain exposure, despite how many or few people come out. What it essentially comes down to is local artists honing their craft, properly promoting themselves, collaborating with venues, and loving what they do. While the scene is not as vibrant as it was in the 1970’s, there is still plenty of new music to be seen every night on Long Island.
The second panel, also moderated by Faith, picked up where the first left off and looked towards the future. Titled “Moving Forward: What Can Be Done to Nurture and Support Our Original Artists, Maintain a Vibrant Music Scene, and Continue Our Rich Music History”, the second panel had more of a focus on management and venues. Many of the musicians from the previous panel were replaced by an assortment of businessmen from venue owners to talent buyers, and even a local DJ/musician.
The discussion of the second panel delved into issues managers and artists were encountering, and focused on ways to correct them. Much of the discussion centered around ways artists need to promote themselves; whether it’s on social media, local advertisements, working with the venue, or even just talking to people after shows. It was agreed upon that artists must be prepared for the business side of the scene when dealing with venues or record companies, and that while many of the artists may be from Long Island and play there often, it is important to venture out of the area to promote themselves. Although some may think the Long Island music scene may seem to be on the decline, as long as there are people who are passionate about live music and keeping things fresh, there is plenty of hope for the future.