Conversations I have with folks in the local music community — musicians, managers, venue owners, etc. — often center on whether we think Charleston can really become a nationally known hub for music like Nashville or Austin.
The consensus seems to be that the Lowcountry is home to an unbelievable amount of talent, and more musicians do seem to be moving here (Johnny Delaware, The High Divers, members of Umphrey’s McGee, to name a few). There are more music-related festivals here than ever before, more big-name acts are bringing their tours through town and the professional-grade recording studios keep multiplying.
But we’re always left with questions. Is the overall industry outside of Charleston noticing this apparent growth? Does it mean we could become known for our music as much as we’re known for our food?
We probably won’t find any blanket answers any time soon. But there are occasional signals that Charleston’s music scene is being recognized from a national, even global perspective.
The latest is the fact that Communion Music, a global talent company started by Mumford & Sons’ Ben Lovett, is presenting its first show in Charleston this week at the Royal American for hip-hop artist Allan Rayman.
Communion is based in London with a North American office in New York. Basically, it’s a company that discovers emerging artists, promotes their concerts in certain markets, and in some cases, publishes their music.
The hit song, “Somebody That I Used to Know,” by the Australian singer Gotye was one of its early success stories. Communion’s record label inked a deal to release the artist’s “Easy Way Out” EP just weeks before the song/YouTube video went viral in 2012.
Tyler Bates, the head of operations and business development at Communion, explained that Communion’s largest enterprise is promoting concerts. In 2015 alone, the company presented shows for 375 artists in North America.
With so many under-the-radar artists these days, Bates said Communion acts as a sort of curator, placing music the company likes in venues with receptive audiences.
“A lot of bands we’ve found can sell 200 tickets or 100 tickets in their hometown, and they’re great musicians, and put out some great music, but they drive 100 miles and no one knows who they are. And we try to really be that stepping stone to help bands get to the next level,” he said.
The promotion arm regularly presents concerts in 24 cities in North America, which now includes Charleston. In Nashville, for instance, there are recurring “Communion Presents” concerts at some of the city’s most active venues such as Mercy Lounge and The High Watt. Bates said those shows help build a brand awareness for the company in the area, and at the same time, sets their artists apart from others playing at the venue.
“Sometimes bands can get lost in the shuffle if a band goes to a venue where there’s 200 other events on the calendar,” he said.
Communion is hosting its first show in Charleston this week because the tour route “made sense” for Rayman, Bates said. But it went further than logistics.
“Ben Lovett, our founder and CEO who plays in Mumford & Sons, loves Charleston,” he said. “We wanted to have the right opportunity to do something there, and with ... our kind of love for this city on a personal level from having been there, it was like, ‘Well, absolutely let’s get a show under our belt and see if we can do more.’”
If all goes well with the performance, Bates said Communion will “definitely be open to exploring” future opportunities to present shows in Charleston on a regular basis.
“With the development of restaurants and bars and things that are happening in Charleston ... it just seems like from an outsider’s perspective that something is happening and it’s about time that somebody from the outside decided to pay a little bit more attention,” he said.
Allan Rayman, an alternative hip-hop artist, was listed as one of the artists to watch in 2016 by streaming giant Spotify in December. He’ll play the Royal American, 970 Morrison Drive, at 8 p.m. Saturday with an opening set by the local rock band FALINE. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door. For more information about the show, go to www.theroyalamerican.com/schedule or www.communionmusic.com.
Reach Abigail Darlington at 937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail.