Musicians and local businesses work in harmony
Williamsport’s music scene is more than just an entertainment draw. It also happens to be a money draw.
From the musicians to bars to restaurants, the business of music has become its own economic generator.
“Some places want to hire a musician to be busier and that adds value to the customer’s meal and experience and hopefully the musician can bring their fan base,” said Sean Farley, a musician and owner of Guitarley’s in downtown Williamsport.
That is beneficial not only to business owners but also to the musicians. Farley said, “It provides an income and a venue to perform in. Musicians first need stages.” Farley added there are also other benefits. “They put food in your stomach and let you sell merchandise and get exposure. There are a lot of things that can happen at one gig.”
Fortunately for musicians, a restaurant explosion has occurred in downtown in recent years. That means more venues for more musicians.
“The musical arts are a good fit for our restaurants,” said Tony Ecker, co-owner of The Brickyard, Stonehouse and New Trail Brewing Company. Ecker added, “We definitely do more music now than when we opened seven years ago. [Throughout
downtown], there is definitely more music being played in bars.”
The Brickyard and Stonehouse are known for their outdoor music during the warmer months in Pine Square. “That whole Pine Square with the Edison lights is just such a great music spot,” said Farley, who regularly hosts a music night there.
Ecker added, “People enjoy it and we do spend a lot of money on it.”
The growing restaurant and music industries are definitely welcome after the downtown experienced decades of desolation. Perhaps, music is to thank in part for downtown’s revitalization.
“Music played an integral role in that. The downtown was really depressed,” said John Mussare, manager of The Bar on Market. “The Cell Block helped change the dynamic of downtown. When the prison became a music venue, a much larger draw came from outside the area for music. The Bullfrog was also integral in bringing acts from all over into Williamsport.”
The music scene not only has been a boon to restaurants and bars, but has now spawned cottage industries. The Uptown Music Collective has grown tremendously since its founding in 2000. The school trains students to be musicians and prepare them for careers in the music industry.
“The Uptown Music Collective is a blooming music school with a fantastic professional facility,” said Farley.
Ecker added, “I think the Uptown Music Collective revitalized the music industry around town. They are doing a great job teaching kids about music. And there is more musical talent in the area then there was before.”
With so many musicians being drawn to the area, it made sense for Farley to open a business that catered to them. Farley is a trained luthier who established Guitarley’s Custom Guitar and Repair eight years ago.
Farley has worked with musicians ranging from the Uptown Music Collective to touring acts performing at the Community Arts Center. “Recently, a musician was playing and his instrument broke during the gig. I was at the gig and told him that we could fix it. He had just started the tour and was in a tight spot,” said Farley.
One of the most positive economic impacts the music scene has is its ability to draw new residents here.
“I applaud the venues that have popped up. It’s the reason I moved back to Williamsport. I believe in this music scene and feel we have a dense music scene per capita,” said Farley.
As Williamsport continues to grow musically, it is now starting to fiscally impact musicians from other areas. Melinda Mussare, Co-Owner of The Bar, said, “Some of the bands that play at The Bar come in from Allentown, Altoona, Harrisburg and Scranton.”
The growing music industry is a win-win for residents, businesses and musicians.
“The music is the icing on that cake of our growing restaurants and bars. I am very appreciative of our music scene for the amount of pay and the hospitality. I get paid well and I appreciate that,” Farley said.