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The Biz

Published: 2007/07/02
by Allen Ostroy

More on Building a Local Scene / The Grammys

Have I mentioned lately how much I appreciate your involvement in this column? Thank you for the emails. Please keep sending me emails to I look forward to your questions and comments.

In my last column I mentioned that I’d finish telling you about a discussion I had with a band called Roost about trying to build a scene locally when the area you live in is lame. We also spoke about taking advantage of opportunities, specifically after shows.

If you live in an area without a music scene then move. If you can’t move then it’s up to you to create one. You need three ingredients for there to be a “scene.” First, you need at least one venue for the scene to be born in. Second, you need some artists. Third, there has to be at least one person who can develop the scene. Most of the time this is a local promoter who can benefit from the entire scene as it grows, but it may be that you have to be that guy too. Get with three or four other bands and do a show together once a month. Split the money and shuffle the order of bands unless there is one or two clear headliners.

There used to be a great scene where I live because a lot of local bands played together and created the scene. Now it’s very rare that three or four local bands get together and put on a show. Someone has to pool the local resources.

One opportunity I always tell bands to watch out for is when a regional or national band comes around and you think that band’s fans would like your band then consider doing an “after show.” Since many theater curfews are 11pm-midnight there is usually time for an after show and people usually want to have a couple of beverages anyway. Roost and I discussed marketing the after show on the bigger bands fan site and handing out flyers to the after show to the people on the way into the bigger show. These shows don’t always work but I’ve used this strategy before to some great results!

I hope this helps if you are going through similar challenges to the band Roost.

Also in the last column I wrote:

“There are 108 Grammy categories including: Best Classical Album, Best Polka Album, Best Contemporary World Music Album, Best Traditional World Music Album, Best Reggae Album, Best Hawaiian Music Album, Best Native American Music Album, Best Banda Album, Best Tejano Album, Best Mexican/Mexican-American Album, Best Tropical Latin Album, Best New Age Album, Best Alternative Music Album, Best Metal Performance, and Best Hard Rock Performance and six or seven different Gospel categories.

Why isn’t there a category for Best Jam Album, Best Jamband Album, or Best Jamband Performance?”

Here are some of the answers I received and my responses. I know I’m practically obsessing about this but there’s so many different opinions I thinks it’s worth extending the topic for discussion.

I thought that was a great question you asked about why the Grammy's don't give any jamband awards. You mentioned many awards that I know that nobody gives a hoot about. I would like to believe that the jam scene is coming around and is one of the bigger music genres even out today. Maybe it's because of the Jammy awards. The Grammy's might see the jamband scene having their own awards show, so they think they
don't need to put any awards for jambands in. I don't know though, great question.


You’re right that no one gives a hoot about those awards but at this juncture they give less of a hoot about us in the jamband genre. We don’t even get a category. Unfortunately there isn’t even the Jammys this year so… awards for us.

Thanks for the email and keep in touch!

Because most jambands aren't on major labels, and the Grammy's is a vehicle for record companies to sell more albums, I can't remember ever seeing an Indie band winning a Grammy, maybe because if the band was good enough they would be on a major label, but only if the label thought they could sell albums.

I guess you forgot about Bela Fleck's closet full of Grammy’s.


Thanks for the answer. Let me ask you this. Who do you think sold more albums, moe.? or whoever won the Grammy for "Best Polka Album" or "Best New Age Album?" I didn’t forget Bela Fleck. That’s my point. Obviously bands that are considered part of the jamband scene are already Grammy winners. They could be considered to win "Best Jamband Album" too if there was that category.

Keep in touch

Grammy's are not given on the basis of number of albums sold or even popularity, it's based on votes by the judges. The Jamband scene is too fragmented for there to be a unifying characteristic besides improvisation, which is not unique to the Jamband genre. How can Hot Butter Rum and Brother's Past be in the same genre? Some "jamband" acts are really, bluegrass, or electronic, or rock, or some other category that the Grammy's already have.

How many Jamband heads would be satisfied if Bela Fleck won the Best Jamband Album?

Have a good one Allen,

Great answer! I think you’re absolutely correct about the fragmented scene. It’s the only genre where you have fans that like some bands and not others in the scene. It’s been my experience that most fans of metal bands like most bands in the metal scene. People that like Rap like most Rap (not all but most). This is not true in the jamband world. I also think your point about independent bands vs bands on a label hit it right on the nose.

But can we agree that there is a Jamband genre?

And if there is a jamband genre I’m not suggesting that bands in the genre are only allowed to win the Jamband GrammyThey can win the jamband one and the rock one…or the bluegrass one…or the pop one…John Mayer played at the Jammys after all… The Chili Peppers have one awards in Rock categories and Alternative categories.

Right now there are very good bands writing good songs and selling albums that aren’t considered Grammy nominated worthy because they do things independently and are considered a jamband. This is bogus.

There is a Grammy category for "Best Metal Performance" and another for "Best Hard Rock Performance" – Why not "Best Jamband Performance?"

Keep in touch

Hi Allen,
About the article, one thing I just thought about. Certainly the GD was about both the jam and the song/lyrics/arrangement/etc. So why do people think of the term as a negative or pigeon-holing one?


I agree with you about GD. Unfortunately people consider the jamband world as being negative. I’d like to see that changed too!


Why no Jamband categories at the Grammys? The other mentioned categories are well known descriptive musical genres, whereas 'jamband' isn't. There have been plenty of discussions on 'what is a jamband' so there's no need to go into that, but what it comes down to is a 'jamband' album could easily fit into the mold of a 'west African juju' category as it might 'bluegrass' – too broad of a spectrum to be under one roof.


I don’t agree with you that Jamband isn’t a descriptive musical genre. What about the Jammys? Every band on ballot is described as a jamband. It may not be the best description for some bands that are described that way but it is a descriptive term used. However, I do agree with you that jambands can fit into other categories. But why does that mean that jamband doesn’t get a category? Most of the categories have winners that have cross category appeal. For example, Clapton has won "Best Pop Vocal performance" and "Best Rock Vocal Performance." Metallica has won for "Best Hard Rock Performance" and "Best Metal Performance" and U2 has won for "Best Alterative Music Album" and "Best Pop Album."

Does Alternative, Hard Rock, Metal, Rock, or Pop, describe musical genres better than jamband? Maybe, but the term jamband is used to describe an entire genre of bands. Other words may come into play too but the term exists and is used to pigeon hole some of them. Even the Grammy writers used to the term to describe The Grateful Dead and then gave them a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Why not "Best Jamband Performance?" They have "Best Metal Performance."

Thanks for answer and please keep in touch!

I think it's a description of a group mentality, culture, etc. Not a musical genre. How can Derek Trucks Band be in the same genre as Lotus?

Clapton won best Pop Vocal Performance because he recorded pop with a blues form and electric guitars.

Yes, Alternative, Hard Rock, Metal, Rock, and Pop does describe music genres more than jamband. I think the term exists to describe the culture surrounding the band more so than the band itself. Most bands associated with the term would be fast to give you something else to call them. The bands that wear the term proudly tend to sound quite the same….sort of like Sector 9's debut album….that type of sound. That would only account for probably 10% of the successful 'jambands', so you can't base it off that 'sound'.

I just don't see 'jamband' ever circulating in a category at the Grammy’s.

What is metal? Overly distorted guitars, often naturally acoustically distorted vocals, pounding drums, sub level bass, tons of kick drum….often has similar mystical lyrical themes about fantasy or death.

What is jamband in the same vein? Doesn't work, see? Musically, structurally, and lyrically you can't describe it in the same format as the other genres.


Great answer and maybe you’ve nailed it! The trouble with being called jamband is that automatically gives the impression of a noodley band that can’t write songs. I think this is why most bands shy away from the description. They simply get "written off" because of the term. I think bands like moe., Strangefolk, Percy Hill, AOD, etc. can write songs. Most times there are experimental sections within the song. What do you think about "Best Jamband Performance?" Even Dave Mathews could win that.


I still think those bands could assimilate into the other Best Live ___ Performance categories…I think using "Best Jamband Performance" in the context of the Grammy’s would be almost like a 'junior varsity' category compared to the others. Kind of like they aren't as good to compete with the others in the best rock performance, jazz performance, pop performance, instrumental performance, so they need their own category, which wouldn't be doing any good to the community. It's not like pre Hip Hop category days when they literally couldn't fit any of the other categories….


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