Networking in Portland, Oregon
Published March or April 2011
On March 1, 2011, I moved from Boston, MA to Portland, OR. I had lived in Boston for 16 years. After I spent a few weeks getting settled in my new home and working on this website a bit, I made the move to branch out and make some professional connections in my new city. For the past few weeks, I’ve been going out to the clubs every other night: open mics, jam sessions, sitting in with bands around town. It’s crucial that I do this to meet other musicians, and I’ve made progress.
Sometimes things have moved quickly. On Wednesdays nights, there are a couple of different clubs in Portland that host blues jam sessions, and the two clubs are about a mile apart from each other. My first night going out, I planned to go to both places. I went to the Blue Diamond first for the simple reason that their jam session started first. Things went so well there, I never made it to the second club. It turns out the singer I played with in the impromptu band at the Blue Diamond had a regular Thursday night show there in April, and she invited me to ‘sit in’ with the band on Thursday (which means I was invited to play all night like I was in the band, except I was actually a volunteer and not a regular band member). She also has a regular Wednesday night gig at a restaurant, and I sat in with the band there too. I played at both of these venues all month. It’s been a great connection, I’ve met a ton of other musicians through her.
On Monday nights, I’ve been going to a place called the Blue Monk and sitting in with the jazz/funk/soul band there, led by Renato Caranto. These guys are the most talented motherfuckers around. It’s been a privilege to play with them. Unfortunately, there’s hardly anyone there at the club watching us play. We’ve got theories as to why this is the case: it’s a Monday night and people are not as likely to go out on a Monday; it’s the style of music, it’s just not that popular. This band is so deserving of having more people there to watch, it’s frustrating that it’s been so empty.
In addition to all the in-person networking I've done, I've spent a lot of time networking on the Internet too. The Internet offers all kinds of opportunities to meet other musicians and promote, which is great. It’s also a full time job and then some if you want to take advantage of all the resources that are out there and use them effectively. Among the myriad of places you can find me online are my profiles on:
I haven’t done the MySpace or Twitter thing yet. I’m waiting for some sort of astronomical anomaly that affects the earths rotation and gives us all 31 hours in a day. Then I'll have time for them. Stay tuned...
Then there’s been Ol’ Faithful: the musicians section of Craigslist. I’ve been looking for gigs on Craigslist for years. Years! It’s amazing who’s on there- seasoned pros to beginners looking for their first band, all mixed together on the same huge list. Sometimes the subject line is descriptive and you get a good idea of what the posting is all about. Sometimes it’s not. For example, I responded to a post with the subject line “Bring out your dead.” (Well, it turned out to be from someone into the Grateful Dead, but still…).
I’ve made solid connections with a few people I’ve met on Craigslist, and have a couple of gigs booked as a result. A couple of other projects that started this way are beginning to take shape too. It’s still a bit early to say where they'll go, but it seems that things have some momentum.
There have been some setbacks as well. One promising connection fell apart when the guy never showed up at the club we were supposed to meet at to book a show. And a band I auditioned for didn't accept me, despite the fact that I NAILED the first song we played, and thought the whole jam session was great. Ah well, c’est la vie.
I've done a number of different things here to get the word out that I'm in town and online.
I started the Portland Guitar Group on Meetup.com. I put up flyers advertising guitar lessons in record stores, musical instrument dealers, coffee shops, and super markets. I promote this website in online forums like Guitar World. Yesterday, I met with the owner of Hammondbeat Records to see what could come out of that meeting.
At various times, I find myself put into the role of marketer, booking agent, PR person, teacher, and motivational speaker, in addition to guitarist. As I progress with all of these endeavors, I need to evaluate how they’re going and how effective they are. As I get to know the musicians that I’ve met, I have to make a judgment call about if I can work effectively with them. Can I plan and build something together with them? It’s a tough call at this stage. I’m planning to see everything through as far as I can.
Last updated: January 28th 2016