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Publisher’s Note: Building a Great Music Town.

November 15, 2011

Text and image of Reading Rainbow by G.W. Miller III.

I saw Tim Arnold from the Philly band Good Old War walking around Old City one day recently. He’s a handsome guy with a full head of hair and an amazing effortlessness about him. He looks like a rock star.

But rather than say hello to him, or mention that I run this magazine – which wrote about him in the last issue – I kept walking.

I was starstruck. I wasn’t sure if I opened my mouth, words would come out. And I didn’t want to be creepy.

It’s one of the wonderful things about living in Philadelphia. I see the amazing talent whom we write about just roaming the streets all the time. I see Rob from Reading Rainbow biking past my house almost every morning. Some weeks, I’ll run into the Nicos Gun guys two or three days in a row. And every once and a while, I see ?uestlove leaving Honey’s after brunch.

Sometimes I wonder if we take all of this for granted. We think of these folks as regular people when we should be treating them like the unbelievable talents that they are. We need to appreciate and celebrate them, as that is part of what will make musicians want to be here.

If Philadelphia is ever going to be a great music town again – and we are on the verge, for sure – we need to show our local talent some love. Go to their shows. Buy their music. Champion all things Philly.

Of course, it’s not that simple. The fallout from iTunes still has the industry reeling. We live in the age of the single song rather than the album, and that has ramifications.

“People aren’t going to pay $10 to see you play the one song they like,” says drummer Richard Waller.

Waller says that for Philly to be a real music town again, there needs to be a community of musicians constantly challenging each other.

When he was a kid in the 1970s, his home in West Oak Lane was always full of musicians. His father, Richard Sr., played bass in a few jazz bands. It was not uncommon for 15 of the city’s best jazz musicians to hang out, challenging each other musically, all hours of the day.

“Even if they didn’t like each other personally, they respected each other musically,” says Waller, who now performs with MusicReport, a jazz trio that includes his father.

We need talented artists experimenting, inspiring and pushing other talented artists to do bigger and better things. It needs to happen at clubs, people’s homes, studios, schools, everywhere. The only thing that will build our reputation as a music town – like Austin, Brooklyn or Nashville today, or like Philadelphia in the 1970s – is talent.

Richard Bush, formerly of The A’s, who now fronts The Peace Creeps, says that the issue is getting people to hear the the local music.

“We need local radio supporting local talent,” he says. “If all people hear is the handful of big name acts, that’s all they’ll know.”

Journalists can teach people about the local talent, which is what we’re trying to do here at JUMP. So check out the bands we’re celebrating in this issue. Buy their music. See them live. Support our local acts and do your part to make Philly a great music town again.

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