Tuesday, February 19, 2008

(This originally appeared in The Rag, a monthly A&E publication that serves the Jersey Shore region)

We are extremely fortunate to live in an area with a rich and diverse cultural community. (Believe me, I know.. At one point I drove from coast to coast six times within a span of four years and observed many places in America where Walmart, a truck stop and Cracker Barrel were the only games in town. Homogenized is far too kind a term.)

Fortunately, here at the Jersey Shore, we actually have abundant, original, live music every night of the week! How many parts of this country can actually claim that? We have art galleries, independent publications, great public radio, hip boutiques, eclectic eateries, etc.. We in fact live within a vivid kaleidoscope of creative expression. This is a fragile and precious gift, yet how do we support each other in thought, word, and deed?

Its tough. Many of us adhering to our creative calling suffer for our art. We rarely make as much money as "normal" folks do and its financially challenging to patronize all the deserving and wonderful things around us. Conversely, and perhaps perversely, too many of those so called "normal" folks are more preoccupied and interested in taking their kids to see Miley Cyrus lip sync than thinking globally and acting locally by seeing an amazing local talent like Rick Barry at the Saint.

Simultaneously we are enduring an era (or error as the case may be) where we live in a world that values style over substance and where art is to often regarded as cheap, disposable, and free. So how does an authentic aspiring artist compete with free? How does a struggling news paper compete with a free web site covering the same ground? How does a musician inspire someone to pay for a download when there are a hundred thousand or more available for nothing?

In other words, how do artists inspire conscious compassion from consumers? It can be ironic. As a guitar player, if I'm playing in a club and someone digs my playing, its not uncommon to be offered a free round worth at least 3-5 bucks, yet if someone hears and enjoys one of my tunes online via an internet radio station or a podcast, it rarely compels someone to make a purchase at iTunes. Itruly believe that the only way the music business will survive is by individual artists cultivating meaningful, personal connections with their audience through live performance, an exceptional, constantly updated new media presence, and oh yeah talent!

But what do I know? Apparently nothing because the music business has collapsed as I knew it. Over 20 years in a career and now nothing I know seems to have economic value anymore. Ah the sweet sound of progress! Alas, I'm calling upon Rag Readers to inform me as to what it takes to inspire patronage for recording artists in 2008. Send me an email at: colie.brice@aeriarecords.com and let me know what you think. Tell me what takes to persuade you that the local talent of this region is genuinely worth supporting..

(Colie Brice is the Creative Entertainment Organizer (CEO) of AERIA Records in Asbury Park. AERIA Records has released recordings by popular local legends such as Agency, Brian Amsterdam, Rick Barry, James Dalton, Joe Harvard, Juggling Suns, Phantom's Opera, Mark Prescott, Brian Saint and the Sinners, and St. Christopher among others. Colie is also an active recording artist himself with over 200 tracks available at iTunes and other leading digital distribution retailers. For additional information please visit: coliebrice.com or www.aeriarecords.com