“Philly Disease” and our Music Scene

Dear Readers,
After living and working in NYC for nearly 10 years, I woke up one day decided to move back to my hometown of Philadelphia. I knew I wanted to create something musical and wonderful, but wasn’t yet sure of the specifics. My decision was met with mixed reactions to say the least. While my New York friends saw the move as an exciting next chapter, the majority of my Philly friends responded to the news with, “Oh God! Why would you leave NYC for Philly? Are you crazy?”

Despite this reaction, I followed my gut and have no regrets. Over the next few months, I threw myself into Philly’s music scene- going to open mics, occupying many music venues, and even busking in the train stations, searching for inspiration.  I soon discovered that Philly is unusually chock full of musical talent.

According to The Atlantic, we are #5 in the country for number of musical acts, with 45, 508 Philly- based artists and bands. We also have the best fans around. Go to any major concert or sporting event and it’s clear that Philly fans are dedicated, supportive, and passionate. Also, being the 5th most populous city in the country, there are a lot of us!

Why then, with this combination of stellar talent and fans, is our music scene not viewed by the rest of the world as “one of the best?” According to another study by  The Atlantic, we ranked a pitiful 45 amongst the country’s  “best” music scenes. That’s a big jump from 5. What’s wrong here?

First I investigated what makes a music scene “the best” according to their terms. Aside from number of bands in a particular region, The Atlantic examined the concentration of music- related businesses in each city and consequently, the number of music jobs. It is not a measure of talent or quality, but of the infrastructure currently in place to support that talent both onstage and behind the scenes.

I have to say, while we have a ton of music venues and artists in Philly, we’re not organized at all. That’s where Rock On Philly comes into play. I wanted to create a mainstream platform for all the music subcultures in the city and its surrounding regions, so that artists at all career levels can better connect with Philly music fans.

Aside from the lack of organization of our music scene, I think another big problem here is our lack of confidence as a city. This “lack of confidence” is a real thing and was even given a name in a recent study by Rand Research and the Arts– “Philly disease.”

If this disease is prevalent in our music community, it’s going to result in a lot of musicians who are simply, “hobbyists.” So aside from helping Philly unify the current scene, I want to bring more education and music business opportunities to the region’s talent.  We’ve got the raw materials. We just need a little swagger. We need to believe in ourselves and in our city. Once we have that, it’ll be easier to make bigger moves and see Philly move up the scale to become one of the “best” music scenes in the nation. So the next time you hear a friend is moving to Philly from another major city, your reply shouldn’t be “why” but “rock on!” We have a lot to offer.

If you have any comments or ideas about enriching our current music scene, please leave them below. Let’s get a dialogue going!

-Jennifer Logue
Founder & Managing Editor
Rock On Philly

This article was originally posted on July 24, 2013. Because of an update to the url, the date was modified. 

2 Comments

  1. D. C.

    September 19, 2013 at 9:46 am

    Nice post!

    In my experience so far as a musician in Philadelphia, there seems to be much apathy abound within the music scene. It’s hard to get people out to shows let alone get people to care about what you’re doing as an act. I’ve heard a lot of talk amongst musician friends about how Philly crowds just don’t care about what’s going on in their city (a la the “Philly disease”?) but couple this with social media allowing the ability for anyone to access music that comes from anywhere and the scene implodes.

    Maybe if we can get people to stop ingesting the shit coming out of publications like Pitchfork and create some sense of excitement or community within the scene that exists around them can we excel as our own musical entity.

  2. Chuck Anderson

    May 4, 2014 at 11:45 pm

    Philadelphia has proven itself to be a wonderful training ground for musicians but a pitiful community for venues and performances.

    Fault can be divided equally. The venues do a terrible job of marketing their own entertainment. Expectations fall totally on the musicians to bring fans. The musicians themselves are not strong in their marketing efforts. The Philadelphia audiences are, as suggested, very supportive of super stars but not at all supportive of the outstanding talent from Philadelphia and the surrounding region. This is especially true of those who have chosen non commercial art forms such as jazz and classical music.

    I am delighted to see that this website has seen the need to address this issue and I would offer my help in any way to further your mission statement.

    Chuck Anderson
    jazz Guitarist

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