When we want to draw the masses out in San Antone, we stamp a low ticket price and offer more for less – it’s what people expect, especially when it comes to local music. It’s no different this year with the San Antonio Music Showcase, the San Antonio Current’s one night, once-a-year foray that taps into the local music community on a grand scale.
For all-access passes, the full lineup, and show times, click here. You can get your all-access wristband at the door of any venue Saturday night.
The event, which will go from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 24, features 60-plus bands from across the city who will perform at 12 distinct venues along the North St. Mary’s Strip, all at your fingertips for only $5. These are exciting numbers from a consumer standpoint that will surely draw a crowd, but they also are telling of the way San Antonio values the local music community, as well as the event organizers’ and leaders’ understanding thereof.
According to SATX Music General Manager Libby Day, if you charge more than the present asking price for such an event, numbers will begin to shrink.
“The Current has some expertise in pricing large scale events. People happily pay $30 for BeerFest – it sells out every year,” Day said. “Wristbands are only $5, that alone tells you the value the public places on local music.”
While that doesn’t directly impact the issue of payout for bands – SATX Music received a talent budget through their contract with the Current – it certainly plays a role in how much wiggle room the organization has in the entire process.
“Selling our local music community to the larger public takes media, takes promo, takes sponsorship,” Day said, knowing that this a team effort and all parties have to step up.
“Do larger businesses find value in it enough to be a sponsor? If there could be more and bigger sponsors that would be fabulous, but it really comes down to the value proposition to everyone.”
The Current raises money through sponsorship deals, so highlighting the benefits of a thriving local music scene and being able to make a case for this “value proposition” – a concept Day repeatedly emphasized as critical to all parties involved – is at the crux of the issue if the industry wants to raise the bar for local musicians and pay them what they deserve.
“Even though we’re paying all the bands, unfortunately we’re rarely paying them what they wanna get paid, it’s just the reality,” Day said. “We’ve had bands say no, we’ve had bands play for free. Do we hold off showcases until we can pay full value? I would say no.”
Musicians will range from up-and-comers like Amea and The Foreign Arm, to “young veterans” Verisimilitude, who have recently made a splash on the electro-rock instrumental circuit in San Antonio and across the state.
“I think we settled for a little less than our price point, but we fall in line with finding the balance,” said V-tude bassist Dakota Applebaum. “If we’re not getting full guarantee, what kind of promo are we getting, who are we opening up for? We’re getting solid promotion so this is worth it.”
Verisimilitude has been playing together for 10 years now, 14 if you include the Applebaum brothers’ collaborations on karaoke machine and bass drum in their elementary school years. For the first five or six years, the band did free shows all the time.
“Our price point is continuing to rise as a band and in a year from now I wouldn’t play for that,” Applebaum said of the payout for the SA Music Showcase. “It depends upon where you’re at as a band, you have to find your own value.”
Verisimilitude, who goes on at 11 p.m at Limelight alongside Tera Ferna, Black Market Club, and Dance Like Robots, has come a long way since playing cover songs in a five-piece band, and they are currently working on their first official full-length album for 2017.
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“We’re a three-piece instrumental rock band, bouncing between psychedelic math (and) ADD ‘can’t keep focus’ tribal, all over the place with it,” Applebaum said of the group, whose long-haired team of troubadours never fails to translate their intimate friendship into high-octane dance-worthy grooves. “We’re stoked to play at the showcase, anything highlighting local music is a great thing.”
Elevating local music and bringing it to new audiences are key components of the showcase’s value, Day said.
“The reality is that this may be the first time a band has looked at a performance contract, and this showcase is a great opportunity to become a little more familiar with what the process looks like,” Day said. “It’s a lot more painful when you’ve got the higher level shows. You don’t want to make a mistake.”
The continual nurturing of the local music scene is a key ingredient to its success, Day added, and a goal of that support is to make sure artists can be professional and communicate their value – and own it as well.
“These are learning opportunities – talking to bands about what they want to make, being up front about what we can offer, and working with their asking price,” Day added.
While she hates to overplay the word “exposure,” Day thinks the showcase has brought new eyes and ears to a part of San Antonio and to a part of music that many may not otherwise experience.
“Last year we sold over 3,000 tickets and had really positive feedback from the venues who saw patrons they’d never seen before,” Day said. “A lot of people from the Northside are willing to drive down – not a bad way to spend their $5. It’d be great for you to pay $20, but until we build the momentum, (and we have a) mass of patrons willing to pay that, it’s going to be $5.”
The conversation on educating the population on the value of local music is essential, because people don’t care about what they don’t know. At least that’s how Day sees it.
“People are willing to put out $30 for BeerFest, $100 for Mala Luna because they know what they’re gonna get,” Day said. “We brought out bands that are hustling because a lot of the ears that will be there Saturday are people who have never been and won’t go again if they don’t have a positive experience.”
Top image: Bassist Dakota Applebaum of Verisimiltude performs at Imagine Books & Records. Photo courtesy of Oscar Moreno.