There are a lot of bands and musicians in Pittsburgh and the surrounding area, and many of them may be under your radar. Introducing the new “Sounds of Pittsburgh” series: a new Arts Blog series that exposes you to local music. You can look forward to exclusive interviews and Spotify playlists featuring these very talented men and women so you can jam to some new music during your commute.

Nox Boys

Nox Boys group photo-by Heather MullNox Boys hail from Blanox, Pennsylvania (the boys from the ‘nox). The current line-up is Bob Powers on Melobar lap steel, Sam Berman on vocals and drums, Zack Keim on vocals and guitar, and Mitchell McDermott on bass and vocals.

Nox Boys recorded their first, self-titled album in a single day while they were still in high school. Their second album, Out of Touch, will be released on Friday, May 17th and the band is holding a Record Release Party that night at Mr. Smalls.

“Our music is garage rock, punk rock that has a melody,” said Zack. The band is currently on tour and playing songs from the new album through August.

According to Mitchell, the band hasn’t played Pittsburgh shows in a while in an effort to reach new audiences. “There are differences in audiences, more opportunities to play live when you‘re on tour. It’s just reaching out to a different market. A lot of people know us in Pittsburgh and it’s time for us to just branch out. But we still love Pittsburgh so that’s why we’re going off with a bang with these shows.”

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“I would like to take a more active role in Pittsburgh’s music community but frankly, the infighting is a bit of a turnoff.”

“I’ve always been a DIY musician. It’s a lot of work alone. A whole lot.”

“It sux working this hard for crumbs.”

“The local scene from a musician point of view is very stuck in the mud.”

“While Pittsburgh has a ton of talented musicians, there is no industry to support them. A handful of decent recording studios, but no record labels, minimal booking agents, management opportunities, etc. All that being said, it seems like its getting better.”

The Music Ecosystem Project* report is finally out and the pressure is once again back to where its always been, on the people who occupy the music scene. This time, though, we have direct feedback from artists, venue owners, promoters, fans, and others on: where they stand financially; how they feel about professional and career development opportunities; the good and bad practices that have kept the scene stuck in the same place; and reasonable asks from the community about how the City/County governments and organizations can step in for much-needed positive impact and support.

If you read between the lines, the Music Ecosystem Project report points out directly what the scene yearns for. Some may feel as if the report doesn’t offer ways to tap into new approaches or that “they’ve been doing this already.” Many may also ask: “Well, who is going to fix this problem?” That’s a problem in itself and here are some hard facts:

- The lack of unified efforts has continuously led to the scene failing people time and time again.

- Living in Pittsburgh and only creating in a “DIY” setting leaves a huge gap in business growth for all.

- The lack of diverse ownership leads to even fewer opportunities for POC and LGBTQIA individuals and groups – those who have always been vital to the creation and growth of music communities.

- There have already been groups who’ve created ways to grow and excel, but the lack of support – funding and infrastructure - from the local government and organizations leads to movements stalling.

- "97% of venues believe they draw some or few fans/visitors/patrons from out of town" shows that marketing and promotion efforts need a reset and re-configuration in an effort to offer local musicians an opportunity to be heard and appreciated from surrounding areas and also *drum roll* bring in more earned revenue from outside sources for the venues, too.

So, how do we start. Well for one, there is a networking effort by the Music Ecosystem Project on August 15th at the Hard Rock Cafe for us to come together. Next, grassroots leaders in each sector should come together and discuss ways to move forward. Focus groups about the good and bad have been completed and the focus should be action items. Support from groups like Fair Play, who have already researched sustainable options and publicly discussed ways to positively push forward, are needed. Most notably, what should be done away with is the erroneous thought there is a group of important people in the music scene that controls what’s going on in this city. We are actually the people we’ve been waiting for.

For those individuals who answered the survey who say they have professional and business services, you should probably be speaking up and doing more outreach so that the scene can consult you whether your services are paid, what you believe to be affordable or un-affordable, or free.

In closing, it doesn’t hurt to collaborate nor does it hurt to unify our goals for a better outcome for all. Those who continue to plan against positive growth should be left to their own operations. We can compare and contrast with NYC, Chicago, LA, Houston but Pittsburgh’s general population isn’t a match and we have to creatively find new ways to function and address areas we lack.

Not to be cheesy but there’s always a value in high unified numbers. United we stand, divided we fall.

*The Music Ecosystem Project is comprised of:

Sound Music Cities

91.3 WYEP

The City Of Pittsburgh Office of Nighttime Economy

Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership

The Heinz Endowments

Henry L Hillman Foundation

Published in The Arts Blog