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Often, the most praised places in the music world are those that have more: more people, more venues, more studios, more performers, more money, more investors, more public transportation, more music programs, more collectives, more of everything and anything. However, to some, there is an appeal to small music spaces. Arkansas appeals to those sorts of people. Keep reading to glimpse the advantages of scaled back music scenes.

The music culture in Arkansas is relaxed, making performances low-key and enjoyable for all.

In large music enterprises like New York, California, and Illinois, the metropolitan areas are flooded with creatives who believe that they are on the brink of being the next big thing. With so many resources and opportunities around every corner, the illusion of serious, full-time music success is the dream. However, with that comes a host of concerns: taking oneself too seriously, selling out, neglecting one’s roots, changing styles, obsessing with ego, or becoming inauthentic.

Although there is something wonderful about being in the limelight, there is something equally wonderful about creating in a low-risk space. In places like Little Rock, Arkansas, obsessions with fame are distasteful. Performers like Correne Spero praise the “laid-back, self-depreciating sense of humor” that local musicians share. For listeners who want a sense of realness and approachability reflect on stage, come to Arkansas.

Arkansas has a small but mighty music community.

According to local performers, Arkansas is a diamond in the rough. When interviewed by Sarah Stricklin for the Arkansas Times, Alexander Jones of the band Bombay Harambee said it “punches above its weight” and has “a cadre of great musicians.” Rapper Derek Brooks agrees that there is musical excellence in Arkansas, but he suggested that it is not showcased the way it is in many other places, meaning much of the music scene is dispersed or underground, making it appear less solid than it actually is. Rapper Goon Des Garcons said that Arkansas is like “a huge blank canvas that no one’s made their mark on yet. There are a couple of dashes and blotches here and there, but no definitive soundscape or aesthetic.” He sees fantastic artistry but a lack of unified sound. For those seeking a concert in Arkansas, do not let the scene at first glance fool you. Beneath the surface, tucked away in hidden venues, local artists are ready and willing to give a good performance.

Arkansas has an entire festival and archive devoted to the state’s sound.

In 2012, in an effort to preserve history and promote contemporary creations, the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies out of the Central Arkansas Library System developed Arkansas Sounds, an annual music festival. In addition to this festival the Central Arkansas Library System hosts multiple concerts throughout the year. This November, the Charlie Hunter Trio is scheduled to perform. People seeking live music can stop by this community venue for a spotlight on local music.

When not hosting performances, the music collection includes a variety of materials relevant to music lovers, including albums, singles, unpublished studio recordings, radio broadcasts, and live recordings of professional and non-professional musicians who are connect with Arkansas. Beyond these audio relics, the collection holds letters, sheet music, and other documents related to the music culture and history of the state. This will satiate those fascinated by music until the they hit their next show.

Generally, larger music communities may find it difficult to centralize such a thorough collection of musical artifacts; however, given the relatively small size of Arkansas, curating a useful, thought-provoking collection can be made a reality. Similarly, states with massive music community may find it a difficult—or even impossible—feat to curate a single music festival that encapsulates the music community. But, because of Arkansas’ approachable, navigable size, projects like Arkansas Sounds succeed.

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