The purpose of this post is to begin a discussion that I believe is long overdue. I’m talking about the scarcity of “bands” in Grown Folks Music over the last two decades. First let me begin with how I’d like to define “band” for the purposes of this discussion. BandA self-contained musical ensemble comprised of singers, musicians and often writers, that functions with the sole purpose of advancing the musical identity of the group through live performance, recordings etc.

First for a point of clarity, I’m speaking about the scarcity of bands [as I have defined them] in the mainstream. There are numerous fantastic bands in every section of this country creating new and vibrant music that would clearly be defined as Grown Folks Music. As we continue this dialog there will be ample opportunity to highlight these wonderful groups and bring them to a much deserved, and wider audience. But I want this discussion to begin with a look at the broad media and musical consciousness of 2009.

Let’s begin with a simple exercise: Name three bands that you consider to be Grown Folks Music, who have had major visibility (songs charting, videos shown daily etc.)in the last decade. Okay, you probably can name at least one. Now repeat the exercise for the decade of the 1990’s on back to the beginning of the recorded music industry. Do you notice a trend? What do you believe are some of the factors for the decline in the marketing of bands vs. solo artists or vocal groups? Are these factors social? Economic? What part has technology played?

Having played in numerous bands, I realize the difficulty in maintaining a cohesive unit of players over a few months let alone decades. But the fact remains although it is a struggle it can be done. Rolling Stones? U2? It’s not just the fact that these bands continue to tour because fortunately there are Grown Folks Music bands from bygone eras that continue to tour incessantly to this day. I’m sure I’m not the first person to draw this comparison but I often think of the P-Funk Allstars as a brown version of the Grateful Dead. P-Funk like the Dead has never needed a record out to draw hundreds of thousands of fans. But I digress. What’s most important in the discussion of groups like U2 and The Rolling Stones is that they continue to be relevant in the mainstream consciousness. That doesn’t happen by accident.

I’m really interested to hear your thoughts and opinions on this matter. Now, remember at this point in our dialog we are starting at the broadest point possible. In other words, look at an artist that has a very broad appeal and ask why is there not a band equivalent in appeal to that artist. As you work through the exercise above (in the third paragraph) you will find that there have been moments where you have had bands with the same amount of appeal and there will be decades like this one where there are few bands with mass appeal. You may also find that there are decades where there is an inverse relationship and you will be hard pressed to find an artist or group with the mass appeal of a band.

Have fun and please drop us a line, we look forward to hearing from you. Now you’re with the band.

Ivan Orr is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, performer, and writer. A native of Charlottesville, Virginia Ivan was involved with the forming and nascent days of The Music Resource Center as its first Program Director. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Music, Ivan currently resides in Richmond, VA where he maintains an active performance and production schedule while serving as the Music Editor for Grown Folks Music, a position he has held since 2010.