Music and Place
The grunge movement would have never moved beyond an open mic night at a Seattle coffeehouse if not for Mudhoney and Sub Pop records. Similarly, the flourishing Austin, Texas music scene, as exemplified by the South by Southwest concert extravaganza and right through to emerging artists like Rhett Miller, formerly of the Hot 97s, would have never gained any traction if not for pioneers like Nanci Griffith.
The vibrant Glasgow music scene would never hit the radar if not for The Delgados, which in turn nurtured acts like Arab Strap, Mogwai and Belle & Sebastian, even Franz Ferdinand.
The anomaly, for me, is Montreal. Right now, three very talented bands from there have been dominating my iPod ear space - Arcade Fire, Islands and Wolf Parade. They all seemed to have emerged at about the same time. Any hard-core music geeks out there know where the mentoring and nurturing came from? A dedicated fan base, a visionary studio chief or sound engineer? An insightful music publication?
Perhaps, even with or in the absence of such a platform to launch from, occasional clusters of greatness break out. The amateur genius of Victorian Brits like James Clerk Maxwell or Darwin is an example. But I believe in most cases these clusters reflect a supportive environment of influential fans as well as a competitive urge to outshine their peers. Does anyone think the Beatles would have been so great if Lennon and McCartney weren't so determined to show up the other? Or if they hadn't had those long hours to hone their craft in the Hamburg clubs?
Just a thought, curious if anyone else knows any examples or exceptions.
Here's a link to an animated video by Arcade Fire: