Lauren checks in with Olivia Busceme of Victoria House in Beaumont, Texas. As Harvey recovery continues in the area, Olivia takes a moment to share ideas gleaned from booking and promoting events in Beaumont, and why small town scenes are just as important as major hubs. Latasha Hagan (left) also chimes in to talk about her music and arts zine, High Street Times. Photo: Olivia Busceme.
Lauren: Why do you think making music happen in a small town is significant?
Olivia: Providing entertainment is important in a small town, especially when it is made accessible to young people and people at an economic disadvantage, because it helps everyone realize that pleasure, creativity, and social life is just as much for them as it is for people that are more well off or living somewhere these things seem more accessible. It’s important to realize that you don’t have to be somewhere better in order to enjoy your life. Having fun is the thing that makes life worth living. You don’t have to be rich or beautiful to be having fun; you don’t even have to move to somewhere else. Anybody can look around at what they already have, and be or discover the thing that can enrich their lives infinitely.
Lauren: How are small scenes important?
Olivia: You have to start somewhere. Small hometown music scenes are the training wheels of bands that can change people’s lives. And small scenes also know how to appreciate a touring act coming to visit. I think there’s always something to gain from meeting and communing with different people from different places.
Lauren: How do you work together / coordinate with other members of your scene when planning events?
Olivia: Though it still happens, we try to check the calendar and not book anything that will create a conflict for the audience to make a choice between one event or another on the same night. When it does happen, we can try to cross-promote or stagger the starting times. I imagine this isn’t as much of a problem in a large city. I think everyone, venues and bands, make a point to notice what each other are up to, so we don’t step on toes, and so we can learn from each other’s mistakes and successes. We also have to be careful not to oversaturate anything, because we have such a small audience to share between it all.
Lauren: What have been key forms of promotion that you have found the most effective in your town?
Olivia: I have a hard time telling which things are actually helping raise awareness and interest in events or whether a good turnout is just a lucky fluke. Social media is my number one priority usually, and also the least I can do. We’re trying to push for printed posters and fliers on all events, but it requires so much manpower that this often falls by the wayside. I think personal interactions are probably the most effective and least trackable way of spreading word. When your friend outright says, “I’m going to that show on Sunday,” it feels easier to then say, “Okay I’ll go too!” and then maybe even both of you actually show up!
Lauren: Working in a smaller city, do you find that you are very conscious of the scene at large rather than just focusing on your own projects?
Olivia: I’ve always been keenly aware of the scene that existed before I was a part of it, so I do think a lot about the scene that happens after I’m not involved anymore. I’ve seen a lot of really cool projects and groups pop up and fall apart over the past decade, and I think as long as there are people who understand the importance of being a part of something in a small town and providing these creative outlets to others in the same situation, somebody will find a way to make it happen.
Lauren: Why did you start Victoria House?
Olivia: It wasn’t my idea. The House was inhabited by musicians and things happened very organically. After the first three years or so, when the reins were thrown into my hands, I started to organize the foundation that had already been laid.
I was raised in the artist community here so I feel very strongly about being able to involve as many people in the arts as possible. I can see how a thriving creative scene enriches so many people’s lives, how eye opening it can be for so many people. And it’s also a great way to make friends. Everyone needs friends. I wanted to make it into a thing that can work for the benefit of everyone involved – the audiences, the artists, and the people turning the wheels. And also for the most benefits to be enjoyed with the least possible amount of money exchanged.
Lauren: What inspired High Street Times, and how many issues have come out?
Olivia: High Street Times is Latasha’s brainchild, so I’ll let her get back to you on that one.
Latasha: I started High Street Times to inform more people, mainly college students, of the awesome SETX (South East Texas) music and art scene. I had been attending Lamar University for about 4 years before I even heard about Victoria House and all the amazing events that had gone on. Once fully integrated in the scene, I had to let other students know that Beaumont is not boring, but inhabited by brilliant musicians and artists. And then High Street Times was created. Nine issues have been made with more issues to come.
High Street Times
An issue of Beaumont music and arts zine, High Street Times, which was founded by Latasha Hagan. Photo: Latasha Hagan.