You probably know a thing or two about music born in NYC. Most certainly you know some of the greats that have passed through these streets and stages. And you’ve probably also heard all about how the rich moving into NYC are pushing the creative up and comers out. This is not new news and I’m not hear to rip lines from Byrne’s Rolling Stone interview and craft some gritty personal eulogy preaching my thoughts on the matter, because the fact is, I never knew that New York. By the time I got to NYC that community was gone. Venues like CBGB were turned into menswear stores selling jackets for $2k. And the closest I could get to an honest exchange of pre-waxed and yet to be commercialized sound was catching acts at Mercury Lounge or artists like Moon Casale at some reformed church in Greepoint.

But here I am, being selfish. The same kind of attitude that probably would have got me stabbed in the New York I longed for. “I want great music! I want a community that fosters talent! I want venues to host – not overpriced boutiques! I wanna rock,  I wanna call in drunk to work!”

Realizing I’m only one side of this needy relationship I figured it would be best to get my head out of my own blog post and chat with someone on the other end and see what it’s like for a musician navigating the new challenges of New York.  That someone is Ian Kieffer, a singer-songwriter living in West Village. We grabbed some brew at the White Horse, chatted music, community, and the changing NYC landscape to see what life is like for the modern artists…

A Sound Community, White Horse Tavern

White Horse Tavern

NYC today as an artist. Making rent? Finding venues? Growing an audience? What’s it like?
I actually think it’s better to be a songwriter in NYC today than ever before.

How so…
There’s opportunities now that weren’t around before. Before there were just venues and street corners but now people are connected through alternative platforms.

So, I’m guessing a digital community?
Precisely. Sofar Sounds for instance. Here you have an organization that carefully curates artists to perform and arranges venues all around the city, not just stages, people’s apartments, living rooms, roof-tops.

Sounds a bit limiting in terms of exposure.
Well, the nice thing is everyone wants to go to a Sofar Sounds show, because it has that allure, the elusiveness, that which NYC does so well, so there’s always a waiting list. Which means, when you turn up, every seat is filled, and as a new artist, that’s pretty nice.

The people that are interested in music are finding new ways to curate and share, if you know where to place yourself, they’ll find you.

A Sound Community, Ian Kieffer

Ian Kieffer

So loads of self-promoting?
Everyone is doing it. There’s pressure not only to create great content but now to compete for a social media presence. It’s a lot of community building, associating with the right people so you can play in the right places ideally at the right times…

Well that seems to take the romance out of it just a bit, no?
It can if you limit your value to the # of likes you get or followers you have. I  just focus on the music because at the end of the day that’s the only reason I’m here and the only thing I hope people care about. The sound.

That said, would you do anything differently?
I wish I would have started sooner, back in college. Put myself out there more. Played more…

Is this a regret you still hold? Something fueling current creativity?
You know, a lot of people think that the destructed artist creates the best art – I disagree. At least for me. For me a peaceful mindset, relaxed and joyful, that’s where and when I really deliver, not when I’m filled with angst or depression. Not me. And I feel good. 

You seem pretty peaceful now. Here’s a reach…are we living in the Golden Age of Tech supporting the Arts?
Maybe, I have no idea. I have no clue about tech, really. But if I had to guess, I’d say there’s definitely more that’s going to occur in the tech world in the next 10-15 years that’ll help to further art. That’s my hope at least, that we haven’t reached it yet. Otherwise, it would be all downhill from there. 

Uplifting word of advice for musicians needing some encouragement?
Don’t stop creating. Don’t stop sharing. Things will come from a combination of those two actions as long as you don’t stop.

 

New York City may have a few graves for legendary stages past and the rich just might  be shoveling the dirt on the corpse, but in the progressive age we’re in a new community is evolving. True to NYC’s distinctive resilience there’s a scene Ian Kieffer is optimistic about, an environment for newcomers, where companies like Sofar Sounds are providing alternative ways to help the creative class be heard and not buried.

With 237+ cities around the world, Sofar Sounds is already a global community and growing. Hosting shows in residential living rooms, roof-tops, basements, and patios, Sofar Sounds is a multifaceted platform bringing artists and appreciators alike together for an opportunity to connect, indubitably a more personal one.

Interested in great music in unique digs? See if Sofar is in your city – how it works.
Curious to hear what Ian Kieffer sounds like? Check him out – Ian Kieffer on Soundcloud & Ian Kieffer on Facebook.

 

Ian Kieffer by Ian Kieffer

Ian Kieffer by Ian Kieffer

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