There are some simple and harsh realities about being a local musician in Maine. At the top of the list is plain old math: 230,000 people in greater metro Portland — all the very young, very old, and very lame = not very many people to come to your shows and buy your CDs. You want to sell 5000 discs locally? Well, sure, just sell a copy to one in every 46 people around here. That some local bands do just that is what’s truly amazing about our local scene.
Of course, social networking Internet sites have very much broadened the horizons of “local” bands, getting music to the ears of potential customers and fans all over the world (just look at the worldwide success of Portsmouth’s RPM project, collecting newly made discs by artists hailing from Alaska to Japan). Still, a little help on the home front can’t hurt, right?
Columns like this one and those in other local media outlets can help, as can the support of local radio and even Bull Moose, but it sure would be nice if somebody said to some local bands, “Hey, how about I put a CD of yours into the hands of, oh, say, 10,000 people in Portland — for free.” Oh, wait, that’s exactly what Bangor Savings Bank is in the process of doing.
That’s right, Bangor Savings Bank, working with Charlie Gaylord from WCLZ’s “Greetings from Area Code 207”/Cornmeal Records, has commissioned a CD of selections from the first six GFAC 207 discs called Maine Tracks, printed up 5000 copies, and given them all away. They are currently in the process of printing up another 5000 so they can give them away, too. On top of that, they dropped $1000 to GFAC 207’s favorite charity, the St. Lawrence Arts and Cultural Center, and they’re likely to pony up more. Isn’t that the way our local banks should go about supporting the arts?
Look, there’s no doubt that Bangor Savings has something to gain. They just opened three new branches in Southern Maine (on Brighton in Portland, and in South Portland and Scarborough), and they’re looking to get some press (done) and goodwill from their new neighbors. And other banks have stepped up in the past, as when Key Bank sponsored the Maine Jazz Festival. But did Bangor Savings have to send 1000 discs in the mail to the nearest residents to each of their new branches? Probably not. Did they have to make local music what you hear when they put you on hold? Did they have to use local music in their new line of snazzy TV and radio commercials? No, they didn’t. Most local companies don’t think to do any of these fairly simple things that have a great impact on the local music scene — and the local economy, for that matter.
Yellow Light Breen, senior VP and chief strategy officer at Bangor Savings, seems like a guy who gets it. “Not to typecast my own tastes too much,” he says, “but I’ve got Counting Crows and Coldplay in my car, and I’d listen to this CD just as soon as I’d listen to those two.” But people can’t know that until they’ve heard the music, and they can’t hear the music if it’s not on the radio 40 times per week like all the mainstream music, right? Well, maybe if somebody sent them discs for free, or gave them some at the bank...