There is a certain amount of symbolism associated with alternative weekly Metroland’s demise last week, for it comes at a time when musicians who play original music are struggling to find an audience.
Metroland was the local musicians’ best advocate during its 38-year run. From the late 1970s through the first 15 years of this millennium, it regularly featured area singer-songwriters and bands on its cover and in its pages. One of the greatest thrills for a local musician was picking up a free copy on a Thursday and seeing his or her face staring back. We won’t speak of the “Metroland cover jinx,” where bands that were featured soon broke up. That only happened a few times, and we’re certain it was all a coincidence.
Those cover stories weren’t just an ego boost for the featured musicians. It was also great public relations because the people who routinely picked up Metroland were the same ones who’d go out to Albany, Saratoga Springs, Schenectady or Troy on a Friday or Saturday night looking for a fresh, new artist to fall in love with – on a music fan level. It was a way for local musicians to cultivate a larger following.
And for a long time, this region had a number of original musicians in a variety of genres to fall in love with. From Fear of Strangers and Blotto to the Kamikaze Hearts and Sirsy, there always seemed to be a new group to capture our attention, and Metroland was the publication that introduced us to them.
But lately, the local music scene seems to have hit a wall. There are fewer music clubs for original artists to perform in than there were in the 1970s and 1980s, and many of the ones currently in existence do not pay their musicians enough to make it worthwhile for them to perform. Interest from the public has also waned, as their interests have shifted from discovering homegrown talent to finding a place to hang out and maybe listen to someone singing covers – if they still go out at all, given how little disposable income is available to them these days.
Still, Metroland did what it could to promote the local music scene within its pages with artist profiles and local album reviews. Even if it couldn’t stem the tide of growing indifference, it could at least continue to give musicians that ego boost of having their stories told in print.
The fate of Albany’s alternative weekly newspaper has yet to be determined, but what has been shared leaves us to speculate what steps need to be taken to shine the spotlight on our local music scene. The Capital District has too much musical talent to be left behind in the dark, and we’re of the opinion that the torch needs to be picked up.