Last week in my wishes for the new year, I wrote about Portland’s need to publicize its incredible strip of live local music. I know. As if. But now that I’ve spent a couple of years on the dark side of business reporting, I’ve got a new-found appreciation for the power of marketing. Every day, I discover companies with great products that are losing money because they never factored in a marketing budget and therefore never found a market for their product. You can’t buy what you don’t know about.
By the same token, inferior products gain traction all the time by the virtue of huge advertising campaigns trumpeting their wondrous virtues.
Simply put, a good pimp beats working a corner any day.
Maybe you’ve heard of the two pimps working since 1987 to sell Maine’s film community — the Maine Film Office. To quote: “The Maine Film Office is a two-person division of the Maine Office of Tourism and the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development. The film office helps bring film, television and other media projects to Maine; works to expand and improve Maine’s in-state production industry; and helps all Maine-made media productions succeed.”
Sweet. Can we get one of those (though maybe without the unnecessary semicolons)?
It’s not like there isn’t any money for a Maine Music Office. Two employees, at $50,000 each (they’re professionals, and should be paid that way), plus bennies and office space (which the state gets cheap), some computers, and a Web-development budget, all adds up to about $200,000 a year maybe. That’s nothing when you consider that, in a time of great budget-cutting on the part of the governor, the Department of Economic and Community Development is receiving the single largest proposed bump in budget for the 2008-2009 budget cycle: $31,412,113, up 32 percent from the last biennium. And that’s something for which the governor should be commended. I firmly believe in the business axiom that, in tough times (and I do believe at least a mild recession is in the offing), the smart business managers put their money into business development and marketing. The new, exciting, and the innovative survive.
But wait, you say, what about the Maine Arts Commission?
Okay, it’s true that there’s already $1.6 million dedicated to the MAC in 2008-2009, and they got a bump, too, but raise your hand if you think the Maine Arts Commission is working hard for the local rock, punk, hardcore, hip-hop scene. Of the $300,000 it gave out in 2005-2006, exactly $2750 went to musicians — Kelly Nesbitt, Emilia Dahlin, Gary Wittner, and Allen Lowe. But that was an improvement, actually, over 2004-2005, when non-classical musicians received roughly $0 of $570,000 in grants.
I’m not complaining, though. I’m sure that most of that discrepancy is simply because punk bands are somewhat, but not totally, unlikely to apply for grants from the Maine Arts Commission. Though punk music is certainly an “art,” it’s possible the punks don’t see the MAC as “theirs” (and a group like the Portland Music Foundation will definitely be working to show bands that these opportunities are open to them).