Letter to the editor: The $5 show and the Iowa City DIY music community

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Photo by Zak Neumann

By Adam T. Doscher

With respect to Mr. Tweedy, I appreciate what he wrote and I agree with him on most points. I believe that this has been said quietly within the community and it’s important that we not take for granted the power of the press to broadcast these ideas.

I too, am a member of the Iowa City DIY community. I created House Centipede Records in the fall of 2015. Around this time I had formed the community page Eastern Iowa Musicians Alliance or EIMA on Facebook, which has since allowed artists from Iowa to communicate directly with each other in efforts to network and co-promote shows. That year I was organizer of the weekly event Locally-Owned at Gabe’s, which showcased the varied acts in the Iowa City area. I have played and continue to play in bands here in Iowa City. I work at a music venue downtown and witness the goings-on of the DIY scene on a daily basis.

Mr. Tweedy’s letter has definitely created a buzz on social media and I think this is an important conversation to have because our home-grown art community is one of many things that makes this city very special. He spoke mainly on the topic of how bands should value their work and pleads the case that a mere five dollars for admission to three-act performances simply isn’t enough. I’m ready to agree with this. I regularly see great acts that sell themselves short either from a lack of confidence in their work or the ability to draw crowds at anything priced higher than a base of five bucks!

Where I work, we promote the local shows with flyers, handbills, our Facebook page and website as well as the events calendar in Little Village. The bands themselves promote heavily via social media and through handbills no different from the one Tweedy mentions in his letter. This all being considered, I want to mention that I’ve seen a lot of great shows where great bands play for not-so-great crowds. This happens whether the cover charge was five dollars or fifteen and I think I know why.

Tweedy mentions briefly the need for the community to support itself. I feel the need to push this point further and say that the DIY scene is made up of several small groups. I think it’s an issue of politics and preference, these groups do overlap in some cases but on rather thin margins. The politics can be seen when groups don’t support each other based in social communities that don’t mix. A crude example would be that my crew doesn’t gel with your crew. We don’t get along. The issue of preference ties into the politics because it’s a matter of taste. Groups prefer one kind of music to another and so on regardless of personal relationships.

Let’s not isolate each other any more than we already have. I feel that if some gravity is introduced into the scene that the community will come together and the culture will benefit. Hopefully Tweedy’s letter and the conversation it has started will gather the community rather than scatter it. This goes for the show-going public. If you seek out new territories you will find a wealth of diverse and talented musicians and artists you had no idea we’re your neighbors.

My regards to all those who continue to create!

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