It's a different process to get a gig than it was in the 20th century.
With the rise of Infinity Visual and Performing Arts Inc. and the popularity of social media, musical acts are plenty in number and easily accessible online. The competition has strengthened, according to 10,000 Maniacs keyboardist Dennis Drew.
"Infinity is helping the quality of music," he said. "(The kids have) started to make their own music earlier. Now, they're playing younger and learning so much more."
10,000 Maniacs toured the East Coast in this van in 1983. In 2011, the band released its most recent album on Reverb Nation, a music website.
Infinity, which formed 14 years ago, served 999 students in 2011, nearly five times as many as it did in 2008. Many longtime local musicians have told Shane Hawkins, Infinity director, they wish Infinity had been around when they were cutting their teeth in the local music scene.
"At Infinity, we view live music as an art form," Hawkins said, noting many former Infinity musicians now play in local bands. "I would rather see something performed live than listen to a CD. We are so lucky to have venues locally that support live music; our community has a strong music and arts culture."
Local musician Bill Ward didn't have Infinity when he started playing in the 1970s. He didn't have his own YouTube channel, and he didn't have an online press kit.
The up-and-coming musicians of today have those tools at their disposal.
"The quality of young musicians is head and shoulders above what it was 10 or 15 years ago," said Ward, one of the original Infinity instructors. "Infinity has raised the bar and sharpened the learning curve. Now, I see young musicians who are really hot players. The kids have raised the bar; they're pushing each other."
With tougher competition, local acts are a little more clear-headed than they were in decades past, Ward said.
"We were all altered back in the 1970s," he said. "Not that there's not that today, but people are a little more on the ball. When they're not, it shows up a little bit more. There's not enough room for drugs and alcohol and a successful career anymore."
According to Ward, successful local and national musicians have the ability to make connections. That was the case in the 1970s and is also the case today.
What has changed is how those musicians get connected with venues.
The annual Local Music Showcase, an Infinity fundraiser in downtown Jamestown, gives area performers exposure.
"It demonstrated to the local venues that there is a market for live, local music," Ward said.
"The support from the local musicians, sound engineers and venues is what makes (Local Music Showcase) so special," Hawkins added. "We are blessed to have an extraordinarily high number of very talented musicians residing in our community. It's a large but tight-knit group, and their support of our program is one of the best reviews we could receive."
This year's Local Music Showcase will be held Saturday, Sept. 8.
Beyond one of the biggest nights for local music of the entire year, local performers rely on traditional promotional strategies, as well as social networking.
John Streed didn't have the online luxury when he drummed for the Porcelain Busdrivers in the 1990s.
"The difference today from back in those days is the ability to reach people," he said. "Facebook, that's everything. You can get immediate results. You can get an immediate meter on how many people are coming to a show. You can meter growth. It's remarkable."
Music fans can do their part to help local acts get noticed by spreading the word online. Each promoter has a limited reach, according to Mike Ball of Create.Evolve Productions. Reaching a larger audience takes more people with more connections. Ball encourages bands and show goers to get along with one another, rather than knocking each other down online.
"Of course you won't like everyone and everything," Ball said, "but (your help and support of) whatever it is will only bring growth in the scene. If your band isn't playing a show, and there's a show that night, still go out and support. ... We have bands wanting to come here and play for you; only your support and constant drive to go to shows make that a possibility. Give everyone and everything a chance. It is very worthwhile to make that connection."
Artists don't have to record demos and send them to venue owners anymore. They can introduce themselves online instead.
"Everybody has got some sort of electronic press kit," Ward said.
It's not just the up-and-comers who use the Internet to expose fans to their music. 10,000 Maniacs posted their latest EP on Reverb Nation, a music website, last year.
"We just said, 'Here you go. Listen to it all you want,'" said bassist Steve Gustafson. "We're not going to fool ourselves into thinking we're going to sell a million records again or a thousand records. That's not the point. The point is we're making music. For any musician, you've got to strive for that. You've got to write your own songs. It's fun playing concerts, but the real joy is writing a song and listening to it."