It always strikes me when I see the popularity of Detroit artists in other areas of the world. They get respect that seems to even outgrow the love they get in their beloved hometown. There are a variety of reasons why this may be, from the European love for Detroit music, to the declining economy of a city in turmoil. The job market for artists has become yet another section of industry in Detroit that is having difficulty competing with the rest of the world. In my time throwing events here in Detroit, and dealing with the constrained budgets of the Detroit market, I have witnessed the polarity that is created by this uneven pay scale. It’s a rough reality that everyone must come to grips with at some point.
Let’s take Terrence Parker for example, he is a well-respected artist in the Detroit community, but overseas, he’s like a superstar. Traveling to places like Croatia and Germany he routinely plays for crowds of thousands that come out specifically for him. This is not to say Detroit does not love TP, because we do, and everyone I know is a huge fan of him. However, it’s more of a commentary on the Detroit scene in general and what the artists and fans are faced with when doing business here. We simply can’t offer the same crowds or pay scales that bigger cities around the globe can offer on a consistent basis, we just don’t have the resources. Those resources being fans, clubs, and money. Sure, every once in a while we can throw a giant party with big names, but for the most part, our native electronic music artists travel elsewhere to hit it big.
Recently I booked Delano Smith for a show and it makes me sad to know what I could offer him, versus what he regularly commands in other cities. The week before my event with Delano he played a party in New York that was $40 admission, here in Detroit we could never get away with something like that. His $40 show was packed in New York, and our free show on a Wednesday night was busy, but had no cover charge and occurred at a small nightclub (Grasshopper). In a way, this isn’t such a bad thing for Detroit. We have such a saturated market of great artists here and an extremely limited number of fans. This drives prices down and increases value for the scene, so long as the native artists are willing to recognize this situation and give a hometown discount. Detroit is and always has been an awesome place to witness some of the best electronic music in the world, but this is a challenge I think everyone needs to consider.
Some Detroit artists experience the luxuries of big crowds, nice hotels and fat checks in other cities, and it causes them to look beyond Detroit to make a living. Look at Robert Hood, or Jeff Mills. Both from Detroit, and both no longer live here. Richie Hawtin, also from the area, chose Berlin as his home. These geographical decisions are a product of the small market in Detroit and the opportunity for greater influence in other places, and I can’t say I don’t understand it. I’m not happy about it, but I see the logic.
Let’s be honest, in some ways, Detroit is more respected in other places than in its own city. That’s a testament to the amazing amount of talent we have here, and a product of the scarce resources we have to compete with. This is a great place to hone your craft, because being “good” is just the minimum requirement in this city where a large number of quality artists are competing for a small number of gigs. However, that’s also the reason some people leave to find greener pastures, literally. An artist traveling to another city with a reputation of being from Detroit has a mystique that can pay dividends, and that is the bottom line. So we should be proud to have a city with so many amazing artists, and aware of the fact that it might not be big enough to hold all its precious gems forever.