By Zach Collier
Editor’s Note: Unfortunately, as of January 3, 2015, BandsFromUtah.com has been discontinued. Lewis has since gone on to work for the Utah Music Association. It was founded in May of 2012 by Tyler Monks and Jonathan Kvarfordt as an advocacy group for Utah music industry professionals. They organized the Timpanogos Music Festival in the summer of 2015. Here’s to hoping someone picks up where he left off and provides an easy way to discover local music.
Recently, as I was browsing the internet and exploring the wonderful world of Twitter, I was tweeted at by someone I’d never heard of before. The twitter handle? @bandsfromutah. Curious, I checked them out. One link led to another, and soon I found myself on their website. What I found rocked my world.
BandsFromUtah.com is a music aggregate that gathers music from artists in Provo, Salt Lake City, and the rest of Utah. Bands From Utah’s mission is to give viewers a comprehensive list of famous and up and coming musicians from Utah. Not only does it direct you to their individual websites, Twitter accounts, Facebook pages, and YouTube channels, but the site allows you to stream music from these artists without having to go elsewhere. There are several other nice features, including the Artists of the Month section at the top of the page. It’s sleek, it’s simple, and it’s useful.
So far, the only issue I’ve observed with the site, is that, as of now, every time you click away from your current page the music player resets. This can be easily fixed, and I’m sure it will be in the future. So typically I just stay on the home page unless I’m looking for someone specific.
Admittedly, I’ve had way too much fun on this site. I’ve had some great musical finds. After using the site for a week or two, I got to thinking: Where did this come from, and why had I never heard of it before? Looking for answers, I did some Googling, I asked around, I meditated about it on the top of a mountain. And then it occurred to me that I should just email the webmaster. Boom.
A Young Visionary
Meet Chris Lewis, creator of BandsfromUtah.com. An entrepreneurship student at BYU, Lewis is from Massachusetts – with Harvard, MIT, and Yale all just a short drive away. He said he’d never go to BYU, and it was a difficult decision for him to leave the east coast with all of those schools as options for him, yet here he is. In his spare time, Lewis attends as many innovation, idea, and entrepreneurial competitions & showcases as possible. “You could say that has in fact become a hobby of mine,” says Lewis.
Lewis has a niche skill set – Internet Marketing. “This means the science & psychology behind Google Ads, SEO, and the marketing aspects of web design. At present, I work for an Internet Marketing company up in Orem. It is quite possibly the best place to work – we’re transparent and thus, all our clients feel like our friends. It’s definitely a benefit of small companies,” he says.
Outside of the world of innovation and internet marketing, you’ll most likely find Lewis on the soccer field. “In Provo, there’s always soccer going on. I’ve got everybody on mass text too. If I have it my way in life, I’ll be able to be just successful enough to feel like I’m more married to my wife than to my job, run my own small business, and be playing soccer ‘til I physically can no longer – then I’ll be on FIFA 2074.” Lewis is a cool dude with a fresh, youthful excitement about him. He’s fun to talk to and I’m sure he’s fun at social gatherings.
So why Bands From Utah?
A Solution to a Simple Problem
I asked Lewis how Bands From Utah came to be.
“BandsfromUtah.com was started, in my mind, almost as solving our own personal problem… Long story short, four guys in an internet marketing class were looking for a project. We all had attended a local concert at least once.” When looking for information about the music scene, Lewis says that Google searches were disappointing. “So we decided we’d create our own site.” Lewis took over the site when the year ended, revamped the website, and is currently its sole proprietor.
When asked what Bands From Utah does that other sites do not, he responded, “There are plenty of Facebook groups and individual articles written by SlugMag, City Weekly, The Daily Herald, etc. on individual bands and band events, but that’s not what we wanted. We wanted an easy place to be fed local Utah music. From there, if you become a fan, you can stalk them all you want via Twitter, find their concerts on BandsinTown, read their PR stuff, etc. But that doesn’t happen ‘til you like them. BandsfromUtah.com is all about helping you find your new favorite local bands. And the only real way to do that is by listening to their music.”
I’ve noticed the same trend in the Utah music scene. While we have no shortage of local bands, we don’t really have a concentrated means of disseminating their music. There’s a lack of presence from reputable record labels, and though acts such as Fictionist, Imagine Dragons, The Used, and Neon Trees have gained critical and national acclaim, Provo and Salt Lake City remain largely untapped markets. Some claim this stems from a lack of “real talent.” I hold with Chris Lewis – it stems from a lack of concerted effort and communication, not a lack of talent.
“Have you ever tried to discover local music? It’s hard,” says Lewis. “You have to dig through all the blogs & articles, attend the shows, join the Facebook groups, and listen carefully to word of mouth. Then, you have to find their YouTube videos and decide if word of mouth was actually accurate.” Bands From Utah is seeking to change that.
Since its creation, the site has hit 5000 unique visitors, and returning visitors are spending an average of 14 minutes on the site. “The cool part about this is no real marketing of the site has been done yet.” In reference to my interview with him, Lewis said, “This is our first article… imagine if word got out even faster. This site would become an immense asset.”
Why is BandsfromUtah.com good for the music scene? In addition to satiating the everyday Utahn’s curiosity for local music, Bands From Utah will garner more fans for bands. Here’s how. Lewis explains: “Google anything related to ‘local Utah bands,’ i.e. ‘What are some local Utah bands?’” What comes up? “A couple blogs or magazine articles and then wedding/event bands. What does this mean? Very low [search] competition. Something else that’s cool? 210 people type ‘bands from Utah’ into Google a month. Add all the variations to that phrase – that’s a lot of Google searches.”
Artists featured on BandsfromUtah.com will be much more likely to gain and retain fans. “Event and organization managers have booked gigs off of finding artists from the site, which is great news for anyone currently featured on it,” says a proud Lewis.
Looking Towards the Future
While BandsfromUtah.com is a great initial project, Chris Lewis isn’t stopping here. He is currently researching and developing a bigger solution that will help propel Utah natives to stardom.
“Utah has somehow created an ambiance of ‘success is totally possible in the music industry. Go for it, we’ll help.’ As to whether or not this is true or just the psychology behind it, it sure breeds a lot of good music,” he says.
“What does the Utah music scene need? All the different resources need to proactively band together. The first state (or hub) that does this effectively will win. And this is the time for it – everyone is still trying to figure out how to deal with the rise of local music and indie artists. The first person to figure out an effective solution will capitalize big time. I’m talking about nationalism on a state level, excitement, and motivation because of a sense of pride that these bands are from Utah… If we can work local venues, radio stations, filmmakers, commercials – even city government – into a very mutually beneficial system for all, not only will these local bands become nationally successful, but every band from around the country is going to want to come to Utah. Economy up.”
Sounds good to me.
You ready Utah? Let’s rock.