With the exception of MySpace phenoms and reality-show-constructed divas, success at the pop game requires digging yourself, inch by inch, out of dive bars and onto raised, well-lit stages. Among the most effective ways to do this is good old-fashioned coattail-riding. You play with a national touring act, they hear you, like you, get to know you and, when their next tour comes up, they -- maybe, just maybe -- ask you to come along. Putting on a concert a week, Spokane 7's PA System podcast pairs local artists with national acts more than anyone, affording great chances for local acts to get noticed.
When I spoke with her for the local feature this week (see page 64), though, Kaylee Cole felt one such opportunity had been taken from her. It had been great, she said, opening for Johanna Kunin, a soft, spacey Portland chanteuse she admires. The only problem, though, was that after hooking up Cole with Kunin as part of the PA System, writer Isamu Jordan interviewed Kunin right in the middle of Cole's set. This disappointed the young singer. Kunin seemed disappointed too, finding Cole afterward, telling her she had really liked the song she heard and wished she had caught more.
Podcasts are dope, no question, but as an exercise in scene-building, they haven't proven themselves anywhere near as effective as going out, playing real shows, meeting real out-of-town bands and networking. A podcast appearance might get Cole a couple dozen more people at her next Spokane gig. A performance that excites someone like the constantly touring Kunin might land Cole a spot on a tour of the West.
One thing podcasts have done, though, is generate considerable publicity and hipster cred for the papers and Websites that generate them. I'd caution 7's editors, then, against losing sight of the PA System's power to help local artists by fixating instead on the publicity they're generating for themselves.