Why Diversity In Your Local Scene Matters(illustration: Isaiah Wilson)

Words by The San Jose Come Up

The Come Up strives to ensure that we have a diverse array of artists actively participating in our shows. But we believe it’s not just a good thing to aim for, it is necessary to the lifeblood of the DIY scene.

1. Scenes can’t grow without everyone involved.
Most of the time, if you put on shows, you are going to reach out to friends because you know them and you probably lack the funds to pay them. That’s not a bad thing. DIY shows are about using resources at your disposal, and you should use your platform to put on your friends.

But If the shows you put on consists of — let’s just say — your group of guy friends and their guy friends, then you’re running into a problem. Your “scene” appears less like a scene and more like a clique of dudes who happen to play instruments.

A DIY scene can’t thrive if half the population is not actively a part of it. Regardless, if you feel obligated to do so, it just benefits a show immensely when you’re pulling from different groups of people.

When you have new people from different backgrounds playing at your shows, they will bring their friends and social circles. This means more people you can convince to buy merch, donate at the door, and come out to future shows.

2. The DIY sound stays fresh.
Diversity does not just change the makeup of your crowd and lineup. It can change the music tastes and influences, and that’s a good thing.

Without variation in sounds sourced from an assortment of folks making music, your city’s sonic offering can get stale. For example, a venue may host predominantly punk shows, but that doesn’t mean the promoters shouldn’t be actively seeking out artists who are pushing the boundaries of the genre and experimenting.

There is a reason the strongest art scenes tend to be in the most diverse cities in the world. That’s because the performers, promoters, venues, and curators come from various backgrounds that offer new tastes. Without that, your scene becomes homogeneous and everyone starts looking the same and sounding the same.

3. Your local bands get better.
One of the best things about San Jose is that artists are supportive of one another. Every artist that we have had perform was great to work with. That’s why San Jose’s art community is dope and we never want that to change.

But competition — especially friendly competition — is good. When new acts offer cool unique sounds, conversations start happening that are healthy for a creative scene.

When you have more people in your scene putting on shows, you get questions like: Which DIY collective puts on the best shows? Who are some of your favorite local bands? Which artists should collaborate on a project?

Competition is easier among strangers. When new kids arrive on the block, they want to establish themselves among fellow artists. A constant flow of new sounds only push artists to work harder and try new things.

4. People feel more comfortable at diverse shows.
Some people do not feel comfortable being the minority in a crowd. Issues like creepy behavior, aggressiveness, and — in extreme cases — bigotry feel much more pressing and common if your crowds are homogeneous. If you are a minority in a crowd and someone says or does something wrong, you are less likely to speak up against it if you feel outnumbered.

Diverse crowds make people comfortable because it shows the space respects and encourages everyone to be present and have a good time. And it discourages people from being jerks. Simple as that.

5. A music scene can mature.
So what actually happens when a scene has more diversity?

An influx of new groups coming to shows means that the arts scene can shatter its own ceiling.

The DIY scene can exist as its own ecosystem, but now there is an argument for more established local venues to provide spaces for shows as well. When you have several groups promoting shows in DIY spaces, you start to run out of room. All of that energy needs to go somewhere.

Maybe someone may think the third largest city in the state could use an all ages venue or two. As local artists, promoters, and curators start to think about the future of the spaces they can create art, it requires as many people at the table as possible.

The Come Up is a DIY platform for artists to thrive and build the local music scene in San Jose. We are an open platform, always eager to collaborate with other artists and creative people.

Every city needs a movement of creative people willing to put in work, take risks, and gather people around a shared love of art & positivity. No one’s going to do it for us. So let’s make it happen.