By Ross Barber
I grew up in the highlands of Scotland – an area not particularly known for its music scene. Like most teenagers growing up in the late 90s and early 2000s, our musical tastes were largely guided by what we heard on TV and radio – and it didn’t necessarily “speak” to us, especially if we weren’t as cool or as popular as we perceived these artists to be.
I spent a lot of time online, and a lot of that time was spent trying to find new music. I craved it constantly. From listening to commercial pop music, I moved onto bands which were mainstream in the US, but were pretty much unheard of in the UK at the time. I often exchanged MP3s with people over AIM and MSN, and we were always introducing each other to what we loved.
At some point, I was introduced to Taking Back Sunday, and I think that was a big turning point for me. From there, I stumbled upon AbsolutePunk.net and that’s really when a big shift happened in terms of my musical listening. There was a forum where I could communicate with people who liked the same music as me! It was like a sanctuary. And from there, the list of bands I listened to just grew exponentially.
In many ways, it opened my eyes a lot. I remember walking around the local shopping centre and I started to notice band t-shirts everywhere I went. There was a girl wearing a Midtown shirt, and I made it my mission to find out who she was. She was one of us! Funnily enough, a friend of mine knew her, and introduced us. We’re still friends to this day, and we even went on a three month working holiday to the US after we graduated from university.
The emo and post-hardcore scene introduced me to a different type of music community – one that I hadn’t really experienced before. I saw people who were different in many ways coming together because of the music they loved. I felt like I belonged with these people. These people accepted me for who I was, and I felt incredibly welcome.
As someone who was a little confused (or at least shy) about his sexuality, it was a relief to find a group of people that I could really be myself around. In many ways, it was the first time that I really felt like I could be myself. The community allowed me to grow and explore my identity, and that is something I will always owe to it.
The people I met through a shared love of punk, emo and post-hardcore were more open minded than many of the people I had known previously. They were the people I felt comfortable opening up around, and they were the people I felt I could open up to about my sexuality. Before I met them, I didn’t really feel like I could share that part of me.
One key memory I have is a house party a friend of mine had. A lot of people we didn’t really know were there, but they were all part of this same community. We talked a lot about music, and the fact that I was gay wasn’t even an issue. In fact, one of the people there said that I was one of the coolest people he’d ever met. I felt truly accepted and it was the validation I had been looking for. I could be ME and that was enough. More than enough. That night will always stay with me. Just being told that was a really big deal for my 16 year old self.
This music helped me to see that there was so much more out there than what we were given on TV and radio. I saw musicians working on a local level, and started to see those that I knew personally achieving some national success... and I loved it. I loved feeling like I was part of something that could have a similar impact on other people – others who didn’t quite feel like they belonged, or didn’t fit in. In many ways, this music scene is a big part of why I do what I do now.
Now I work with musicians every day. I help them build an online presence that is going to help them book more shows, sell more music, and grow their audience. I love it. Every day, I’m lucky enough to come into contact with so many talented artists and have the opportunity to guide them and collaborate on some really exciting projects. As well as this, I also co-host a podcast called Bridge The Atlantic, where we interview musicians and other creative professionals. I definitely attribute a lot of this to the punk scene opening my eyes to what you could achieve. Before I became part of the community, it seemed like the music industry was an elite-only club. I guess in many ways it is, but when it comes to the independent music scene, everyone is welcome...and that is something I hope doesn’t ever change.
Ross Barber has dedicated his life to helping musicians, bands, and other artists pursue dreams of turning their passion for music into a viable career opportunity. His decision to launch Electric Kiwi in 2011 came after Ross earned a 2:1 BA (Hons) degree in Popular Music Performance from the UHI Millennium Institute in Perth, Scotland.
From designing websites to creating artwork for album covers, Ross has worked with independent artists from all over the world and his marketing strategies have been featured on top websites including Cyber PR Music, Hypebot, and Musicians Unleashed.
He also co-hosts his own video podcast, Bridge the Atlantic, with singer/songwriter Marcio Novelli. The podcast, which interviews musicians and creative entrepreneurs, spent several weeks on the “New and Noteworthy” chart after debuting on iTunes.
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