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Supporting Musicians + the Music Industry in DSM

Supporting Music in DSM

August 26, 2021

Greater Des Moines (DSM) has much to celebrate when it comes to live music: established and emerging festivals featuring live music, new venues and a wealth of talent, from promoters to engineers to musicians to music educators.

The COVID-19 pandemic dealt a huge blow to the music industry: as many put it, music venues and festivals were the “first to close and last to reopen.” As live music reemerges in DSM and throughout Iowa, supporting local musicians and music workers is essential for the region to remain a viable location for our nascent industry to grow. Here are several ways you can support your local musicians:

Discover Bands in DSM

You may not know where to start in attending live music from local bands, and that’s okay! Think of what draws you to concerts in general — normally, you either listen to the music on rotation or you have friends who have shared the music with you.

Local music does not have to be any different. The first way you can support local music in DSM is by discovering the sonic language of the city and finding bands you want to see live and, hopefully, share your musical discovery with friends.

Some of the best places to discover Iowa music are:

  • Iowa Public Radio’s Studio One: Listen online or on the radio to Studio One, the music programming from Iowa Public Radio. There you can find local tracks on rotation as well as in-studios from a number of local bands.
  • #DSMUSA Music Mix: The Greater Des Moines Partnership has put together four mixes of local music for your listening pleasure.
  • Bandcamp: If you haven’t used Bandcamp before, it’s a great platform on which you can support musicians. Unlike streaming services where bands are paid fractions of a penny per play, any money you spend on Bandcamp goes DIRECTLY to the artists. Plus, as a response to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, on the first Friday of each month Bandcamp waives all fees, meaning the artist receives 100% of what you spend. Mark your calendars, and check out the link below for a list of Iowa music on Bandcamp.
  • In the Birdroom with Jordan Mayland: Jordan Mayland of the Des Moines Music Coalition has interviewed over 40 local musicians for his podcast. It’s a great opportunity to not only discover music but hear from the musicians behind the songs.
  • Local Record Stores: ZZZ Records, Marv’s and Vinyl Cup can all point you in the direction of local music. Plus, these local record stores have to compete with a changing streaming landscape — support them when you can!

Buy Tickets to an Upcoming Show

You can find local musicians performing on a regular basis at some of our local venues. A few to check out:

  • New venue xBK, located in the Drake neighborhood, hosts a recurring series called Live, Loud & Local featuring a different Iowa band each week. In addition, they regularly host local bands outside of the series. This fall is shaping up to be a busy one — many bands have released or will soon release albums recorded during quarantine, so keep your eyes peeled for upcoming album release shows, a great time to discover a new artist!
  • Noce, Des Moines’ jazz club, offers plenty of opportunities to discover local jazz musicians. Every Thursday, their Jazz on the House series presents local jazz musicians from 7–10 p.m. with no cover. Make sure to bring some cash to tip your musicians — you wouldn’t go to a bar and not tip your server! Noce is closed for August, shows pick back up again Wednesday, Sept. 8.
  • Along with hosting many notable touring acts, Wooly’s in the Historic East Village also presents local music on occasion, primarily for notable events such as album release shows. You can catch Des Moines musician B.Well on Friday, Sept. 10 for Billy: A Live Album Experience.
  • Look no further than Gas Lamp and Lefty’s, both venues where you’ll find an eclectic mix of music that skews towards rock and roll.

Grab a Drink + Check Out Free Live Music

Outside of traditional live venues, you can find music across DSM most nights of the week.

A number of breweries, including Exile, Confluence, Firetrucker and others host live music on a weekly or semi-weekly basis.

Restaurants and bars including Captain Roy’s, Louie’s Wine Dive and classics such as The Greenwood Lounge also host music, even more frequently as patio season allows.

It’s important to tip the musicians you are seeing perform in spaces like these! In the absence of buying a ticket to a concert, donating during a free show is the most direct way you can support local musicians.

Important to note: If you’d like the most up-to-date listing of shows in DSM, check out The List – Live Music in DSM Area, the Catch Des Moines Calendar and The Partnership’s Music & Entertainment page.

Attend a Festival — and Show Up Early!

Along with major names headlining our festivals, many local bands appear on stage as well. The next time you head to a festival, show up early to catch some local bands. If you ask any previous 80/35 attendee, sometimes the local sets are some of the most electrifying of the weekend.

Coming up, check out the Riverview Music Festival at Riverview Park on Saturday, Sept. 4. Presented by the Des Moines Music Coalition, the festival features some “see them now before they’re huge” acts such as VanJess, Earthgang and Sudan Archives alongside local acts such as The Finesse, Andre Davis and Free PWR.

Local musicians and music industry workers have worked hard and continue to work hard to build a thriving music scene in DSM. We can’t do it alone, and that’s where you come in! Your support goes a long way towards enabling musicians to keep making music, build careers in a challenging industry and contributing to a vibrant and diverse cultural scene in our town.

Named the #1 Best Place to Live in the Midwest and #2 Safest Place to Live, Greater Des Moines (DSM) is a city where you can have it all. Learn more about what it’s like to live here.

The Greater Des Moines Partnership calendar of events is a one-stop resource for activities taking place throughout the region. Find networking information for Greater Des Moines (DSM) businesses or events specific to Downtown DSM.

Mickey Davis

Mickey Davis currently works with the Des Moines Music Coalition and Sound Diplomacy measuring the economic impact and activity of the Greater Des Moines (DSM) music ecosystem. The result of this work will be a strategy and recovery plan to DSM's growth as a music city. Author image by: Jami Milne.