New Forms of Networking Rock the Staten Island Music Scene
For touring musician-turned-student Willie Diaz, the Internet has always been more than just an entertaining way to procrastinate. Having spent months on the road touring the country, Diaz and his former band mates turned to the world of social networking, particularly Twitter, to make friends and to find fans willing to take them in for a night.
“Through the site I was able to contact a band in Massachusetts at one point, and they gave us a place to crash,” he said. “Their drummer let us sleep on the floor of his living room, which was a huge step up from sleeping in our van”.
Going back even as early as 10 years ago, occurrences such as this were pretty much unheard of, and bands on tour resorted to pulling over somewhere and sleeping in the van, or occasionally scraping up the money to spend a night in a hotel.
With websites such as Facebook and Twitter experiencing a user explosion, many local musicians like Diaz decided to use social networking to their advantage, not just for touring, but in a variety of ways. Local artists have made use of the modern tools to boost their popularity, showcasing their music to a wider, more easily accessible range of listeners.
Video: A look at Staten Island’s music scene and how it is impacted by social networking
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Alongside music sharing capabilities, sites such as Facebook and Twitter are frequently used by musicians and show-bookers to promote concerts, events, and album releases.
According to Dean Santa and Ronnie Grazioli, the heads of Staten Island booking company Backline Productions, Facebook in particular is a very important part of the area’s music scene. The company represents several of the Island’s local artists, booking shows in any venue, small or large, willing to let a band play.
“Facebook has done a lot for the scene here,” said Grazioli. “It’s brought so much awareness for music. People can connect over the Internet, and then they end up connecting in real life over something the site helped promote. It’s a great thing”.
The company has used the Facebook to create event pages for the shows they book, allowing users to send the page out to friends, and invite people to the shows through the event page. Information for each show is given, including ticket price and set times, so that fans can plan in advance.
Santa agrees with Grazioli, explaining, “[Without Facebook] we really wouldn’t be getting anywhere… The event pages are the most awesome form of free publicity anyone could ever get.”
Accompanying the growth in fan-base and popularity, social networking has brought another important type of growth to the music scene – friendship.
In previous years, local music scenes across the country were noted not only for their intensity and undiscovered talent, but also for their sense of brotherhood. Musicians and fans alike typically formed close, family-like relationships through music. The same faces were often spotted at every last show in the area, and people were always screaming every word.
This hasn’t changed with social networking; it has grown and expanded. People now have this new ability to be “online friends,” which leads to closer-knit friendships in real life.
Staten Island pop-punk outfit, Friday’s Nightmare, has seen this first hand. All three members of the group have watched their friend count, both online and in person, grow thanks to the Internet.
“Instead of just speaking at shows, everyone involved in the scene speaks on a daily basis. We all organize shows together, we all promote each other,” said the band’s bassist, Steve Zimmer. “It’s as simple as posting a link. Things like that have sort of just helped us build really strong friendships.”
With this, the group not only sees familiar faces at each show, but new ones as well. “The entire scene has become a family [because of the contact the internet provides]. We’re all fans of each other’s work, we’re all friends, and all the fans of our work who don’t play music are friends. It’s a really awesome thing,”Zimmer said.
Bonds aren’t only created locally. Facebook and Twitter have become key in building interstate and international relations as well, making touring much easier for the average band.
Bands also use these outlets as a way of finding venues willing to book them for shows in areas where they never played.
Interactive Feature: An inside look at Staten Island’s venues
“I remember finding this really cool club in the middle of nowhere in New Hampshire through their Facebook page, and they booked us on the spot. It ended up being the best show of our entire tour,” Diaz said.
As a whole, the impacts of this new social-era are almost entirely positive. Most people not finding a single flaw in the way things are shaping up at the hands of the internet.
The only problem found with social networking is what Backline’s Grazioli considers to be a minimal one.
“People are much quicker to judge a band based on what they hear or see being said online,” he said. “This might not be a good thing, but it can very easily be avoided, or even counteracted by positive comments. Some bands might hit it big because of something like this, and unless your band has some serious enemies, I can’t see it causing too many problems.”