Posted // 2009-01-01 - Websites
that focus on the local music scene tend to come and go frequently.
The average show attendee can name you five right off the top of
their heads that started strong and fell short in under a year.
within the past decade of online coverage, The Rock Salt has managed
to maintain both its dedication to local culture as well as thrive as
an online community. Now with most of its inspiring predecessors
gone it remains as a testament to the last rise of the scene and a
continuing stomping ground forum for those helping it grow once again. I
got a chance to chat with Steve Babcock (AKA: SonnyTwoJackets) about
how the site came to be, changes and incarnations, thoughts on local
music and radio, and a few other topics that came up.
Hey Steve, first off, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Steve:I wish I had an exciting answer for this. But the truth is,
I'm just your typical father of two. While I used to be a
self-proclaimed staple in the local music scene, I now spend my spare
time debating the effectiveness of lawn fertilizer. After nearly ten
years in the Salt Lake area, I uprooted and relocated my family to
beautiful Colorado where I currently work in the advertising
industry. That's about it.
Gavin: What first got you
interested in local music?
Steve:I moved to Salt Lake City in 1998. Having spent times in
bands before, I was very interested in forming a new one. After some
searching, a band came together known as Hudson River School.
Naturally, being part of the local music scene spawned my interest in
Gavin: How was your time spent in your
bands when you were still active?
Steve:Back in my Idaho days, my time was spent playing flat bed
trailers for keggers out in the middle of nowhere. More recently, the
time spent with Hudson River School was overwhelmingly business
related. We spent most of our time doing showcases for various
labels, working out contracts, recording singles, etc.
Where did the idea come from to start up The Rock Salt?
Steve:The whole thing was pretty simple. At the time there wasn't a
really functional online community for the local scene. There were a
couple other sites as I recall. Utahbands.com and a service called
“The Salt”. They would basically go to your shows and film them
and then post them on their site. They probably had some more
functionality but I can't remember. Utahbands.com was simple. An
events engine and a message board. However, the board format was
pretty bad. Watching both of these sites struggle to take off, I got
the idea of making a very simple, user friendly community. And most
importantly, a community that didn't feel moderated, controlled, or
Gavin: How did you go about
setting everything up?
Steve:I shared the idea with one of my best friends, Ponyboy, and
he used his interweb wizardry and got everything online. That was
about it. I probably spammed the other message boards to jump start
traffic and from there we just watched it grow naturally.
What was it like online after first starting up, and what was the
early community like?
Steve:At first, TRS was more editorial. We had a CD reviews
section. If I recall correctly, the idea behind the CD reviews
section was actually pretty weird. We were going to take CD players
down to Pioneer Park and have homeless people review the music.
Seriously, how sad is that? I guess at the time we thought it was
unique and clever. We ended up getting some guest reviewers instead.
We used to post monthly MP3s from local bands as well as random
photos from events and shows. We also had an events calender. But
most importantly, we had a pretty easy to use forum. That was the
Gavin: Did you expect it to become as popular
as it had, or did you think it would just become a passing
don't think either Ponyboy or myself expected anything really. I
wanted it to be successful because I truly felt the scene could
benefit from it. I saw what the other sites failed to do and felt we
had a better approach. I remember being surprised at how fast it
caught on despite not running any advertising.
How does it feel being viewed as one of the epicenters of the local
Steve:I certainly don't believe that statement to be true, first of
all. I think "contributer" is more accurate. About four
years ago, when the scene was experiencing one of its healthiest
eras, I will admit to having a sense of pride. I was proud of TRS and
what it had become. I was proud that bands and fans were able to
cross pollinate. It felt like TRS was actually accomplishing
something in a very tangible way. These days, however, I feel quite
distant from the actual music scene. I couldn't tell you what band is
what and who is who. I simply use TRS as my way of keeping in contact
with a scene I truly love. My wife asked me why I keep the site going
considering my band isn't really active anymore and I don't even live
in Utah. I guess I'm still clinging on to some of that pride. Plus,
the community has become a part of my life. I can't imagine life
without TRS. It's like a really great TV series. That was a weird
analogy. But it makes sense to me. So I'm just going to go with
Gavin: Where did the ideas to start the
Arbitrations and Classifieds sections come from?
Steve:That was Ponyboy. Throughout the years, we honed and crafted
the forums. We always wanted to keep them simple. But as the site
traffic grew, he saw a need to expand a little in the sake of
organization. We used to have a forum called The Fight Club. It was
where all the nasty threads went. But, eventually, after we
discontinued anonymous posting, that forum tanked hard. The site will
always be an evolution. It will always cater to the real, simple
needs. Right now, the entire TRS has been boiled down to just the
forum. And it feels pretty good. Anything more seems like a lot of
work. Not just for Ponyboy and myself but for all the TRSers. I think
we all like the simplicity of just being able to be a part of the
community. I do think we could use a righteous events engine, though.
One of these days we'll find someone to make one for us.
Do you believe the site has become the new social network for Utah
like Lower Lights once was, or do you believe its become something
Steve:I'm not familiar with Lower Lights, so I'm afraid I can't
speak to that. But, as the site has progressed, I think the truest
reason for it has shown through. As soon as the site began to take on
a social life beyond online, that's when I knew it was becoming
something I had never even imagined. I recall early days where TRSers
would get together for street tacos during lunch. Or when TRSers
would host TRS food themed parties. We began to host concerts such as
the TRS Family Reunion and the Salt Lake Showcase series. Online
personas became real life personas. It was at this point that the
site became real. The site stopped being an online tool and became a
conduit of connectedness. IN REAL LIFE! (Inside TRS joke.)
What do you foresee the future of the site becoming?
Steve:Good question. Ponyboy got married and I think the last time
he even posted on the forum was probably a good six months ago. My
life and career continue to become ever hectic. But, thanks to
believers like TURBO, the site is now hosted on his server and can
continue to live regardless of financial obligations. When TURBO
stepped in and offered this, it lifted a big burden off of my
shoulders and has allowed TRS to continue. Huge thanks to him for
doing this. I will continue to participate in TRS for a long, long,
long time. But, I think the thing about TRS is that it has never
really had any agendas, you know? It has always just been. And as
long as there is a need for it to simply be, it'll be around. Now if
that wasn't the most profound thing you've heard all week, I don't
know what is.
Gavin: Is there anything you believe
could be done to make it better than it is today?
Steve:Oh I'm sure there are tons of things. Probably a lot of bells
and whistles. But I'm not entirely convinced that any of those things
would truly make it "better." It is what it is. And I'm
pretty content with that. I do wish we had a better spambot filter,
however. That would certainly make it better. I think the honest
answer to this question is for new people to continue finding TRS.
Gavin: A little state-wide, what are your thoughts on
the local music scene, both good and bad?
Steve:I wish I had an answer for this. But the fact of the matter
is, I've grown out of the music scene. I used to know all the bands.
I knew who was who and what was what. These days, I am not sure I
could tell you much of anything. But this brings up an interesting
point regarding the evolution of TRS. The site was initially designed
to facilitate a community within the local music scene. Today, it's
transcended far beyond that. Today, it's become a genuine community
of people. Sure, the local scene may be a common thread among them,
but it's more about the people than music.
you had to guess, who would you say are the best acts in our scene
would have to consult TRS on this. This is actually a popular
reoccurring thread topic. It would be interesting to find this thread
from every year for the past seven or so years and see how the list
Gavin: What do you think about local
labels, and do you believe they help or hinder musicians?
Steve:Our first label was a local label. We didn't really have any
distribution or anything, but it helped us get our first record out
and duplicated. So, in that sense, it helped. I think local labels
are just as important as local bands. It all depends on the motives
of the label, I guess. The fine print tells all.
KRCL and X96 have their own shows going on where local artists are
getting radio airplay. Do you believe they're helping the scene, or
do you believe it's making it feel more excluded?
Steve:I gotta say, after spending nearly two years here in
Colorado, X96 has a LOT to learn. There is a radio station here in
Denver called Area 93. They are so amazingly involved and devoted to
the local scene, it's crazy. And the fruits of their labors are
evident. They have been responsible for so many local Colorado bands
getting signed and advancing. And it's simply because they care.
Actually, half the time it feels like they care about the local scene
more than the national. X96 says they care and to show it they devote
two hours on Sunday night (the least listened to time slot) to local
music - most of which is severely outdated. It really doesn't even
serve a purpose, in my opinion. It's pathetic at best. I honestly
believe the key to a thriving local music scene is a mainstream radio
station that gets involved to the level that Area 93 does. Now, I
can't speak for KRCL. I think they've always had the heart and have
always done the right thing. But they have the limitations of not
being mainstream. They will continue to do the best they can. But as
long as a station as popular as X96 continues to drop the ball, the
local scene will never see its explosive potential. If you took the
intent of KRCL and gave it the power of X96, the Salt Lake music
scene would be a whole different story.
Gavin: Do you
wish there were more shows or even stations who did this, or do think
things are fine the way they are at the moment?
Steve:The more the merrier. But more importantly that quantity is
quality. It seems like it's pretty common for stations to host a
local music show. But those will always fail in my opinion because
they quarantine the local music into a "local" space.
Instead, the key would be to integrate local music onto the national
stage. If you believe in local music, you'll give it the prime time
space it deserves. The day some 14 year old kid hears Tolchock
Trio's latest song right after a Weezer track while driving home from
school with his mom will be a good day indeed.
What can we expect from you and The Rock Salt over the next
Steve:Hopefully another year. I can't remember how many years TRS
has existed now. I think seven. So hopefully an eighth. And to all
those out there reading this who have never heard of TRS, give it a
try. Hopefully it'll have an impact on you. Hopefully it'll become
something more than a website for you. Hopefully it'll introduce you
to some new friends, some new bands and some new cuss words.
Is there anything you'd like to promote or plug?