The definition of the word “local” has been augmented by today’s scene kids to mean something almost derogatory. Time and time again I hear things like “Eh, he’s local, I can catch him whenever” or “It’s just a group of local DJs” or “He’s local, how good can he be?” Does anyone ever stop for a second and realize that everybody has to be from somewhere? Literally every human being is local to some place.
It used to mean a person from the area. A native. Apply that to the music or entertainment industry and it suddenly becomes synonymous with adjectives like “sub-par.” I obviously can’t speak for every city, but in a good majority of the ones I’ve been in and the people I talk to agree.
I don’t know if the average listener (aka the expert critic) knows this or not: describing someone as local does something to that person’s brain. It sort of alters them. They may not know exactly when, or how, but it does happen. These homegrown DJs (and I use DJ because that’s my background, I’m certain you can replace that with band) go to a gig at a bar or club with at best a fair turnout, at worst they show up with just their friends and a handful of other seemingly uninterested people standing around. This can be disheartening. The DJ may start having thoughts like “Oh this is just some ‘local’ thing, I’m playing mostly for my friends.” I feel like that’s when they don’t give it their all. Not only do they feel it’s not worth it because of the lack of audience, but also because it’s “local” and it’ll happen again (no big deal). This is when the DJ just sort of stands there, looking almost upset & bored that he has to do this and the audience gets the human equivalent of paint drying.
I genuinely feel like DJs and other musicians feel held back by the word local. It’s as if people who paint them with that word assume they’ll never go anywhere else. Where’s the faith? The love? The pride in your city? While we’re at it, what does it take to become more than a local? I’ve played all over the country but I still live somewhere, so when I play in my home city I’m “just a local.” When does that title vanish? Plenty of other DJs from my city have played in other necks of the woods as well. You hear things like “At first she didn’t want it, now I made it and she’s asking me to take it!” in nearly every rap song (I just made that up by the way, I should rap!) Then there’s the whole other topic of “making it”, but even then said made person has to live somewhere. He’s local to NYC or LA or wherever.
I guess what it boils down to is show some love to your city’s artists. They work hard. They want to show you what they can do and they want to entertain you (and you want to be entertained, right?). You may be surprised at what “just a local” can do. Some of us have been around the block and learned a thing or two. We all come from somewhere, but it’s where we go that really matters to me. Don’t you want to be a part of that? Isn’t it one of the coolest feelings in the world to say “Oh THAT DJ?! I was hanging out with him at dirty $5 shows a long time ago!” You never know, we might just up and move away, giving a totally new group of people to call us locals. You don’t want that, do you?