Google+ Q Dot: The real reason why Seattle won't ever be "on"

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The real reason why Seattle won't ever be "on"

Let me give this disclaimer. This (like most of my posts) are just an educated opinion. A little gut feeling and a little research. Take from it what you will.

It's the perpetual question that gets asked year after year. What is it going to take for Seattle to be on the map? My first answer is always "What map are you talking about? Because Seattle has been making tons of moves on a national level the better part of the last decade..." But I also hear what they're saying, when will we have a bonafide super star?

Here's my Marketing brains take on the subject. And NO it has NOTHING to do with "haters" and "lack of unity" this is the Marketer's Approach to the Seattle hip hop log jam.

Problem 1. Seattle just isn't big enough or diverse enough. 
Markets are defined by numbers more than anything. That's marketing 101. When you stack Seattle up against the other major national hip hop hubs you find one common thread. New York, LA,  Bay area, ATL and Houston are all top ten media markets respectively; 1,2,4,6 and 9. Seattle ranks 13th and as a side note, of those top 15 markets, Seattle is the least ethnically diverse. (How much does that play into a cross cultural phenomenon such as hip hop? In contrast, the current hip hop hotbed, Atlanta ranks 9th  in size with over 4 and a half million citizens, of which, nearly half are black or hispanic.)

Solution 1. I'm not sure you can fix the diversity problem in the Seattle market but certainly you can grow numbers...i'll explain how in a bit.

Problem 2. Seattle doesn't play nice with its neighbors.
This is just "being-in-the-town 101". Ask someone in Seattle's hip hop scene who lives within the Seattle city limits the last time they visited Everett, Bellingham, Tacoma, Olympia, Portland, Spokane. Chances are they won't even give you a time frame, they'll give you a response like "What's out there?" As though there isn't much of a scene outside of Seattle. Thats not true for ALL Seattle hip hoppers, but for the majority that i've run into it is. Same faces at the same venues at the same shows. While Seattle is the largest city in the region - Seattle heads are sooner or later going to have to come to grips with the fact that they can't build a sustainable career as an artist without building rapport with those neighboring cities. Need proof? Read the solution.

Solution 2. Realize you need the Kents and Tacomas and Wenatchees of the world. Just admit it.
In all fairness, I understand that there aren't nearly as many spots in the Seattle suburbs to even catch a show and while people in the surrounding areas are more likely to flock to Seattle than Seattle is to flock to an outpost (with good reason) that still doesn't mean that there isn't opportunity to be had. Here's the proof. ((Marketing 102))

If you set Seattle aside of the equation and figure in:
Portland - 2.1 million people
Spokane - 500k people
Yakima - 194k people
Wenatchee - 237k people

That's over 3 Million people! In addition to Seattle's 3.5 that's nearly 7 million people which would rank the REGION the 4th largest market in the country just behind Chicago with a respectable hispanic and black population that sits just around 1 million. From 13th to 4th. Hmmm!

Problem 3. Celebrity ain't cheap in Seattle.
It's a pretty common notion amongst indie artists that if you're not XYZ Big name artist than you're nothing in this market. That I can't argue with. But that isn't the general public's fault either. The general public hasn't seen a mainstream star in hip hop since...I don't even have to say his name. And Macklemore is the closest thing to it now. That leaves about a 20 year gap where generations of people don't know what a star in their hometown is supposed to look like. All they know is who they continually hear on the radio and see on TV must be stars and Joe Blow who's on MTV? you just saw him at Wal-Mart so he must not be important. So the perception plays a huge role into the fans psychology.

Solution 3. 100 drops in a bucket make a big splash if done at once, not separately. 
I'll be the first to point out the accomplishments of my hometown colleagues. We've done some exciting things. Problem is they happen one at a time. One guy goes on tour with so and so. A year later this guys on MTV or BET. A year later this guy is producing for Drake and Lil Wayne. If we were to take all of those things and make them happen in a bang-bang fashion with little lag time the results would be remarkable. Imagine if you could turn on MTV and see 5 Seattle artists videos on MTV Jamz in the same show right now? And then next year that 5 grew to 10 and the next year that 10 grew to 15...all from different artists...and then you turn on punk ass KUBE 93 one day and you hear 3 or 4 local artists played throughout the day...and Jammin in Portland started playing 3 or 4 songs and the stations east of the mountains started playing 3 or 4 songs...ahhhhhh now you get it?

So to recap - what i'm predicting is the explosion of this scene will take place when Seattle realizes it's not the only game in town and that to really build something, artists need to consider the entire region in it's plans as the foundation. The artists will also need a little help from the fans in that they've got to support. Fans are rappers too. Not to get all quantum physics on people but studies show, the more positive energy something gets' the more likely it is to succeed. So go to shows (and enjoy yourself, stop tryna mean mug and listen to every word the person is saying), promote one another and network.