Step into your neighborhood coffee shop next Wednesday and you might not hear the usual soundtrack. No She & Him! No The Shins! No whatever-just-got-Best-New-Music-on-Pitchfork!
You can thank the folks behind Local Music Day. For all of Wednesday, Oct. 5, a handful of restaurants, bars, and cafes will play music from eight D.C. acts: singer/songwriter René Moffatt, reggae dudes See-I, rockers Modern Man, U.S. Royalty, and Deleted Scenes, indie-pop singer Olivia Mancini, and jazz artists Brian Settles and Andrea Wood.
This is the work of Listen Local First, a group modeled after and carrying the stamp of approval of the Think Local First campaign for restaurants and retail. “There’s so much to D.C. musical culture that’s made it a viable music town in the past,” says Chris Naoum, who created Listen Local First with Moffatt. “It’s about bringing the awareness back to the public that there’s so much music going on in D.C.”
So why try to apply locavorism to music? Naoum, a lawyer who used to work for the Future of Music Coalition, is mostly trying to bring exposure to local artists. There’ll be another Local Music Day in November, Naoum says. In the longer term, he’d like to create an all-local music stream that local businesses could pay to use, as well as transform Listen Local First’s website into a catch-all resource for D.C. musicians.
Generating revenue is also part of the point: The businesses participating in Local Music Day are paying a small fee, which will be split among the artists.
Naoum says he wanted an eclectic group of artists and not a heavy focus on indie rock, which already gets plenty of play from local press and bloggers. I’d love to see some EDM or hip-hop or go-go as part of the next Local Music Day, but for a first attempt, the list is decently representative of the area’s various scenes. (The District is also rich in experimental music, but do you really want drone with your morning coffee?) The bigger challenge is getting people to care about local music the way they might care about local produce—-both in the aggregate (as opposed to individual scenes), and at all.
There are a couple of related events: A Listen Local First/Future of Music Coalition showcase on Sunday at Iota in Arlington, and a Local Music Day launch party next Wednesday at The Dunes in Columbia Heights. You can find a list of the businesses participating in Local Music Day here.