How to Experience a Local Music Scene while Traveling

11/6/17 by Jhoni Jackson

Touring a new city isn't just about exploring its museums, restaurants, and outdoor experiences—not for music lovers, at least. The local music landscape offers a unique look at a city’s culture—and you just might discovering your new favorite band or artist in the process. You never know what kind of fresh and exciting sounds the next concert can bring.

Some investigating ahead of time will prove incredibly helpful in taking in the local music scene. Here, seven insider tips that will help you do just that, by discovering the people, places, and sounds that shape its community.

1. Check out smaller venues wherever possible.

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Before you begin to explore a city's music scene, a quick heads-up: You’re not likely to find its distinct local flavor a high-capacity venue. If there's room for 500 or more, the calendar is usually dominated by touring acts. Some clubs give open spots to upstarts, but the sets are typically truncated to make plenty time for the headliner. To really get into a local music scene, you should always give smaller clubs preference. Don't discount bars that host shows, either.

2. Read up on the scene through dedicated blogs and alt-weeklies.

It sounds simple enough, but not all newspapers offer coverage of their city's local music scene. The bigger outlets tend to cover more mainstream news—and that means indie bands and artists don't always get their due in the entertainment section.

You'll have far better luck learning about the local scene by perusing the music section of an alt-weekly, or sifting through results of a search like "[city] music blog" to find thorough reporting from writers who are often intensely devoted to their city's music output. These writers are often closely connected to the scene, and know what’s happening and when.

3. Search the scene's online presence.

Head to the events section on Facebook and refine your search to the designated city and start browsing—it's that easy. The platform's "Discover Events Near You" feature is truly a gem of a resource for listings of all kinds, which means you'll see a broad display of happenings if you don't restrict your search to only music. Be sure to use the filter option in the top right corner to narrow your results.

Instagram and Twitter aren't as efficient in this endeavor—unless you find an active city-specific hashtag, that is. Searches like #[CityName]Music #[CityName]Indie can uncover to a slew of photos or Tweets featuring various artists and venues, and oftentimes they're even tagged. As a result, hunting down their tunes online becomes an easier task just a few clicks away.

4. Visit a record store for in-person insight.

Independent record shops are another stellar source for insight on the local scene. The employees work there because they're mega-music fans, so they're by nature supporters of—and often contributors to—their town's music output. They are stoked to gush about all the bands, artists, and great venues their city has to offer—and will likely guide you through the store's local music section, too.

5. Check the lineups at community festivals.

If there's a major music fest happening during your trip, there are almost certainly a few local bands on the bill, which are typically scheduled earlier in the event. It's definitely worthwhile to check them out, but you'll get an even better look at a local scene if you can find a community-driven festival instead.

Ideally, you'll be lucky enough to find a music-centered fest, where you'll be immersed in the scene with a showcase of several of the city's most beloved bands. That's not always an option, though, so keep an open mind about all festivals, especially community-driven outdoor events like beer tastings or food fests. There's usually local music on the bill as well, so you'll hear some tunes and soak up other aspects of a city's culture—all in one event. Especially in the fall, when the weather's perfectly cool and crisp, open-air events like these are frequent and often hosted in parks and green spaces; be sure to scan their online calendars for possibilities.

6. Scope out the venue a band you like has played.

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If you can think of a band you like that was recently touring through the city you're visiting, dig up those dates online and look into the venue where they played. More than likely, you'll find like-minded acts booked during your stay, plus a trove of others. Make sure it's a small venue, of course.

7. Keep an eye out for posters and flyers.

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Digital promotion for bands is paramount, so you'll find lots of options online—but don't overlook old-school print ads either. Posters and flyers are still very much a thing; they're still an efficient tool for bands and artists to advertise concerts to the community. Bars, coffee shops, record stores, and any independent, locally-minded retail stores are ideal spots to find physical promo, and you can look up the bands on Facebook to get a gist of their style. Tip: If it's posters you've found and there are no flyers to take with you, snap a quick photo for reference.

A bonus benefit of print materials? The postcard-size promos make for perfect, easily packable souvenirs that you can save and even frame as a memento of your trip—and that awesome new band you discovered.

Originally written by RootsRated for ExOfficio.