Support Needed for Bozeman Music Venues

The city of Bozeman boasts a vibrant music scene, ranging from bluegrass and tribute bands to electronic, rock and metal. For residents and students under the age of 21, however, this diverse selection of genres seems non-existent. It’s easy to see why: The majority of Bozeman musical acts either play in bars, which are off limits to minors, or at costly venues such as the Emerson Center for Arts and Culture. For college freshmen and sophomores, sometimes it seems like the only option for musical entertainment is an iPod.

This disconnect hurts both students and local musicians. Since the majority of available musical venues are bars, the available-student demographic is essentially halved. At the same time, when students find themselves unable to attend these local shows, they miss out on entertaining talent, but more importantly, lose an opportunity to connect with the community.

One of the stated goals of MSU’s recent strategic plan was to increase retention of students. While only part of a broader solution, feeling connected to and emotionally invested in local entertainment would give students more of a reason to stay in Bozeman, and by extension, stay with MSU.

Of course, it is not as if there are zero options for entertainment for minors. ASMSU’s Campus Entertainment (CE) committee hosts several musical events each semester open to students of all ages. However, often times these shows are not adequately promoted and turnout is rarely enough to fill the SUB Ballrooms, which is in itself a difficult choice of venue. The ballrooms of the SUB can hardly be considered a “cool” place to see a concert when the same space was being used the previous day for suit-and-tie summits.

The Main Street Arts and Entertainment Complex (also known as “The Complex”) hosts music and party events, such as the Brutal Bridger Bash (a metal show) this weekend.  A steady stream of shows have played at the venue since opening in October 2012. The venue was founded to host 18+ events as an alternative to the bar music scene.

All of these organizations do commendable jobs at promoting entertainment to people of all ages, but their capacity is limited. The Complex is just one venue, while CE operates on limited means. Only four major entertainment events were hosted last semester by CE and that was before budget cuts were delivered at the end of the semester.

This leaves the committee caught between a rock and a hard place: Recognizable names are out of its price range, while small-time touring and local bands lack recognition that guarantees large enough turnouts. However, a change needs to be made so that music events, and venues to host them, should become a priority for both our university and local communities.

What does this mean for staff and students, though? A simple increase of funds won’t solve this problem; shows still need people to attend them, after all. Students should keep an eye out for promotion for local shows, both on campus and off. There is a lot to enjoy in Bozeman, and it takes just a bit of searching to find.