One day, two DC area transplants, upstate New Yorker Christopher Naoum and Austin, Texas born songwriter Rene Moffatt, were in a Washington, DC coffee shop, and after consecutive listens to lightweight 80s synth pop hits, decided it was time for a change. “We noticed that the artists whose music we were hearing in local establishments weren’t local,” says Naoum. “The establishments often claimed a connection to preserving local arts and culture, but the musical tie to that goal was not apparent.” This fortuitous moment created the energy that manifested as Listen Local First DC, the nation’s capital’s leading purveyor and champion of quality local sounds for the metropolitan area.
The organization markets itself as a “local music initiative devoted to building awareness and creating opportunities for local musicians and venues in order to raise the profile of DC’s local music scene. “ Developed through a collaborative effort, Think Local First DC, LLF partners with local musicians, local arts organizations, local venues and locally owned businesses to, in their words, “create performance opportunities and new avenues for local music exploration.”
The organization’s most progressive gambit to date involved the group commandeering a conversion van for the purposes of taking bands to 2011’s South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas. For the week, DC area groups were showcased out of the van, guerilla-style, on the streets outside of venues at the vaunted event. Naoum had glowing memories. “The interactive connectivity of literally thousands of attendees able to visit a mobile music venue, check out some bands, and hopefully avoid arrest (for unlawful public assembly) was a novel and ultimately successful idea.”
“In the past year, a number of different organizations have developed in the area promoting local music,” says Naoum. “I’m not saying that’s necessarily due to Listen Local First, but others are doing it now, which is great.” LLF’s plans insofar as being a pioneer in a filling market were intriguing. “Grant writing takes a long time, so in the interim we are developing tech solutions for businesses to stream local music. Listen Local First is not a full-time job, but as long as we keep pursuing our cause, the effort feels worthwhile.”
Regarding the future, Naoum was incredibly positive. “We have lots in the pipelines,” he says. “Ideally we’d like to push music that is local, high quality and recorded within the last year. Our intentions are to develop awareness not just for Listen Local First, but more to raise awareness for local artists. It’s not up to us to decide who you like. We just want you to know that great local options exist.”
For more information, visit www.listenlocalfirst.com.