The Greg Bell Rant…


Last Thursday (May 7), veteran Local 518 concert promoter and uber music fan Greg Bell posted the following on his Facebook page:

before i start my rant, i want to say that sawyer fredericks is a very talented singer who deserves all of the support and attention that he has been getting locally and nationally. my problem is that in just the capital district alone, there are hundreds of talented musicians who are as good, if not better than sawyer. where are the cameras and media support for them. sadly, if this kid was not on national television, he would be playing open mics to fifteen people. the local media such as channel 13 news and the times union should be doing a weekly series on talented local musicians and give them the same exposure that they gave sawyer. help them become known, don’t wait for someone else to discover them and then jump on the bandwagon. be the bandwagon.

The comments came pretty fast and furious, mostly commending Bell for his opinions. I’m a longtime friend and fan (and former roommate) of Bell’s, and I understand where he’s coming from. I feel his frustration. But what he’s hoping for is not likely to happen. I’ve been covering the Local 518 music scene for more than 35 years – from fanzines to mainstream newspapers to the website and everything in between – as a musician, a critic and most of all as a fan. Here are a few observations…

1.) There are not “hundreds of talented musicians who are as good, if not better than Sawyer” in the Capital Region. There may be a handful, but certainly not hundreds. Fredericks is a major talent, and I’m thankful that he found a platform from which he can showcase his considerable talents to the widest possible audience.

2.) Mainstream media has never been on the forefront of “music discovery.” Never. Not here in the Capital Region or pretty much anywhere else. That’s why websites like Nippertown, alt-weeklies like Metroland or non-commercial radio stations like WEXT-FM exist. Commercial television stations like WNYT-TV and major newspapers like The Times Union have traditionally always been “bandwagon jumpers.”

3.) WNYT-TV (Channel 13) is not covering Sawyer Fredericks because he’s a major break-out musician on the Local 518 music scene. They’re covering him because they’re an NBC-TV affiliate, and it’s promotion for a TV show that airs on their television station. It’s a commercial for “The Voice.” Let’s not pretend otherwise…

4.) The Times Union is not likely to go out and “discover” new Local 518 musicians because they simply don’t have the manpower (or womanpower) to do so since the recession forced them into cutting back staff. Newspapers all around the country have taken MAJOR economic hits during the past decade, and print sales figures have been sliding downhill faster than Tiger Woods’ ex-girlfriend, Lindsey Vonn. The Times Union, for example, has an arts staff that consists of just two writers.

5.) “Be the Bandwagon” is great slogan. A really great slogan. But it doesn’t just apply to the media. It should also be the rallying cry for fans, venues and the bands themselves. Don’t wait for the media to “discover” you. Get out there and aggressively promote your music or the music you love.

Feel free to chime in with your own opinions. That’s what Nippertown is here for. Let’s hear ya…

  1. sandy mcknight says

    being ignored by channel 13 is actually a career boost.

  2. Rudy says

    Thanks for letting the readership know how things really are Greg. The public is truly oblivious of the revolution that is going on in the media, journalism and the arts in general. Most realize that they are consuming things differently now, but are totally unaware of the economic impact.

    Its always been tough, but never been tougher even though it is easier to get your 15 minutes of fame, it is harder to monetize your talents.

  3. Eric Gleason says

    After reading Greg Bell’s post, reading this article, and watching some Sawyer Fredericks clips, I’m a little puzzled by the whole thing.

    Fredericks is talented, but I don’t think he’s the most talented local musician I’ve seen. He’s young with a lot of room to grow, and can probably hold his own with some of the best acts in the area. Seeing him make it very far on the Voice reinforces my belief that there’s more to getting on “reality” competition shows than just beating out the competition.

    There certainly are not hundreds of people around here who are more talented and not getting their due, though there may be a few dozen. Over the past several decades? Sure, lots of and lots of people from the area have found how hard it is to get a good gig at a local bar, much less make it to the regional or national scene.

  4. John Chiara says

    I understand that Sawyer was ASKED to audition. The TV show wants to attract viewers and I am sure they have formulas for doing so. I think he is pretty good, but not my style if simply from an energy perspective. I could not see paying to go see him perform. The events the News covered were sponsored, free admission events….totally advertising and marketing for The Voice. And his eyes NEVER smile..
    Local musicians should do what they love…and seek professional management if they want anything more than local gigs.

  5. Stanley A. Johnson says

    Go Sawyer, you are one of the best young performers I’ve ever seen from this area.
    As far as covering open mic nights for Nippertown, I’ve thought about it. Perhaps if we had an updated list of open-mic night at different venues something could happen.
    But the politics of such things could prove to be thorny, particularly in deciding which venues to cover. My guess is that there are probably about twenty open-mic nights per month in greater Nippertown, maybe more. I wouldn’t consider Karaoke the same as open-mic for these purposes, although some might disagree.
    What would be the best way of covering those who try but fall far short of the mark? It takes a lot of courage to get up in front of a crowd, but usually an audience will give polite applause, even in the worst cases.
    I have embarrassed myself multiple times on stage in the past at jam sessions, which are a variation of open mic where a bunch of strangers who have never played together try to stay more or less in tune on a song they more or less know. I believe every player needs this experience because it requires actually listening to the other players and, after a few beers, it can sometimes sound pretty good.
    But the audience sometimes must also sit through some pretty dire stuff. I don’t believe in being a hater just because things get a little sloppy or because I didn’t understand the poetry or get the jokes. But as any reader of the comments section knows, some pretty hurtful stuff gets posted. (Most open-mic performers, except for the host band who supplies the sound system, only get paid in applause or with a shared tip jar.)
    This website has a reputation for being a local community booster. Perhaps you know where the next Sawyer is playing. Let’s find out.

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