Wilson Sebastian, owner of the local restaurant and music venue Willie’s Locally Known, admits that the idiom “starving musician” often has a level of truth to it – and he is using his food and music business to help remedy the issue for local musicians. To that end, he recently started a new campaign geared toward helping feed musicians, while also supporting independently owned music shops.
“There’s the idea of the starving musician – and seemingly, the money is very difficult starting off [for musicians],” said Sebastian. “You’ve got people trying to save up and get money for gear. The campaign offers a little of an incentive to get out and make that purchase. Everybody’s gotta eat.”
For the campaign, which he's calling "Let’s Take the 'Starving' Out of Musician,' Sebastian has partnered with several local music stores to offer a $10 food coupon, redeemable at Willie’s, to musicians when they purchase an instrument at a participating business. Stores that are currently participating include Willcutt Guitars, Blackrider Vintage Guitar, Doo Wop Shop, Fred Moore Music and The Drum Center of Lexington, and Sebastian said that he’d be happy to extend it to additional music stores that might be interested in participating. The campaign is set to continue indefinitely.
“The businesses seem very receptive to the idea. They realize this is nothing but incentive for people to come into the shop and make a purchase,” said Sebastian.
Willie’s Locally Known spent four years on N. Broadway before moving to Southland Drive almost a year ago, and Sebastian said that the increased parking, newer facilities and the energy of being surround by so many local businesses along Southland Drive has been a boon to the business, which serves BBQ and other casual bar fare in addition to hosting live music several nights a week. Still, Sebastian admits that Lexington can be a difficult market when it comes to supporting live music – formerly featuring live music seven nights a week, the venue recently cut back to just a few nights a week, though it still serves food every night. According to Sebastian, while there is a wide pool of local talent, it can be difficult for the local market to support it.
Spotlighting local music has always been an important part of the venue’s mission.
“It varies from week to week, but I'd say about 50-60 percent of our shows are local musicians,” he said. “Lexington has a really good base of talent. We’ve got a lot of really good musicians for how small our town is.”
Sebastian feels there are several things needed to make local music successful: a deep pool of local musicians, a dedicated local fan base and an increased focus on on venues to incorporate local music into their schedules.
“As people get more exposed to local music, they will think about it more,” he said. “Lexington is a very difficult restaurant and live music market, and we are trying to do both.”
Sebastian hopes this nontraditional campaign will help provide support for the local musicians and businesses that need it, while extending Willie’s’ community-driven mission.
For more information, directly from Sebastian himself, check out this video that he posted on Facebook last month to announce the campaign.