Friday, November 24th, 2017

Meiklejohn: In bid for bands, USM should buy local

Posted on April 09, 2012 in Perspectives
By USM Free Press

By Ben Meiklejohn

If creating a community centered around entertainment is the goal, the Student Senate is missing the boat. And there’s an autumn iceberg just waiting to sink $27,000 of our money.

The Student Senate wants to invest exactly that much of the student activity fee into luring a musical act to USM for an on-campus concert. It was originally scheduled for this spring but was pushed back to the fall.

The idea is to rally the university community around a new entertainment “scene,” ostensibly to stay competitive with rival colleges that put on concerts of comparable caliber.

This approach fails to recognize both the uniqueness of USM and the wealth of resources available to us in our own backyard.

Other institutions that produce large concerts are usually located in obscure rural locations, thus serving a demand to their larger community by bringing major performers to them. Here at USM however, we are just a pedestrian’s walk away from large venues such as the Cumberland County Civic Center, the State Theatre, Merrill Auditorium, Port City Music Hall and more.

In the last year alone, Portland has played host to acts such as Primus, Jane’s Addiction, The Flaming Lips, The Moody Blues, Snoop Dog and The Black Keys, to name just a few.

Without doubt, USM students have frequented these concerts and will continue to do so in the future. In a time of serious budget considerations, sinking this much student money into a one-time concert is a needless duplication of opportunities that are already prevalently available to us.

It’s a fact: local Maine musicians are struggling to survive (as documented by a recent story in The Free Press). Why throw our money to a successful artist for a one-day event, who could just as likely play in any number of venues in our city, when talent is staring us in the face?

Unlike other Maine colleges, USM sits smack in the middle of a wealthy reserve of musicians all trying to make a name and career for themselves. Traditionally, colleges have served an important role in launching obscure and unknown artists onto the national stage. R.E.M., Nirvana, Sonic Youth, Radiohead and The Smiths are all examples of bands that owe their successes to college communities willing to host them on their campuses and/or play them on their radios, exposing them to wider audiences long before the mainstream even knew who they were.

Why not play a role in helping to thrust some of Portland’s great bands into a better position to achieve success?

$27,000! With this amount of cash, USM could be hosting 20-50 local bands, paying them varying amounts between $300-$1,000, and holding an on-campus concert every Friday and Saturday night for an entire semester. These local bands would bring local fans, who once exposed to the university setting, may decide themselves to seek higher education opportunities at USM — the concerts serving as perhaps even a recruitment tool for prospective new students.

These bands would be exposed to a new audience, also helping them to advance their careers. A true entertainment community would begin to emerge — a real musical scene — and most importantly, our student money would be invested locally. Shouldn’t we be helping Portland bands succeed instead of giving it away to an artist who already has an audience?

The Gorham campus has been doing exactly this, bringing in local bands once a week to perform for USM students. Kudos to them, that’s the kind of entertainment USM needs. Now that the “big concert” has been pushed back to fall, the Student Senate should reconsider the possibilities and most effective way to use the students’ money, and come up with a realistic and sustainable vision for how to foster a sense of community.

  • guest

    WOW  why are all the people with opinions on this article total jerks, a little advice, if your trying to prove your point your attitude far proceeds you.  

    also to you jerks who don’t think local music matters, most of the music you think matters, im willing to bet, started off locally and didn’t get famous overnight. Like the author of this article states, they started off playing college venues and local scenes to a bunch of shitty brats like you. but if you want to pass up the opportunity to be part of something that matters, good luck to you, and so much for being “educated”.

  • John


  • erm

    I thought you were a prostitute. 

  • some bro

    What’s wrong with Jeff Beam?

  • Jeff Beam

     That’s not what you said when you handed me that $2 bill on the sidewalk.

  • Carl Winslow

    Despite all the bullshit going on in the comment thread, we can all agree that Portland needs more shows, and pretentious shitbags who bitch about the local scene but don’t go to local shows when there actually are local shows for some stupid hipster reasons should fucking eat buckshot. People like you (combined with apathetic listeners, venues that would prefer to let their space collect dust and Jeff Beam) are what’s wrong with the Portland music scene. One of Chicago’s finest signing out.

  • Noemail

    I can tell you never get laid.

  • Noemail

    You’re seriously a jerk.

  • Seth

    Dead Trend will play for a grand.

  • Dick

    That fey little vegan LISTENS TO SWANS. 

  • erm

    Busking on Congress St during First Friday is not “a local music show,” Jeff. 

  • Tim

    Grizzly Bear + The Milkman’s Union. Done. 

  • Guest

    the only thing frail is your bank account, bro. 

  • Guest

    I agree. Fogcutters are SUCH sell-outs. 

  • Jeff Beam

    Hi erm. I just put on a local music show a few days ago. About 200 people showed up. It was awesome.

    -Jeff Beam

  • Fran

    AGREED. Total indie-rock plebeians. 

  • G.G.

    I can’t believe anyone would even consider booking Milkman’s Union at USM. Haven’t we heard enough Travis covers? I mean come on!

  • erm

    here’s an idea: put that money into a fund that can subsidize the cost of tickets to shows in portland that people actually want to go to. Fiona Apple at the State is steep at $50 a pop, but what if USM ate half the cost for you? first come, first serve basis, and we don’t waste money propping up a frail local music scene. 

  • Cyrnathan


  • Mjl2640

     Fogcutters was HUGE and a sell out.  It’s also painfully obvious that you’re in a band that is struggling to attract an audience perhaps? As Nate mentions, positivity and a general sense of joy around music goes a long way.

  • erm

    write me a song, dave matthews. 

  • Cyrnathan

    I feel bad for you. Try inserting a little positivity into you’re life and maybe you’ll make more friends/well wishers that want to go to your band’s shows. If you’re not in a band(it sounds like you are), at least more people will want to hang out with you. Bitterness and anger will get you nowhere. Nate (The Lucid)

  • Chickenslayer123


  • Guest

    I agree with a lot of points, but personally I rather have that 300 dollar unified student fee I pay every semester, back in my pocket. For students similar to myself, money is an issue, and if we are not in class, we are working, and if we are not working, we are doing homework. I rather have the money, and have USM “sponsered” (in that I mean the facilities can be used) and then have tickets sold to the event. Until I’m not struggling to pay my bills, I am not going to be asking for time off to see any band play.

  • erm

    not vegan or ‘fey’ – altho i couldn’t tell you what either of those has to do with skill as a music critic.

    the only thing j. battick and i have in common is taste. 

  • Tim

    SSooooo why don’t we get a cult following national act that’s cheap enough to headline while having locals open? Win win?

  • AJ Chalifour

    While I agree with the sentiment of this article, I think it unduly dismisses the  motivation behind the Student Senate’s action. Its easy to dismiss USM as a commuter campus and to see an action like this as a waste of SAF money. But these student leaders are really trying to build a sense of community by hosting an event that will draw as many of the desperate groups which form at the school as possible. Ben, your arguments collapses on itself when you realize that many people from USM go to see local artists because they are also available to us in Portland (for much cheaper than seeing the Black Keys at the State, yesh). The people who go to those shows like local artists, and they go out of their way to see them, but realize how much of a minority that group of students is at USM. Those local artists you speak of just don’t appeal to as wide an audience as a much more well known commercial act. I don’t know this for sure, but my impression is that the senate is trying to get as many different groups of students as possible together with a show on campus that appeals to a wide section of the student body in order to begin to build a wider sense of community. Its like in the classic college movie PCU, where a young Jeremy Piven gets George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic to play at his dorm party and the result is that the deeply divided factions at the school put their agenda’s aside and come together for a great time. Your conclusion proves the point of why these more drastic measures at least merit the college try, as I imagine the local bands playing in Gorham have failed to foster the wide social community the student government is trying toencourage. I think they are going for the same effect. Our residential campus has about 600 empty beds, we need to start taking steps to make residential life a more fun experience for a much bigger proportion of our residential, and non residential, student body.

    AJ Chalifour

  • Redhotmoneyshot

    Or worse yet, that fey little vegan that wrote reviews for Dispatch.

  • Redhotmoneyshot

    Erm, are you the douche that had that annoying Portland Point blog?  You sound like that loser.

  • Guest

    Remember when USM tried to get Ani DiFranco, and she canceled because hardly anyone bought tickets?  This is truly a waste of money.  Let the State do those shows and YES.. local music shows at USM.  YOu won’t have a good turnout anyway because it’s such a commuter school, but at least with more frequent shows, they might grow in popularity.

  • anon

     the Fogcutters big band show did pretty well at the State, actually! 

  • Tim

    Stop with the negative stigma. sure there feels like a clique and there is…but they’re talebted musicians who put on well attended shows. The Toughcats? Worried Well? Also don’t leave ojut the aforementioned folk. Overexposed or not, it wins the arugment of draw and could be used to launch some attention to other underexposed bands.

  • erm

    Gutter? Albee? Lucid? Mallet Bros? What are you, the Portland Phoenix come to life? Yer citing three of the city’s most over-exposed and frankly boring acts as an argument? The popularity of these acts speaks to nothing but this city’s lack of taste. 
    I’ve said it before and i’ll say it again: the self-congratulating Portland music scene is Darwin’s worst nightmare. 

  • erm

    yer going to cite the state theatre here? when is the last time a LOCAL show sold out the state? All i see is past-their-prime ‘legacy’ acts, boring mainstream music and ‘indie’ bands who haven’t released a good album in years. 

  • Tim

    There are bands in the area that have a fanbase that turn up. Let’s talk Dave Gutter, Spencer Albee, Dominic and thre Lucid, the mallett bros, kurt baker, this way, and the milkman’s about Dean Ford? The times i have seen him, the shows have been really well attended. Then you also have new bands like The Other Bones and Volcano Rabbit who already have a loyal draw despite their freshness.

    There are plenty of horribly attended shows, don’t fault the ones doing it right because of the ones who arent.

  • Mjl2640

    @erm, No doubt some shows in Portland are under attended, but I think you overstate just a tad. State Theatre is looking at roughly 8 sell outs in a row. Port City is making strides to carve out a niche and is doing nicely, the Empire had a spectacular March and is growing steadily (especially since the redesigned and recharged the upstairs!)… Sure some underknown bands are still attracting the friends and family crowd(s), and that’s par for the course in any city. If USM invested, promoted, and made attractive a series of concerts it would also grow and develop. 

  • erm

    the only thing more poorly attended than a USM event is a local music show in portland (once you subtract the circle-jerk of well-wishers/friends of the band). Are you really suggesting we combine these two things? Eeesh, I would rather give Bob Caswell his raise back.