There are pros and cons to being in the Spokane music scene. On the one hand, the community is tight-knit and filled with talent. But on the other hand, it lacks the infrastructure of a larger music scene, and the size can be stifling for an artist’s musical growth and the growth of their following.
But according to local talent manager and Direct Influx Management CEO Ryker, we’re not seeing the entire picture. There is such a thing as the Spokane music scene, but it need not be a hard boundary sequestering the talent of the Inland Northwest from its Upper Left peers.
“The biggest part of what I’m trying to do is bridge the gaps,” Ryker said, “Before my time, what I saw on the scene was there weren’t a lot of Spokane artists working with Tri-Cities artists, working with Seattle artists, working with Portland artists.
“People were kind of in their own little niche. And I’ve tried build a network of people that are different genres, different styles, different locations and kind of be the bridge or the center point.”
She does that not only because it benefits the artists she works with (which include local names such as Jango and All Day Trey), but also because it’s productive for the Spokane scene as a whole. She offers a new way of thinking about being a Spokane artist, one inclusive of Spokane’s individuality but that situates it as part of a bigger music scene.
“There’s such value in the mindset that we are more than just this singular city,” she said. “In Washington, we lack infrastructure, the amount of people and the demographical makeup” that other major music cities (L.A., Chicago, New York, Atlanta) can harness.
If an artist blows up on the local New York scene, the pool of listeners is just bigger, giving them a better chance at spreading their influence into other cities. Spokane doesn’t offer that. What it does offer is a great group of local people and proximity to other active, interesting music scenes.
“The goal is to inspire these artists to be a part of the scene on the West Side because it will be very hard for you to book shows over there, it’ll be very hard for you to get features, it’ll be very hard for you to establish yourself on that scene if you’re not a part of the scene in some way.”
In managing her artists, Ryker has followed this philosophy exactly. There are plenty of examples, but a familiar one might be Jango’s single “Merchandise,” featuring Sam Lachow, which recently passed 160,000 listens on Spotify.
Invited on short notice to be extras in one of Lachow’s music videos (because of a prior working relationship), Ryker and Jango got to talking with the Seattle rapper. A relationship was sparked, and a cross-state collaboration was put into motion.
“It was just cool to see the two communities come together for that one and support that the way that I think it needs to be supported,” Ryker said. “I hope it shows a lot of people that some of the biggest names that you know in Seattle are not out of reach.”
That is if artists immerse themselves in this larger Pacific Northwest scene. Because as Ryker will tell you, it isn’t just Spokane-Seattle. It’s Tri-Cities, Portland, Boise, Bozeman and more. Ryker is constantly on the move, whether driving or flying, all across the Upper Left. “We may be spread out, but we’re still one scene.”
But, of course, Spokane has to grow in its own right, set standards local artists can carry with them. That’s why Ryker is also involved in pressuring local businesses and government, building a more representative and supportive infrastructure. “It is important that the city embraces the arts and entertainment scene,” she said.
“There needs to be diversity, there needs to be women, there needs to be people of color. You can’t have hip-hop and have five white hip-hop artists and not represent anybody from other cultures.”
Ryker’s is a truly two-pronged approach: working with local artists to create a community around creativity and working to change the attitudes and functions of the local music infrastructure.
Over the years, she’s gained a lot of valuable insight into the music business as a whole, which allows her in turn to be a better manager and creative advisor. “The No. 1 thing that I notice about artists and why they struggle is that most of them have no idea where they want to go,” she said.
“And so instead, they’re just repeating behaviors and habits and staying in the exact same space because they don’t know what to add or remove to get them to said space. I’m just the pathway to help people get to where they want to go,” Ryker added, summarizing how all these roles intersect.
Being that pathway means keeping busy with the Upper Left music scene. It means business meetings, studio sessions and social media. It’s a lot of footwork, but as the Spokane scene and that of the greater PNW changes, expect Ryker to have a hand in it.
Check out directinflux.com for more information on Ryker’s company, which she runs with Brayton Dawson, chief operations officer. Follow Ryker on Instagram @callmeryker.
Julien A. Luebbers can be reached at email@example.com.
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