Changes in Fargo's music industry

The Sanctuary is playing a huge role in changing Fargo's music industry.

Now it's easier for indie, alternative and non-mainstream bands to thrive. Some were too crammed in The Aquarium. Others were too drowned by the space at The Venue. The Sanctuary, a 600-person venue, seems to be doing what it needs to do.

Dead Man Winter almost capped the Sanctuary. Animal Collective sold 300+. Prof is on track to do at least 400, if not sell out, on a weekday. Against Me, which also has sold out the 260-person Aquarium, can now probably sell out the Sanctuary. A band like Against Me might not have ever played to a 600 person crowd if we only had The Venue and The Aquarium.

This means more opening slots for local bands. Doesn't it seem like more local bands have played at The Sanctuary than at The Venue? I've never played at The Venue in all the years it was open and I've already had a big slot at The Sanctuary opening for Sir-Mix-A-Lot.

I would hope this increase in big non-mainstream concerts means more freaks, geeks, art fags and weirdos stick around Fargo. Or at least feel more at home around these parts. And in turn, feel more inspired and energized and less marginalized. (I say that as I am bi-sexual, a rapper, am dark skinned.) Concerts have power. Art has power.

What's The Aquarium to do with The Sanctuary taking over some of the artists it used to host? Get more competitive, I guess. We're still doing fine with smaller, but quality acts like Jucifer, Nappy Roots, Jens Lekman, Dead Larry, Omni and many more. 

After putting out a survey, and also looking at Aquarium sales from previous years, I've found some discrepancies between what people actually want and what they say they want.

At The Aquarium, our top-selling shows are tributes, EDM and hip-hop. According to our survey, our scene wants to see more indie and metal and less EDM and tributes. Punk, rock and jam bands lie somewhere in between. Folk shows bring in some of the least amount of revenue at The Aquarium but are still desired. 

Needless to say, learning how to bring in crowds into The Aquarium is one giant unpredictable puzzle. It doesn't help that I just started learning too book and promote bands. It does help that I'm crazy passionate and knowledgeable about music. Bands are pretty easy to book. The tough part is generating interest from the community. Often, there's no telling what will generate buzz and what won't.

For music fans and musicians, one of the best feelings in the world is to experience the greatness of a live performance. Shows are always best when there's sizable enough crowd. When there isn't an audience, the energy of the room is nearly impossible to uplift -- for the musicians, venue staff and attendees. It can be very disheartening to attend of a show with a near empty room.

So to Fargo music fans and musicians who want their community to become more music friendly, please help promote shows in any way you can. It'll always, always make a difference.

Diane Miller