Locating scenes

dark nightclub interior, with lots of people on the dancefloor

© iStockphoto.com/Robert Kohlhuber

Music needs somewhere - a site - in which to take place, whether it's a club or concert hall, a public street or private home, a city or village, or even a website. The more sites there are providing people with similar interests in music with opportunities to get together, the more likely it is that a scene will develop. Sites therefore are crucial in enabling scenes to happen.

Sites hosting music scenes can differ hugely in scale, ranging from highly local clusters of music activity to neighbourhoods, to entire cities. In guidebooks scenes tend to be identified with sites such as clubs and discos, performance venues, cafés and bars. Sites like these perpetuate "the sense of a lively, self-renewing scene" (Blum, 2001: 9), providing places where scene participants congregate. For instance bars selling alcohol have, along with pubs, provided meeting places for musicians and audiences and somewhere they can drop into on their way to or from music clubs and performance venues.

Sites can host pre-existing scenes but also create their own scenes, and for participants in a scene what may seem like ordinary places can take on special meanings. Clubs played a central role in the British dance or rave scene of the 1990s. They provided late opening hours and a contrast with the local pub, including their association with youth. Eventually dance events or raves moved out of the clubs into new sites such as disused warehouses and tents in farmers' fields. These events gave rise to such a strong sense of place that the people who attended them took on the name of the sites involved, becoming clubbers and ravers (Thornton, 1995: 3).

Large urban neighbourhoods have provided a number of very important sites. The borough of the Bronx in New York City, for example, produced the city's hip-hop scene of the late 1970s. Occasionally a city as a whole is connected with a new style of music - Seattle, for example, was the key site for the so-called grunge scene in the late 1980s.

Often cities develop local versions of a wider scene. For instance, Liverpool hosts festivals devoted to electronica music but this is a scene that is at the same time global in its scope. The local festivals are organised using connections between people located in different parts of the world. Similarly Liverpool's alternative rock scene is often thought of as being locally distinctive but it shares similarities and connections with alternative rock scenes in other urban sites in Britain and overseas.

Scenes have also been supported by virtual sites, such as music fanzines and websites through which information on music can be sought and relationships between like-minded people established.

Follow the links below to explore connections between a variety of sites and scenes in more detail. There is also information about Recording studios and music scenes in the Sound and technology section.