A Look Into The Philadelphia Music Scene
Music might be the great unifier — on the streets and in the venues of every city in the world. Popular music cities like Austin, Seattle, and New York all have their own music scenes. In Philadelphia, though, the ‘scene’ is a lot more than just records and singles. The Philly music scene is a working machine, with a thousand different gears, all working in harmony.
The talent — Musicians and performers — are the heart of it all. Musicians make music, but they need the help of sound engineers and producers, the technical kings of any given scene. The talent needs a support base of some kind, people like managers and promoters. Venue operators and talent buyers make the live music scene extravagant, bringing all types of visions and creations to life for our entertainment. It’s easy to focus on the music side of things, but it’s important to realize that there are people covering all of the technicalities that go on behind the live performances and these people are imperative to the entire operation.
Philly Has Longtime Roots In Music
Like most other cities, Philadelphia has its own distinct music scene. During the 1960s and 70s, Philadelphia gained widespread industry attention for the writing and production of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff for what is now famed as the “sound of Philadelphia.” One of Gamble and Huff’s most notable production characteristics was their lush and textured sound. They made use of full and diverse orchestras– violins, strings, and harps– and in doing so, they connected a city that was full of musicians. There were people working together and melding their combined influences to create a completely unique and dynamic sound. From that era on, the smooth, evolving sounds of famous artists like The Roots and Jill Scott broke out as they dominated the airwaves and, ultimately, the Philadelphia music scene. Since that time, however, there have been a few factors holding the Philly music scene back.
Despite an incredible amount of talent combined with facilities that can be found in every corner of the city, there’s a notable disconnectedness that exists in Philadelphia. Rent is so much cheaper in Philly compared to other cities; There are some of the best studios in the country situated in Philadelphia; Some of the best venues, talent buyers, and producers are all here. The problem is that despite all of these advantages, these different resources don’t always manage to work together.
For many popular acts, the disconnect doesn’t seem to faze them. Groups like The Roots, Dr. Dog, and G. Love have grabbed the attention of fans worldwide. Different individuals within the music industry have expressed mixed emotions on seeing some of Philly’s biggest contributing artists leaving the city of Philadelphia.
Live music around Philadelphia
A music scene is only partially made up of the studios and the records– without a solid live music foundation, there’s nowhere for artists to promote themselves. With that in mind, the live music scene in Philly is as varied and interesting as the studio scene. Philly has a crazy amount of places to play music, both big and small. Each is diverse in their draw, pulling a different crowd almost every night. While some give the smaller acts the stage like Johnny Brenda’s or the First Unitarian Church, others like the Wells Fargo Center and Franklin Music Hall (formerly the home of the famous Electric Factory), offer bigger ticket acts such as Bruce Springsteen and Dave Matthews Band.
Since many of the venues within the city are bars, there’s often a 21+ age limit set, keeping younger musicians stuck and unable to contribute. But there’s one thing even these younger musicians have access to — the web. With the expansion of the internet, the ability of artists to collaborate from home is extensive. The power of social media has created myriad outlets for artists to get their music noticed. YouTube has been credited with numerous successes, including pop superstar Justin Bieber. Philly’s own Ryan Schubert uses YouTube to post acoustic covers of popular songs. However, social media alone can’t be a one-stop shop for success in the music industry– what gives you a one-up on every other person trying to make it big? What gives Philadelphia its own unique edge?
The main drive behind the people who make up the city and call it their home, is the shared passion and drive to preserve Philadelphia’s rich culture of art, music and creativity. That’s what sets Philly apart, what allows it to stand out from the other “scenes.” However, according to some music gurus, the best is still yet to come. Philly has a lot of small pockets springing up throughout the city– the basement show culture of West Philly and University City, the glitz and the glam of venues like Wells Fargo and BB&T Pavilion (Camden), the small venues in the outskirt towns like Manayunk and Ardmore. If it all comes together, Philadelphia is on track to surpass the boom of the late 70s and early 80s. Keep your eyes open and your ears to the ground as you wait for the next big thing, though. It’s easy to miss the forest for the trees, and if you’re not keeping an eye on the small scene, you’re liable to miss some of the most fun, energetic shows in the city– What we are infamously known for!
So, although we are in the midst of a global quarantine, start checking these bands and venues out on social media so that when we are good to go, you can get out there! Go and order from your local hole-in-the-wall, support your local jazz club, (eventually) jump in the pit at a punk show in someone’s basement, or head out to see the world’s stars at the Wells Fargo Center. Whatever you do, go check out who’s playing in your neighborhood and support the flourishing underground music culture that’s right outside your door. Philadelphia is truly home to a unique and very special one. There are musicians, big and small, waiting to put on a show! So as Shakespeare wrote: If music be the food of love, play on!
To find out which Philly bands are on our radar right now, check back in with us and view our specially curated mixtapes. We release the Phila Globe Mixtape on the 19th of every month.