Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday….
Shop Local Should Be A Staple
This last weekend, I took my daughter and her best friend to a local Phoenix Children’s Hospital benefit concert at the Hard Rock Cafe in Phoenix to see local rockers Jane n the Jungle. I wanted these two young teenagers to see what I see in not only local music, but local artistry in general. I wanted them to experience, in the limitless potential of their youth, the feeling of seeing approachable, good, hard working, talented people living their dreams.
The capitol, not only in terms of cash, but also in time and attention, that we invest in famous strangers – is staggering. Within a day of release some new music video from Beyonce’ or Taylor Swift is going to have a bazillion views. Please note: I do not intend to say that the rich and famous do not do good things, are not talented, or do not deserve record sales. That is not my point at all. My point, is that my daughter probably has next to zero chance of ever meeting Taylor Swift. She will never directly inspire Taylor Swift. Taylor Swift has reached a pinnacle of fame where frankly, it would be dangerous for her to actually directly engage with her fans on a regular basis. Such is the price of fame. But our daughters have no problem wanting to pump money at Taylor Swift or judging themselves against Taylor Swift.
Role models are powerful people.
But, what if our children could see, at a young, impressionable age, the raw, hopeful, love of artistic expression? What if they could see that glimmer… before it was an expectation? What if they could experience that feeling of sincere gratitude from an artist who genuinely still feels the magic when they connect to an audience. What if they could see that there are other kids, right now, actively doing – chasing their dreams…. rather than judging themselves against the expectation of stardom?
We see a world all around us that has people spending their entire lives encapsulating themselves in the actions of the famous… while trudging through their own mundane worlds. It is almost like, culturally, we have become drones… and we only live vicariously through Facebook. But… what if…. we could light the fires of inspiration locally… within our children…. within ourselves…. and give our time, money, and attention…. our efforts…. to local artists, local voices, local neighbors…. inspiring our own communities from within?
Shop local should be more than a hipster trend. Spending your time and money on local resources has always been an economic success story. You have to purchase certain items anyway, so why not put that money somewhere that gives the most bang for your buck? Obviously a debate over cost immediately arises in terms of business, but that line of thinking is not necessarily true at all in terms of local artistry.
Eric Clapton recently said, in one of his several “I think I will retire” interviews over the last few years, that “most countries had basically become different versions of America”. Specifically, he was talking about the time it takes to travel, security, etc, but one can extrapolate much from that statement. Imagine life on the road. Big hotels, security, limousines or buses. Vans or planes. Does Madison Square Garden really look that different from Wembley Arena at that point?
He’s right. In an intensely connected world, every thing and every body has blurred into the same. It’s not that there have not always been trends… it is that they didn’t used to be so immediately global… so therefor they were not immediately obvious. Trending has not always been a staple in our vocabulary. Kardashians was not a globally recognized concept. It should not be surprising that this would change one of the most amazing things about being a touring artist. Every single city, town, venue, and community all starts to look the same.
This is not the case whatsoever in the local music scene. Think about it. Local acts have favorite clubs to play, we have favorite venues as fans. If we tune into any popular radio station, or worse… satellite or steaming service… we will hear exactly the same songs in almost the same rotation, regardless of what part of the country we are in. Not so with local radio. If you tune into KWSS here in Phoenix, or any other local, independent radio station, you get an immediate flavor of community. Different music, different advertising, more connectivity. But in an intensely connected and interconnected world, time spent actually paying attention to the small guys has lapsed….. and it shows in the pervasive sameness of our increasingly globalizing society.
This kind of local attention and dedication in late 80s and early 90s Seattle is exactly what propelled so many of those bands, all from the same town, all playing the same circuit, to ultra stardom. It was not YouTube. It was not mass media. It was local dedication. It was making the decision, and having the realization, that one could still have an absolutely astounding plethora of music in their rotation, good music, and have it be by local folks, offering a quality product.
This concept used to be a staple in community thinking. It was a standard economic truth… but big box, and big corporate gains changed all of that…. and now, it is a sad overwhelming truth that people shop at Wal-Mart because they can’t afford to shop local. However, with a slight changing in perspective, both from consumers and creators… it stops being about how much you can gain, or earn, or benefit, and it becomes about what you contribute. It becomes about what you have left behind, or what you have done to put something in the world that wasn’t there before.
Many of us have this thinking, but because of the global perspective shift, the focus on fame, and the continual saturation of it… those dreams are consistently more epically huge in the minds of our youth. They are thinking that global stardom, instant fame, America’s Got Talent, or The Voice, or American Ninja Warrior, or Top Chef is their ticket to success.
But the more I motor around the great Southwest…. I am seeing people doing amazing things, right in their own back yards. Creating astounding music right in your local pubs. Making awe inspiring films that inspire our youth. Painting surreal canvases of locally famous moments. Creating tastes unique to the Arizona experience. Taking the time to completely light up the worlds of two little teenage girls who just got an amazing lesson on success.
This is the essence of culture. This is the foundation of solidarity. In a world that has become polarized, divided, ripped asunder by the lay of the land, an answer…. a viable solution… can be to look inward. Inward to the ties that truly bind us together…. as a people, as a species…. In this way, those dividing lines become less concrete, and the commonalities that bind us together become strikingly obvious.
Furthermore, apply this thinking back to the idea of local community. What would the world be like… if things were less globally available? If when Clapton rolled from New York to Arizona it stopped being a blur? What would it have been like in America before the Route 66 was decommissioned… and the interstates took over? Local books. Local sounds. Local trends. Local flavor!
It becomes about local solidarity and loyalty, and it stops being about politics or personal gain. The idea of it takes a village does not have to be a political construct. It is not about shopping when and where the holidays tell you to…. it is about seeing the larger picture of the world we are all collectively creating.