State of the Central Iowa Music Scene

On April 30th, I attended a meeting at the Des Moines Social Club to discuss the current state of the central Iowa music scene. The main topics covered were 1) what’s going well in the scene and 2) what could be improved.

We’ve had similar discussions in the recent past – once at a Music University event put on by the Des Moines Music Coalition (DMMC), and another time at House of Bricks just before they switched formats from a music venue to a restaurant (Streetcar 209).

The difference was this time there was a much larger crowd representing much more of the music scene. People from all genres were present – including, but not limited to rock, punk, folk, and hip hop. There were musicians, venue owners, booking agents, promoters, music startups, ticket companies, music journalists, and fans. Some of the musicians were new to town and some have lived here their whole lives. Some were just starting out in music, some play locally on a regular basis, and some were parts of nationally touring acts.

When we started discussing what’s “good” or “not so good” in the scene, we quickly realized and pointed out that different people have different goals for the scene and have different ideas of success. Some musicians want to be the typical “rock star”, but others just want to make a living with their music, some just treat music as their hobby, and others want a community that’s supportive of a diverse mix of artists.

We ultimately didn’t decide on any specific actions to improve things, but I expect those discussions will come.

The biggest positive outcome of the night was that everyone saw how much support the local scene has from so many different angles and people in the scene got to meet each other – or finally put faces with names. I personally met and talked to a few people I knew of (and was possibly already connected with via social media) from the scene for the first time.

With all those introductions now made, the discussions will continue.

Here’s what we all decided is going well in the central Iowa music scene:

  • Show attendance is up (especially for shows headlined by local acts)
  • A recent study shows that there’s more local support for the music scene and more money being spent in the local music scene in the Des Moines metro on a per capita basis, than in other larger cities known for their music scenes – like Austin, TX, for example.

Here are some items people brought up as areas for improvement. These may be areas where all music scenes could improve:

  • People tend to only go to shows if they are already fans of the act.
    • My comment: this seems reasonable human nature and is one of the areas I’m intending to address with Locusic. Locusic makes it easy for people to get familiar with acts playing in their area and find new ones that they might want to go see.
  • Lack of artist development. Many people felt there could be more ways to help artists improve their craft, or obtain better production, etc. Some felt this would be better if there were more successful artists from the area who could help the up-and-comers.  But it could also just come down to artists reaching out more for support or criticism/feedback. It was pointed out several times that the people in this scene are all very accessible – you just need to reach out.
  • Des Moines’ age limits on shows. This was a big one. Des Moines has laws that make it very difficult for venues (which tend to be bars) to hold all-ages shows, so anyone under 21 years old gets excluded from participating in the local music scene. This hurts the venues and bands in ticket sales and merch sales. But more importantly it hurts the scene and Des Moines culture overall as we’re failing to encourage the next generation of music supporters.

Davo Wilkins, a veteran of the Des Moines music scene and creator/curator of the Iowa Underground Archives created a very thorough post, entitled “Where are the Kids Supposed to Go In This Town”, on the history of the Des Moines scene and cited the age restrictions as a key problem. Amedeo Rossi succinctly summarized at the meeting, “it’s the cops”. The Des Moines police have a strong influence over the city’s decisions and don’t seem to understand that the regulations are making matters worse for Des Moines and for the police themselves.

Some tips for musicians/bands that came up during the discussions:

  • Don’t be a typical Midwesterner – don’t be humble. Sell yourself and ask for what you want.
  • Work hard, tour a lot, keep up on your relationships, and invite people when you come through their town.
  • If you want to be selected to play a show or festival, the things they’ll look at when making a decision are:
    • Do you match the genre of the venue/festival?
    • Do you have a new album?
    • Do you have an upcoming tour – or are you currently touring?
    • Does it look like you’re working hard?
    • What does your website look like?
    • What do your social media presences look like?

Does this sound like your scene? What specific actions could we take to make our scene even better?


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New Artist Lists

Locusic now has a couple more ways to check out what’s going on in your local music scene!


Instead of just one list (broken down by state) of the musicians on Locusic, you can now see who the current most popular bands are in your location, and which bands from your area have recently added more music to Locusic. Plus you can still get the full listing of all artists on Locusic.

Menu-ArtistListsThe “Artist Lists” option in the menu will take you to the Popular list for your area.

You can switch to your home location to see the popular artists there.



Click the “Recently Uploaded” button to switch to the list of musicians that have recently added new songs to Locusic (again – for your current location or home location).

Click the “All bands on Locusic” link at the bottom of the page to get the full artist listings – broken down by state.

Congratulations to the musicians/bands shown in the screenshots on this post – our first leading artists:

Popular in Central Iowa: Gadema, Angle, Bolsa de Papas, Cirrus Minor, Bonne Finken

Popular in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis area): Well Trained Monkey, Electric Anthem, Spy Johnson, The UnderGroove, Vaudeville

Recently Uploaded in Central Iowa: A Better Reality, The Dirty Kids, Prisms & Portals, Colt Walkers, Kristian Day

Recently Uploaded in the Twin Cities: DRONES, Mortificator, The Falderals, Pill Hill, Detritus

Do you live somewhere else? How about near Iowa City? Who’s on the lists there?

I wonder if these lists will change in the coming days!


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Now Listen to Multiple Genres on Locusic

Locusic now has the ability to play multiple genres of music in a single stream. Can’t decide between Rock and Pop? Pick both.

Locusic Player Settings

Select as many genres as you like. Then click the “Apply & Play” button and Locusic will play songs matching any of your selected genres from bands within 50 miles of your selected location.

As an added bonus, Locusic now remembers your selections, so the next time you open the player settings, your previously chosen genres are already pre-selected for you.


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New, Hi-Res Imagery

Long story short – Locusic now has new, crisper, sparkly graphics – specifically for newer hi-res displays on smartphones, tablets, etc. (Check the Before and After images below.)

This affects the web app and Android app.








For the last few years, mobile devices have been coming out with higher and higher resolutions. Their higher pixel densities mean that websites and other graphics are scaled up to use more than the number of pixels specified in the design (css) – in order to fill the appropriate (designed) amount of the screen.

There’s a good article about the details of some of this here.

In the old days, a pixel in a website’s design represented a single pixel in the display it was rendered on. Now with device pixels getting smaller and smaller in high-resolution displays, that would mean the website, graphics, and text would appear way too small. So the newer devices scale up the display of websites so that they actually use more pixels than they were designed for.

Let’s say you had an image that was 96 pixels wide. On a laptop, that might display as about one inch wide. While on a smartphone, 96 pixels might only be 1/2 inch wide or less. So the device scales the image up so it takes up the amount of space the designer originally intended.

If the device has a pixel density (the ratio of the density of the pixels on the device’s screen compared to a “standard” screen) of 2, it would use twice as many pixels to display the image.

The problem now is that the device is using 192 pixels of width to display an image that only has 96 pixels worth of image data. The result is that the image looks blurry, or like it’s a low-resolution image.

And that example is just for a device with a pixel ratio of 2 – the pixel ratio of Apple’s “retina” displays – in use since the iPhone 4. Other devices have even higher pixel ratios. My current smartphone, an LG G3, for example has a pixel ratio of 4.

The solution is to create images with higher resolutions and use those in place of the original graphics. Then the design needs to be updated to make sure you tell it to display the new 192 pixel image in a space that’s only 96 pixels wide, for example. Then the device (with a pixel ratio of 2) will scale it up to its natural size of 192 pixels – and it will look beautiful!

Of course there are a lot of technical details I’m not getting into in this article – like telling the design to only download the hi-res imagery if the display will actually take advantage of them – to save bandwidth for lo-res displays.

We did a lot of this kind of work recently and love the results. What do you think?








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Locusic for Businesses

barThere’s now a business version of Locusic with a customer-friendly playlist to delight your patrons and coworkers!

You know how when you go into a bar, restaurant, coffee shop, grocery store, or elevator there’s music playing in the background? If it’s dead silent it seems kind of creepy right?

Locusic now has a great background music solution for businesses who want to celebrate the local music scene and not be creepy. It includes a completely ad-free, curated, business-friendly playlist.

The House Of Bricks in Des Moines is the first local business using Locusic as background music. They’ve been using it for a couple weeks now. If you’re in Des Moines, head on over there and check it out.

Use Locusic for Businesses to provide music for your customers (bar, restaurant, salon, gallery, store, tattoo parlor, etc.), or if you just want a fresh music solution for you and your co-workers.

If you run a business (in central Iowa or the Twin Cities) and need background music or want to show your support for local artists, let us know and we’ll get you hooked up!


Photo credit: Kent Wang on Flickr

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Locusic Android App


Locusic Android AppLocusic now has an Android App!

It’s available in Google Play now.

It works pretty much just like the web app, but:

  • It’s on your phone.
  • It has a cool icon you can put on your home screen.
  • There’s no unsightly url bar taking up space.
  • It plays and goes to the next song even if your screen turns off.
  • The music pauses, or the volume decreases if allowed, when another app (like navigation) needs to talk to you.
  • It pauses the music if you accidentally (or on purpose) pull your headphone plug out of the jack.

Currently (as of June 4, 2014), the app, just like the web app, will only play music if your current (or home) location is within 50 miles of Des Moines, IA or Chanhassen, MN.

So go download it and try it out. If you like it, give us a good rating in Google Play.

If something doesn’t work, or you have a request, let us know. We’re already working on a couple improvements.

For all our iPhone/iPad users, we’ll be releasing an iOS Locusic app in the near future, so stay tuned.

(Here’s the direct link:

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Upload Enabled Across Iowa

Iowa flag on state outlineWe just enable “upload” for the entire state of Iowa. Now All musicians and bands in Iowa (not just central IA) with original music can setup a profile (for free) at

The player functionality of Locusic is still only live in central Iowa and the Minneapolis areas (as of today, April 1, 2014). The player, or listening, portion of Locusic will become active later in other areas of Iowa once we have a decent amount of music in those areas. (We don’t want to launch the player if there’s nothing to listen to).

Soon all bands across Iowa will be able to get free airplay to local listeners (the ones who are close enough to come to their shows) on Locusic.

So if you have friends in bands based in Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, Cedar Falls, Muscatine, Davenport, Dubuque, Sioux City, Council Bluffs, Waterloo, Marion, Bettendorf, Mason City, Clear Lake, Decorah, Clinton, Burlington, Ottumwa, Fort Dodge, Coralville, Carroll, Algona, Spencer, Fort Madison, Atlantic, Oskaloosa, Shenandoah, or Storm Lake (or any town in-between), let ‘em know what’s up with Locusic!


Please share this news with the musicians and bands that you know in all areas of Iowa!


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Iowa Concert Photographers Reception

photo courtesy Cody Osen, Iowa Concert Photographers

There’s a great, unique event tonight (1/24/2014) celebrating the local music scene in Des Moines and some of best that choose to photograph it.

It’s a reception for a gallery exhibit of local concert photos by the Iowa Concert Photographers . The exhibit and reception are at Grandview University‘s Cowles Communication Center Gallery.

This group of talented concert photographers does some Amazing work! And their dedication to the local music scene has really shone a spotlight on music being made in central Iowa.

There’s another great article about this event on the Band Bombshell site.
My favorite quote from photographer, Cody Osen: “The fact that there was music this good coming out of Des Moines—and so much of it—just blew my mind.”

The same can be said of most local music scenes and that’s exactly why Locusic exists.

The gallery reception is from 6-8pm. For more details, check out the facebook event page.

If you can’t make it out tonight, the exhibit runs through Feb 14th.


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Locusic Winners of 2013

I expect 2014 to be a pretty big year for Locusic.

We have lots of news coming – to be among the first to hear it – and to find out how you can help us out from time to time -put in a request to join our secret society group, Locusic Backstage, on Facebook (only for Locusic super fans).

But first, to put the wrap on 2013, we’d like to recognize our top artist and listener of the year – according to the Locusic data banks (for central IA and MSP). So without further ado…


Most Popular Artist

The artist with the most “Thumbs Up’s” on Locusic in 2013 was:

Bonne Finken of Des Moines, IA

The Runner-Up was Randy Burk and the Prisoners, also of Des Moines.


Biggest Local Music Supporter

The user who listened to Locusic the most in 2013 was:

Tim Rons of Ames, IA


To the winners (Tim, Bonne, Randy, and their respective band members)… you are all eligible for a free Locusic T-shirt or some random local music merch item of our choosing. Contact us by Feb 1 however you would prefer (facebook, twitter, email, contact page, etc.) and we’ll figure out how to your prize to you.

Thanks everyone!



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