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Bumbershoot 2017, Day Three: The Seattle Music Panel

Bumbershoot, Audioasis
Gabe Pollak
all photos by Matthew B. Thompson (view set)

On Labor Day weekend 2007, Tim Lennon was working the perimeter at the Bumbershoot Music & Arts Festival. All weekend long, as others danced and partied, Lennon stood dutifully by the gates, occasionally letting artists in, but mainly just standing, waiting. He could hear the laughter of the festgoers and feel the bass of performers -- Wu Tang headlined that year -- at bigger stages inside, but Lennon knew he was in exactly the right spot. He wanted to work in music and he had to start somewhere. For now, that meant standing at the gates.

Ten years later and Lennon sits in a black folding chair onstage at the Vera Project, where he is now the Executive Director. He's seated next to Sub Pop CEO Megan Jasper, KEXP's beloved Audioasis host and event producer Sharlese Metcalf, and Director of the City of Seattle's Office of Film + Music Kate Becker, three other scene vets who, like Lennon, have spent their fair share of time down in the trenches of the local music community. Gathered together for a panel entitled "The Seattle Music Panel," this group of professionals, an all-star crew of inspiring Seattle music industry experts, share their experiences finding careers in music. It's a lot of wisdom brought together in one place.

Though the panel is ostensibly focused on exploring what makes Seattle such an iconic city for music -- is it something in the water? Something in the rain? -- the conversation varies greatly, including discussions about music listening habits, building relationships with bands, and realizing that no opportunity, however exciting, is the make-or-break, end-all-be-all moment of your career. The panelists, each of different pillars of the music community, seem to agree that what sets Seattle apart, more than anything else, is the city's community-focused outlook.

"We have a collaborative and supportive spirit and community that is really special and unique to this city," says Jasper. "I think all of the folks that I’m lucky enough to sit with now are examples of that spirit." Prefacing his thoughts with a remark on the effects of rising costs of living on local artists, Lennon then connected Seattle's overall caring nature to the relative size of the city. "Seattle is still small enough that you have to play smaller venues so everyone runs into each other," says Lennon. "There's very little siloing between our different scenes so you have folks from all different genres and all different stages in their careers using the same resources."

Each of the panelists also speaks about the importance of getting out and meeting people and provided extensive information on different ways for people to get involved. If you're interested, check out a quick rundown of ways to get involved with each organization below.

  • The Office of Film + Music hosts monthly, all-ages mixers on the last Wednesday of every month, with 90 minutes of networking, followed by 30 minutes of professional development. Becker also invited the crowd to participate in The Office of Film + Music's new Creative Economy Survey, which is open until September 15. "We're really trying to find out what does the Seattle creative community need most right now so that, with our limited resources, we can focus on those things."
  • Sub Pop offers internship programs, which you can find more about here. If you're an artist and want to get your music listened to by someone at Sub Pop, Jasper advised sending your music to Sub Pop also celebrates will celebrate its 30th anniversary next year. Jasper couldn't share all the details of the celebration yet but she did say this: "It will be free, it will fun, and we would be grateful for you to join us."
  • The Vera Project offers many opportunities to volunteer as well as classes on everything from screen printing to running sound for shows. For bands looking to book gigs at the Vera, Lennon advised first volunteering or getting to know the Vera Project's staff. "It's relationships, really, is what it comes down to," says Lennon.
  • For our part, KEXP offers many exciting volunteer and internship opportunities. If you're a band looking for airplay, check out John Richard's post on "Working Towards Airplay." Finally, as noted, KEXP just announced a new series of educational workshops entitled "Mastering the Hustle." The next workshop is "Booking Festivals and Making Your Performance Count" on Saturday, October 21st in the KEXP Gathering Space.
So what are you waiting for? Write a song, revise that resume, or just go see a show. When it comes to your local music scene, the only mistake you can make is to not get involved.

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