In a powerful testament to the effectiveness of social networking, a huge, diverse crowd packed the Oyster Bar Grill in Oak Bluffs Saturday, April 30, for a show that wasn’t advertised with as much as a single flyer, advertisement, or listing on any events calendar. There wasn’t even a poster on the door or in the windows of the restaurant. A page on Facebook, the digitally enhanced modern equivalent of the grapevine or word of mouth, was the sole promotional effort responsible for bringing both the bands and the audience to the Circuit Avenue venue for a successful first effort by the Vineyard Music-Scene.
Vineyard Music-Scene is really nothing more than a Facebook page, and at the same time, so much more. It’s a digital community bulletin board intended as a resource for musicians and music lovers to connect.
“It’s a medium between the artists and the fans,” says Chris McCann, who started the initiative last December along with his friend Steve Correll. “Its purpose is to network people and create a dialogue.”
Begun originally as a not-at-all ambitious response to the lack of diversity in the Island’s musical offerings, Mr. McCann posted the page and sent out a Facebook invitation to a number of his musician acquaintances to “friend” Vineyard Music-Scene. Facebook friends were invited to post videos, accounts of their latest projects, news, and notices of performances. From a few fans, the outreach effort mushroomed. As of May 2, the page had just over 2,600 friends.
Current postings include an inquiry from someone looking for other musicians to jam with, a request for a band to play at an event, a link to a story in this paper’s website about a CD release, and many updates and announcements from local musicians, as well as music recommendations and shared videos of favored artists.
Says Mr. McCann, “I just want to cut out the politics and do the musicians justice.” He also posts announcements of charitable events and in other ways helps organizations and individuals get their message out there. “I promote everything,” he says. “I’m not a talent scout. I’m not the judge on who’s good. Anybody can put anything they want on there.”
Mr. McCann and Mr. Correll both graduated from the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School in 2001, where they were close friends and avid music fans. They attended shows at the Wintertide and the Boys and Girls Club, and befriended a number of local musicians. Although Mr. McCann eventually moved to Hyannis, he travels back and forth to the Island and keeps in touch with the music scene and friends.
Mr. McCann became aware of the potential of social networking early on in its development. He experimented a bit with promoting shows on MySpace, but the medium had not achieved the critical mass that it enjoys today.
“Since social media has become local and interactive, it’s a great way to share loal music and promote events and causes in the area, ” Mr. McCann says. “It has been amazing to see the positive reponse.”
Mr. Correll says, “The idea of having shows just came about in the last month or so as we saw the potential and the power of the page.”
Of the two friends, Mr. McCann prefers to remain as anonymous and behind-the-scenes as possible. He is the one responsible for establishing and maintaining the Facebook page while Mr. Correll, a full-time Vineyard resident, provides some guidance to possible postings and managed all the details of pulling together Saturday’s show.
The more outspoken of the two, Mr. Correll says that he didn’t even have his own personal Facebook page until the night before the show. “I just kind of steered clear of it. I like to talk to people face to face.”
Saturday’s showcase was the first display of the physical “scene” behind the digital Vineyard Music-Scene. People were encouraged with free admission to show up before 10:30 pm ($5 after) for the early acoustic part of the evening. A small crowd watched the evening’s opening act Shawn Barber of Good Night Louise, who has recently been performing as a duo. More people streamed in during Island favorite Phil DaRosa’s performance and by the time the electronic duo Kodacrome hit the stage, the place was packed.
Kodacrome, made up of singer/keyboardist Elissa Pociask and Ryan Casey, who adds multiple layers with a variety of electronic instruments, were performing for the first time on the Vineyard. Their catchy tunes and complex, techno arrangements were a refreshing change for Vineyard audiences and the crowd showed their approval. Reggae/hip hop artist York Nice, who grew up in Jamaica and now lives on the Cape, was also playing on the Island for the first time. The godson of reggae legend Gregory Isaac, York’s combination of a powerful stage presence, unique voice, and his original sound — hip-hop with a modern reggae beat — held the crowd’s attention. For the finale, DJs Island Thunder had the capacity crowd fueled and dancing.
An effort was made to provide a range of musical styles. “My hope is to bring in some new artists,” Mr. McCann said. “Put some familiar names on the lineup and some names that you haven’t seen all the time. Some artists don’t get many opportunities to play. They’ve paid their dues. I just want to cut out the politics that come with booking and promoting shows.”
Adds Mr. Correll, “Someone may only have a few hundred [Facebook] friends. We can reach out to a lot more people than they can. Getting out there and promoting yourself is a lot of work. We thought we could help everybody grow together. ”
“I had the capacity to create flyers and get out on the street and in coffee shops but I didn’t want it to be too aggressive,” said Mr. McCann. “I want it to be more organic.”
The night displayed a great mix, both of music genres and audience demographics — there were all ages and representatives of many individual Island music scenes in attendance.
“We just decided to start the page as a platform for all the artists on the Island,” Mr. Correll says. “Just a place for everybody to post their things and spread the word about the different projects they’re working on and form collaborations. It kind of evolved into something more than we anticipated.”
Says Mr. Casey, “The thing that they did right is they didn’t make it about who was running it. They made it about a collective. I could tell that right away.”
Although no plans are in place for future shows, a follow-up seems likely. Says Mr. Correll, “The idea was just common ground. Providing a platform to bring the Island music community together. We didn’t have big hopes for it. It was just ‘Let’s start a page and see where it takes us.'”
2,600+ fans and one sell-out show later, Vineyard Music-Scene is proving a successful fan-fueled phenomenon that is likely to continue growing and evolving.
Gwyn McAllister, of Oak Bluffs, is a frequent contributor to The Times.