Tuesday, 21 January 2020

The Era Of The Forums...

The past year or so in the BC Underground world had been a big one full of development and growth.

  Craving change as my interest in music promotion began to wane, I slowly stepped back from constantly posting songs on my pages and writing articles. It stopped being as fulfilling as it once had when I began doing it back in 2011/2012. Seeing so many other platforms doing the same thing I had been doing with my pages, I felt a different approach was needed. I had to make my own lane and do something unique. So after some initial resistance I instead diverted my energy and focus to facebook groups. I didn't really know how to set it up for success so some initial research was needed. I learned a lot from being in other groups, studying how the successful ones worked and the dead ones didn't. I paid special attention to the times that I was sucked into long threads and debates on artist pages, even when I wasn't directly involved in the conversation, stepping back to evaluate why I had just wasted fourty five minutes of my time reading a hundred comment subthread between a handful of local rappers. I slowly began to understand the underlying drivers that kept people coming back. I knew what I had to do.

  I had already started the BCUG artist forum with moderate success but it wasn't really at the level that I wanted it to be. In the beginning it was just another link graveyard. An extra outlet for me to share music submissions and a way to divert the workload of promoting other peoples music by giving them a way to do it themselves. Gradually I started creating debate threads, encouraging people to talk and participate in a way that didn't involve posting a song and then leaving the forum until their next release. As I saw the power of comment engagement growing the group, and my understanding of what kept me reading those hundred comment threads, I reinforced my stance on the group being more than just another music sharing page. I wanted to create a community. It was an artist forum, the watercooler, the smoke pit during a show, a place where rappers, producers, promoters and others in the industry from around the province could go and talk about whatever they pleased. I was harnessing those threads that they were having on their personal profiles and redirecting them to a central hub for everyone to participate in. It was a reflection of my own facebook newsfeed after "friending' several hundred local rappers. I put it on display for everyone else to see as I had.

  Soon, the community began to materialize as more people joined, complete with unique characters and personas, collaborative efforts, divisive drama, friendships made and lost, and a feeling of camaraderie in a scene that has felt deeply divided for years. It's not for everyone, I get it, and sometimes things get a little wild, even toxic, but it's real. It's not sugarcoated. It's not veiled behind a mask of "professionalism". If a rapper is a jerk in real life, your gonna find out quick. People come and go, some hate it, others absolutely love it. Sometimes trying to please everyone leaves you in a state of mediocrity, never becoming exceptional to anyone while you try to cater to both sides. The biggest obstacle seems to be keeping it exclusive to BC as people from outside the province see what's going on in the forum and they absolutely despise the fact that they are not allowed to take part in it. Many mirror groups and copycats have spawned because of it, using the BCUG forum to mine their followers and gain quick numbers but the exclusivity of BCUG remains one of it's biggest assets. It gives it it's identity, a feeling of being part of a family. Everyone is in this together. Many of us see each other at shows or have worked together. There isn't that huge buffer zone that comes with being three provinces away that makes people feel invincible and turns them into keyboard warriors. Acting a fool can come with real life consequences when all the peers in the group are part of the same local industry. It creates an equilibrium.

  One of the best things to come out of the group, for myself at least, has been the mod team. Strong leadership from a diverse group of people is integral in maintaining a group's success past its initial few months. Overcoming the echo chamber effect is something I've emphasized throughout the course of the forums life. It still happens, but mitigating it is important in an area of the country that holds so much diversity. Carefully sourced like-minded people in the forum that understood what I was trying to accomplish brought together a group of individuals that really want the scene to flourish from all sides. I genuinely enjoy the time we spend chatting, making ridiculous memes or planning our next strategy to increase engagement. I can't count the amount of times I've laughed for a good fifteen or twenty minutes straight with some of the thing's we've come up with. With all the crazy bumps in the road that we've traveled over in the past year, It's really brought us all closer together.

  Now that the forum has somewhat taken on a life of it's own and it's sister forums Alberta Underground and  Canadian Underground coming along nicely, I feel that the amount of connections made and relationships built have all been worth it. I can finally get back to grinding those song shares and writing articles without it feeling so drab and lifeless. For me, it's mission accomplished.

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