Powell's. Mt. Hood. The Japanese Garden. These are all common stops on the must-see list of Portland destinations for tourists the world over, but what about local indie rock? Could our city's swelling independent music scene become a selling point to woo tourists—and those all-important tourism dollars—into a Portland visit?
Travel Portland thinks it can. The "private nonprofit destination marketing organization," which is made up of over 1,000 local businesses, is running an "Indie Music Hotel Package," which courts the would-be indie tourist with hip package deals for lodging (at the Jupiter and Ace Hotels) and a free sampler of local music. Pampelmoose's (and former Gang of Four bassist) Dave Allen assembled the CD, titled Stumptown Rock, Vol. 1, and Allen's involvement is paramount to this idea of localized indie rock tourism.
Says Laurie Waissman, cultural tourism marketing manager for Travel Portland, "About two years ago, Travel Portland (then called the Portland Oregon Visitors Association), was updating its arts and culture website content and we realized that we weren't talking about the indie music scene. Through a recommendation, we got in touch with Dave Allen and Pampelmoose." She continues, "The next phase was an effort to connect the dots between people's interest in the local music scene and their willingness to travel to Portland to check it out. The price point and the location of both hotels seemed like the right fit for the audience we wanted to reach, plus touring bands often stay in these hotels when they play Portland."
Of course, it's never easy to see the homespun charm of our local music community being spun into a marketing plan targeted at key demographics from other cities, but to deny the allure of Portland's artistic endeavors would be to sell its collective output short. The focus here seems to be using the city's vibrant musical acts in a similar manner to what Austin or New Orleans do when it comes to marketing themselves to visitors ("The Live Music Capital of the World" is Austin's slogan).
Plus Travel Portland isn't just focused on the bottom line, says Waissman. "The project is all about local collaboration. The music was created by local bands, the CD was curated and produced by a local music blogger [Allen], and designed and printed by local businesses. So, even the creation of the CD itself supports the local music industry."
The compilation features the likes of Blitzen Trapper, Au, Panther, Squall, and Another Cynthia, as well as more varied local acts, all of which, according to Waissman, fit nicely within the company's primary goal: "We just created something that spoke honestly about Portland."