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2020 Trends: Chattanooga Music Community Plays For A Brighter Future

A look at the impact that 2020 had on the Chattanooga music community with thoughts from Stratton Tingle of SoundCorps.

Photo provided by SoundCorps

Music is an unmistakable hallmark of Chattanooga. It seems like everywhere that you go in the Scenic City there is always a musician within thirty feet, whether they're performing on a street corner, singing at the front of the coffee shop, or just walking down the road with a guitar slung over their back. One of the most shocking effects of 2020 and the events this year brought was the disappearance of the musician from the city streets and iconic spots, and this reflects how hard the music community has been impacted this year.

Stratton Tingle is easily one of if not the face of the Chattanooga music community. As the executive director of SoundCorps, he has been crucial to building the music scene here and has been the first person to tackle the challenges that 2020 brought for musicians.

"This pandemic gutted live music events," Stratton said. "These generate the majority of most local musicians' income. It was a devastating year to be employed in the entertainment industry."

Event cancellations and the sudden shutdown of any pop-up shows weren't the only misfortunes for musicians though. Just as hard hit as they were the venues where artists perform. This year saw the temporary and permanent closings of many typical pop-up music venues such as local theaters, coffee shops, and breweries. Most substantial is the closing of Songbirds and its venues. These locations were staples of the local music scene and their loss is having a big effect both financially and culturally for Chattanooga's musicians.

2020 wasn't purely a year of strife though. As Stratton was quick to point out, many artists turned this year into a time to explore their creative sides. This can be seen through the creation of unique side businesses like Lon Eldridges Bolo Tie business or BBYMUTHA's Mutha Magick Apothecary. Music events in the area didn't stop entirely with big pop-ups like the Valley Vibes Music Festival and smaller socially distanced performances at local breweries like the Chattanooga Brewing Company, Gate Eleven, and many others.

One of the biggest step-ups from local musicians though was their dedication to continuing to create music virtually. Practically every practicing musician in the area began using social media and other online resources to reach their audiences. Many of them continued to find ways to continue to produce music despite everything with musicians and bands like Jason Lyles, SevenStones, The Afternooners, Sam Steadman, and countless others continuing to create music.

After the murder of George Floyd, musicians began playing a key role in the Black Lives Matter movement here in Chattanooga. Many songs were written and released by local musicians lamenting Floyd's death and encouraging Chattanoogans to take a stand against racial injustice. C-Grimey was especially vocal as one of the leading protest organizers for the area. It was musicians like him who spurred thoughts of change and hope to make our city a better place for everyone.

Musicians didn't have to face all of this alone though. Local organizations and the community as a whole took a stand in these times to help keep music alive in Chattanooga. SoundCorps alone was able to grant more than $100,000 to local musicians and music organizations through their CHA Area Musicians Relief Fund, and other organizations like The Enterprise Center and Tech Goes Home Chattanooga were also able to make huge contributions to the community.

"It's really a sad state of affairs in the world of music events, live production, and music venues, but I'm confident that people are hungering as never before for live music and the industry will be back with gusto when we can all dance and sing together again," Stratton said.

With further resources like the Save Our Stages Act going into effect and collaboration between local organizations increasing, the future is looking much brighter for local musicians.

If you would like to read more about SoundCorps and the work they did this year, make sure to visit their site here.

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