Blogger Spotlight: Alexa Rahmanparast (Mind Equals Blown)

Hello and welcome to the final Blogger Spotlight column of the week. We thank you for sticking with us through the extra-long articles we have been running as of late, and encourage you to take an extra bathroom break before diving into the feature below. If you have any questions regarding the content of this blog, or if you would like to learn more information about the services offered by Haulix, please email james@haulix.com and share your thoughts. We can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.

A few weeks back I was scrolling through editorials on music blogs when I came across a voice I had never before encountered. The writer’s name was Alexa Rahmanparast, and her article on the importance of local music/scenes spoke to me in a way few columns had in recent memory. I reached out to the editor of the site which originally ran the column, and a few hours later was contacting Alexa for a feature in this blog.

I know we usually lead into these features with a bit of a teaser on what to expect from the interview, but this time around I thought we would switch it up and share with you an the very article that brought Alexa to our attention. You can read her words, which originally appeared on MindEqualsBlown, below:

As someone who has been to numerous concerts, I’ve seen those “Support Local Music” stickers all over the place. It seems as if the whole world is claiming they support local music, yet when I go to a local show, the room appears almost empty with only a few dedicated fans. On the other hand, if one goes to a show for a more prominent band, there is rarely any room to breathe. So where are all of these people who claim to support the local music scene?

It appears as if this campaign is almost the “cool” thing to follow. Many people claim to show interest in the support of their town’s music scene, but state that their scene is dead without even attending a single local show. What people fail to realize is that many of the more prominent bands that they support all started from the bottom and worked their way to the top, so it can’t be nearly as dead as they believe.

The music at a local level is far purer than music that has been tainted with fame. These musicians are completely free to be their true selves because they have no intervention from labels or, in some cases, managers. It is rumored that A Day to Remember has had issues with Victory Records for this particular reason. Also, people often refer to the musicians they once loved as “sellouts” because, while absolutely frustrating, eventually signed musicians almost always need to commercialize to appeal to every type of fan. On the flip side, local musicians have no one to please but their current fans and usually stick to their unique style.

Small-time bands also tend to show more humility, as the only thing keeping them alive is their local fanbase. However, it goes without saying that not all local musicians are humble people and not all famous musicians have heads the size of Jupiter. Jason Butler from Letlive. is actually one of the nicest people I have met. I met him at the Vans Warped Tour and he was incredibly cooperative and friendly. During the event, it started to rain and despite the fact that he was about to perform, he still went out of his way to go through with our scheduled interview. Yet, surprising things that popular bands do, such as asking for my name or my thoughts on their music, are things almost guaranteed upon meeting some of these local bands. At small shows, bands usually hang back to meet their fans and on some occasions even become close friends with them.

These small-time bands generally have smaller shows than popular artists, so it’s as if their concerts are something special for their small following. It is a completely different experience to go to a local show rather than one for a more famous band. On many occasions, people go to concerts for more prominent bands, such as Sleeping With Sirens or Pierce the Veil, because they have simply heard of these musicians or are hopeful of being future Mrs. Kellin Quinns or Mrs. Oliver Sykes. Yet, if one goes to a local show, such as those of Ocala-based band Wage War, people are most likely there for only the love of the music. This gives their shows a more personal feel.

Local concert-goers eventually start to see many familiar faces. People who frequently attend local shows ultimately build a sense of community and for the most part, these communities are incredibly positive. Sometimes, people meet complete strangers at these events who become some of their closest friends. I actually met my good friend Eric at a Battle of the Bands competition, at the venue Revolution in South Florida. I like to think that these shows give people comfort in knowing that there are similarly-minded people who have experienced many of the same struggles they have, as music is an incredibly emotional experience.

There’s also nothing cooler than seeing a band you have long supported make it in the big leagues. I’ve seen this one band, Shout London, grow from a little seedling into a huge success. I saw the band’s start-up and went to several shows, and eventually they graced the stage at the Orlando Vans Warped Tour venue playing alongside incredibly prominent bands such as Anarbor and Forever the Sickest Kids, who are in a similar genre. It’s such an amazing feeling to see them perform at a high level because it makes me feel like I had a big part in their uprising. I understand that I’m not the reason that they suddenly became popular, but the fact that my presence helped this band start up is an incredibly uplifting feeling.

The support of local music also helps strengthen local economies. It goes without saying that local venues are an important part of the local scene as they are the ones that provide musicians with a place to reach out to their fans. Places like Country, BlueGrass, and Blues, otherwise known as CBGB, helped start up local New York musicians from the ’70s to mid-2000s, making some incredibly famous, such as The Ramones, Blondie, The Talking Heads, and more. Every ticket sold at CBGB helped build the local economy.

It’s not actually all that difficult to become a supporter of the local music scene. Music supporters who would like to get involved should consider checking local venues and their ticket centers. Bands and venues also post a lot of their events online, which is an easier option for most. I’d also recommend supporting local musicians by purchasing their albums, as opposed to illegally downloading them, as they need a way to support themselves and continue to make music a career. Just talking to musicians about their music will help them determine how to stylistically move forward. I’ve had many bands who are starting up contact me for my thoughts on their music through social media sites such as Twitter. Even this kind of support can help a band out more than one could ever imagine. I just hope that one day, as many people show support for the local music scene as they do for the campaign.

We have no doubt Alexa will have a bright future in the music industry, and in the interview below she tells us a little bit about the things that inspire he to continue pursuing her dreams. If you would like to learn more about Alexa we highly recommend following both her and MEB on Twitter. Additional questions and comments can be left at the end of this post.

H: For the record, please state your name, job title, and the publication(s) you work for:

A: My name is Alexa Rahmanparast and I’m a staff writer for Mind Equals Blown.

H: Let’s begin with a bit of personal history. When you think of your earliest memories with music, what comes to mind?

A: I think I first realized that I was really into music the first time I heard Panic! At the Disco’s A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out. I believe that I was in the fifth grade when “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” started playing on the main radio stations back home and it dawned on me that music was more than background noise.

H: What was the first album you purchased with your own money?

A: Coming from the digital day in age I started downloading music on iTunes, but I believe the first physical album that I purchased with my own money was The Seeking’s Yours Forever.

H: Many of the people we work with on these features can pinpoint specific albums and/or formative moments in life that steered them toward a career in entertainment. Do you have anything like this in your past?

A: I think I’ve always known deep down that I wanted to work with music, but I remember the moment I realized it. It’s actually quite random, I was watching the movie “Going the Distance” with my cousin and we were talking about Justin Long’s character, who happens to be an A&R representative for a label. After the movie my cousin mentioned that I would probably be really good at that and it all made sense.

H: What inspires you as a writer?

A: For as long as I remember I’ve been putting pen to paper. As a child I had loads of “poetry” books, so I can’t really say what has inspired me as a writer. It’s just always been that way and I couldn’t imagine my life if things were different.

H: Having a strong interest in music and writing is one thing, but taking the next step and becoming a journalist requires a lot of time and effort. What lead you to dabble in the world of music blogging?

A: I remember having a teacher in High School who told us she never worked a day in her life because she loved it so much. I guess you could say that there’s a lot of time and effort put into music journalism, but if there’s anything I could be writing about it may as well be something I love. I figured music blogging would be an excellent way to get involved in the music scene.

H: You are currently a contributor to Mind Equals Blown, which is a site we have become quite familiar with over the last year. What made MEB the site you chose to work for? Did you write anywhere else before joining the team?

A: Actually one of my best friends has been writing for MEB for a while now and I used to help her out with research and I’d join in on some interviews. She suggested that I should apply for MEB so that I could be involved in the scene while still making connections for the future. This is my first time working for a music publication and so far it’s been a lot of fun.

H: If someone were to ask you what separates the content found on MEB from its competitors, what would you tell them?

A: I think the fact that Mind Equals Blown focuses a lot on editorials, more so than other sites, is awesome. It gives readers a chance to get to know the people who are writing the other kinds of stories.

H: I’ve noticed you have a strong passion for editorials. Do you have any pieces from the last year you’re particularly proud of and would like to share with our readers? Go on, pat yourself on the back a bit!

A: I think it’s rather interesting. I wrote this piece about supporting local music back when I was still on trial to see whether or not I’d officially become a staff writer on the site. It’s the first piece I ever sent in to MEB and I didn’t even think it would get published. I remember hearing back from the editor about that piece and he loved it. Eventually it got published and I got quite a bit of positive feedback, so I guess I could say that I’m pretty proud of that editorial.

H: The reason you came onto our radar was because of a piece I read not long ago on local music scenes. The debate over whether or not bands should focus on building a following regionally has come into the spotlight a lot as of late. Where do you stand on the subject?

A: I’m a huge supporter of building a following regionally. I think the local music scene is where things should start as everything is so much purer. You know the fans are there because they like your music, not because you’re a big name musician playing a show that everyone and their mother is attending. Of course, if a band starts up and suddenly makes it big I say more power to them, but I think they’d be missing out on the experience.

H: Speaking of young bands just starting to find their place in the world, Mind Equals Blown has developed a reputation for exposing new artists to the world. When you want to discover new music, where do you turn?

A: I’ve always been pretty big on finding up and coming musicians. I’m actually the President of the local musician organization at my University, so that’s one way I seek out new talent. I’m also pretty big on finding new musicians through social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. It goes without saying that MEB is also an excellent place to find new artists.

H: Let’s spin the tables a bit. I know your email gets flooded with requests from artists and groups for exposure on MEB. What advice would you offer to up and comers to help separate themselves from others vying for digital space?

A: I feel like a lot of the bands who have messaged me tried making small talk first so as to not seem like they’re using me. While I think it’s nice when a musician tries to connect with their fans (or future fans) on a personal note, it also feels kind of fake for the most part. If I get a message that says something along the lines of “Hey, what kind of music do you like?” then I’ll probably just ignore it or take months to respond because I’m not looking to make small talk. Just get to the point, we both know why you’re messaging me.

H: When it comes to receiving music for review and feature consideration, which distribution platforms do you prefer to receive music from and why?

A: I’d be totally lying if I said I’ve used anything, really. I still am one of MEB’s newbies, so I haven’t quite learned all of the tricks yet. Normally, I’ve just waited for the albums to come out on iTunes or Spotify and go on from there.

H: Your involvement with MEB has been growing in recent months. What career goals do you currently possess, and how have they changed in the last year?

A: I’ve actually known since I was in my Junior year of High School. For now, I think I’d like to be an A&R representative for a label, but I’m still not sure which one yet. I just think that discovering new talent and granting them an opportunity to make it out there would be so rewarding.

H: What do you think is the biggest problem facing young professionals hoping to enter the music industry today? Do you have any advice to offer?

A: I think a lot of young musicians may not start out with the largest fanbase, so they immediately change their sound to fit what the masses like. It seems like they’re betraying themselves to just make it big and I think that’s a huge mistake. Music is such a pure form of expression, so people shouldn’t lose themselves along the way.

H: What can you tell us about MEB’s plans for 2014?

A: With the new year, we certainly have new things brewing. We’ll certainly have new music to review and our much loved editorials will be as strong as ever.

H: Okay, that should cover everything. Before I let you go, do you have any final thoughts to share with our readers?

A: Just to make sure to keep your eyes peeled for the interesting new material that both MEB and Haulix will be releasing!

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.