Undergrads abroad report on state of local music: Fall 2010

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(MUSB undergrads in Prague)

Every semester undergraduate music business majors take their knowledge and interests abroad to any number of the locations NYU has to offer. While Prague and Florence have historically been the most popular study abroad sites for music business majors, students in recent years have begun to branch out, electing to spend semesters in places like London and Buenos Aires.

In the first installment of what will become an ongoing survey in future semesters, VeloCity reached out to undergraduate music business majors studying abroad to gain a better understanding of the current state of music in and around their respective sites.

This semester we spoke to several juniors to hear what they had to say about their experiences with music in Prague. We also heard from another MUSB undergrad who is currently finishing her semester abroad in London. Check out the interview below:

 

1. What music is on the radio where you are? Do you listen to local radio, or stream music from the US?

JCo: I don’t listen to the radio, but I go to a lot of concerts and discover new music that way. DJs I see in Prague have their own online radio shows streaming on their blogs, as well as the DJ sets that they spin live.

JCa: The music on the radio is mostly US music that is a few months old (i.e. “Tik-Tok” by Ke$ha). At the music publishing company I am interning at, they play Czech pop radio, which does occasionally have current American music (i.e. Kanye West). However, I’d say I mostly listen to music I stream from the US.

ZF: Just like in the US, I don’t really listen to the radio. But I’ve been told that it’s usually either classic rock, or a mix of American and some Czech Top 40. A lot of the locals here really like classic rock and current American pop, but it just depends on who you hang out with!

AK: I don’t listen to the radio here, but I hear plenty of music (radio and otherwise) at supermarkets and the gym. At supermarkets, they often have bad covers of English-language hits, and at the gym, they play a mix of yesteryear’s American hits (Nickelback, Missy Elliot, Lenny Kravitz, among others) and highly European bands (Nightwish, the Finnish operatic power-metal band seems to be popular). The only Czech band I seem to hear with any regularity is Chinaski, which to me sounds like a watered-down version of Stone Temple Pilots.

KM: Actually the funniest thing is that people in London basically listen to the same Top 40 music as in the States except that they tend to catch on to the trends a little later.  And especially in pubs, they’re playing some old school hits from the 80s and 90s and they all sing along to Journey hits just like we do back home. All the club music is exactly the same too.

 

2. How much US music do you hear, and where?

JCo: I hear mainstream US music everywhere, from restaurants to clubs to cafes.

JCa: A ton! (i.e. at clubs, on the radio, etc). Most popular music in Prague is rooted in what’s hot in America.

ZF: You hear US music everywhere! In all of the tourist destinations, Lady Gaga will be blasting from the radio and American Top 40 is playing in a lot of bars and cafes. The cooler bars have dubstep, international music, ska, punk, you name it. You can really find any kind of music in the Czech Republic, but it’s easy to feel at home with all the Top 40 here.

AK: I hear plenty of American music, whether it be in clubs, gyms, or the music collections of my Czech friends.

KM: It’s all US music.Or it’s international artists that have big hits in the US. But it’s all over the radio and playing in stores and pubs and everywhere you can possibly imagine.

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(The Lennon Wall in Prague)

3. Is there an “indie” music scene where you are? If so, how would you describe it? Is there an “indie” chart? Does “indie” have the same, cool connotation as in NYC?

JCo: The two indie scenes would be the underground dubstep scene, and on the other end of the spectrum, live jazz bands. It is different than in New York because most “indie” artists are waiting for at least a glimpse of the spotlight. Concert-goers in the NY indie scene like to play the role of the scout, predicting who will be the “next big thing,” where as in Prague, it is much more about the experience than the artist. This is partly because DJs are acts rather than artists; jazz musicians’ music is more powerful live than on a record.

JCa: There is an “indie” scene, but it is much different than what we’re used to in the US. Whereas American indie bands try to steer away from sounding really poppy and mainstream in the US, doing so is very “hip” in Prague.

ZF: There might be, but I’m not really so into it. Some of the other music business kids have had some great experiences though with the local scene! There’s definitely a lot of DJs and a lot of clubs though, but I wouldn’t really call that “indie” like you would in New York-I typically attribute that to indie rock.

AK: There doesn’t seem to be much
of an “indie” scene here in Prague, at least not one that resembles New York in anyway. The indie hipster fashion sense is conspicuously absent, and very few bands seem to have a sound that could be described as indie. I’ve seen one indie-esque band here in Prague, and the audience didn’t find them to be too exciting. However, Budapest seems to have a pretty active indie scene. I went to a very large club called Gödör that hosted a very well-attended indie concert, and the crowd was about as intensely hipster as any Brooklyn neighbor (New York Dolls t-shirts, bizarre hairstyles, etc.)

KM: There is an indie scene in London. Especially those bands playing in the pubs all over the city (and there are thousands of pubs so there are thousands of these bands and artists) I like the indie scene here much more than back in NYC because the “indie” acts in London don’t take themselves too seriously.  There are tons of great bands just playing on the streets around the markets in London and they’re not worried about being a “cool indie” act, they just love music and love playing and thats the best thing to hear.

 

4. What has surprised you about the music scene where you are?

JCo: Music venues are the only place where I have seen Czechs act outside of their comfort zone. Extremely reserved, they completely transform into wild music fans with outrageous break-dance moves at night. It is also interesting to see young Czech people on the metro listening to dubstep on their iPods. Music I would associate only with nighttime fun is part of their everyday soundtrack. 

JCa: I was surprised about how much jazz can be found in Prague. There a ton of great jazz clubs and you never go too long without hearing a great sax solo on the street. Sometimes I feel like I’m back in NY!

ZF: I think a music scene is very different when there’s another 3 years added on to the legal drinking age, and with that a very eager group of people to go out, drink, and listen to music. It’s a totally different dynamic here then when you go out in New York!

AK: There seems to be a pretty active interest in American hard rock, particularly the LA hair metal of the 80’s. I’ve become friends with a band named Bitch N’ Chips who plays in that style, and they have an enthusiastic fan base here in Prague.

KM: I guess I was surprised how much the music scene was exactly similar to that of NYC. Although I suppose I really shouldn’t have been surprised because most big international cities have basically the same top 40 as the US but it is comforting to be able to sing along with every else to the songs being played.

 

5. Is there any other news from Prague or London relevant to the Music Business program, or any other stories you’d like to share?

JCa: I got to attend my guitar teacher’s album release party at a famous art warehouse. Thousands of people were there, and it was great to feel like a part of the Prague music community!

ZF: If you’re looking for a way to make some venue-related music business connections while in Prague, I found that joining the newly formed Prague Student Council as Vice President helped me do that! Since I’m also a DJ, I’ve been planning Club Nights at venues in Prague, and whenever I sit down to meet a venue owner I feel like I’m adding to my Music Business education, not to mention my rolodex. 

KM: You know, I had totally forgotten how much I loved open mic nights. There is so much talent pouring out and it’s just awesome to hear. Another one of my favorite things to do in London is to put my iPod on shuffle and roam the streets.