How Do I Grow My Scene?
For many of us, we may be the only beatboxer in the city we live in. You may be the only beatboxer in your area and maybe your country. So how do you change that?
A lot of beatboxers have come to us and asked, “How do we grow our community? Should we host a battle?” And the truth is, battling isn’t the answer. Let me explain.
The Truth About New Beatboxers
The truth is, not everyone wants to battle, or even feels they are anywhere near the level to battle. There are thousands of beatbox battles showcasing insane levels of beatbox and this can scare away many who come to a battle.
One example is the World Beatbox Camp. Many in attendance claimed that camp was their first beatbox event, regardless of their access to local events. Imagine, beatboxers from France and the USA travelled to Poland FIRST before attending their national championships (World Beatbox Camp 2017-2018 was held in Krakow, Poland). Why?
For many beginner and intermediate beatboxers, battles are a daunting event. And many battlers will confirm that battling is stressful. Competing doesn't bring the same kind of satisfaction as just beatboxing for it's own sake. Now, we here are not dismissing battling. We, like many, enjoy battles. In fact, HBB were guests at the 2018 World Championships (Thank you, Bee Low). But we beatboxers as a whole need to realize battling isn’t what makes our community, but is currently the only major event we hold to gather together.
While battling helps many to improve on their skills, it does not GROW a scene. New beatboxers rarely want to battle. So how does a small community grow?
How to Grow a Small Scene
Okay. Full disclosure. I was a bit inebriated when I came up with this idea. But it was so good, I had to spread it to everyone I met at World Beatbox Camp. It was inspired by an event held by the Austrian beatboxers and a night of partying with Kenny Urban (maybe I should delete this part…). Anyways, the idea. Yeah.
STEP ONE: Find a decent sound system
Many bars that have karaoke night or open mic night will have a sound system that should work. We are not holding a Grand Beatbox Battle, so decent doesn’t have to be of the utmost quality. But make sure the establishment is relatively close to the majority of the local beatboxers.
STEP TWO: Send your best or most impressive beatboxer to their open mic night
The goal of this is to impress the owner or manager of the establishment by demonstrating the appeal of beatbox to a broad audience. Making friends with the bar will help greatly in the next step.
One real life example of impressing a venue was with Kenny Urban. We were at a rooftop bar in Prague before the World Championships. It was karaoke night and Kenny wanted to beatbox. He casually walked up to the DJ and beatboxed for him after about one minute of talking. Next minute, Kenny is holding a mic in front of the DJ booth. He performed and was asked by the owner to come back to perform on Friday. Sadly, we couldn’t stay till then (you know, World Championships and all). But we did get free drinks for the night!
STEP THREE: Offer the establishment a one-off event
Make an offer like: “We would like to hold a beatbox showcase night. We will handle advertising and hosting of the event.” Offer a slow night for the bar as this will probably give you an easier night for the bar to say yes to.
Ask for a single event for now, but after a successful event, it’ll be easier to ask for a regular evening. Once a month or even once a week will be possible once the establishment realizes that your event can bring a crowd.
The event should be a showcase “battle”.
Every beatboxer gets a choice of 5 to 15 minutes of performing, whatever they are comfortable with and believe they can be entertaining for. This must be a planned performance - no freestyling but anything goes.
If they want to perform with a loopstation, a guitar, or a singer etc, they can as long as they have a real performance that they can showcase. Performers can reuse performances from previous events, as long as they have improved on it.
At the end of the evening, the audience gets to vote for the winner. The prize should be something small, like paying their bar tab. But every performer should be paid for their performance. It may be a small amount, a few dollars, but maybe enough for a cab back home. And the establishment should be told about this prior. Most bars pay performers a percentage based on the amount they make at the bar.
STEP FOUR: invite as many local beatboxers as possible and anyone else who is interested in beatboxing
Encourage new beatboxers to check out the event; maybe hold a 1-2 minute newbie showcase at the start of the evening for anyone who wants to try getting on the mic.
Sending flyers and putting up posters for the event is also encouraged. The establishment will love you for bringing new business to them. Also, don’t forget to create a Facebook event, tag your local bar, and invite all your friends.
The crux of this idea includes a bar for the event. If this is an issue for you, you can adjust the plan accordingly. Community centers or school auditoriums should have a sound system and hold similar events. Hold ticket sales to use for renting the venue and paying the performers. Prizes can be a simple plaque that is reused each time; the winner holds onto the plaque till the next event.
What Does This Accomplish?
Of course this will never replace battles. But there is a huge section of the beatbox scene that is missing. New beatboxers can go on Discord or Teamspeak to learn the basics and the plethora of techniques, but there is nothing that prepares a beatboxer to handle performance on a live stage in front of a live audience.
Busking can be as daunting as battling and requires some equipment to be purchased. Things like proper mic technique, how to handle live audio, and performance techniques can’t be taught easily online and have to be experienced to be understood.
This idea also encourages new beatboxers to come to events. This leads to new friendships forming, new ideas spreading, and a genuine community to take shape. Battling is fun, but as time passes, contention and rivalries will develop within a community if the members only know how to “battle” each other, and not how to make friends with each other first.
This also establishes a beatbox scene within your area. Look, no one is coming to an event they have no clue it exists. If your area has no clue what beatbox is, then new people will never be interested in beatbox. But a regular beatbox event that is fun and friendly will show people what we are about and can lead to bigger events and offers. Other local event organizers may contact you to include beatboxing in their event.
Becoming a Community Leader May Mean Never Getting to Battle
Growing your community means you are leading the scene around you. You have to choose which you want: be the best beatboxer in the world or be the leader in your scene.
The best beatboxers in the world rarely become that in a bubble. They have a strong community behind them and learn from the best. When you are the only beatboxer in your area, it becomes increasingly harder to become great at the art-form. And if there is no scene in your area, it may be up to you to make a scene. At this point you might feel disheartened that you may never become the “best”.
You may have dreamed of being the best beatboxer, winning world champs and GBB, or making the next Red Bull ad. Whatever your dream is, it’s still all possible. But being the champion may no longer be possible when you are the organizer of the championships.
But let me tell you as a fellow community leader: Watching new beatboxers get better and better every time you see them, teaching your techniques and hosting successful events, there’s a feeling that is irreplaceable. Going from having only a handful of beatboxers, to needing a wildcard competition for your event, is a blessing. And to know that you had a hand in this, it’s a feeling worth cherishing.
Want help/advice/support growing your local scene? We can help! Leave your questions in the comments!