Move to the Moscow beat

A dedicated band of expat musicians has been livening up Moscow’s bars and parties for some time. But now a leading promoter has taken note, and hopes to set up an expat musical community for everyone – from drummers to strummers.

The Expat Live project is intended to make life easier for the musicians in the city – especially those who combine their after-hours gigging with a regular day job.

“We realised that there is a certain cultural vacuum in the city’s expat community,” says Vlad Davydov, managing director of Moscow-based management/promotion company IKON. “There are several cultural events and parties by expats and for expats, but there is no programme that would help develop a fertile cultural environment to help with the integration of expat creative minds into the city’s cultural life. We plan to fill this gap with our Expat Live project.

“The project is in its formative stages, but its goals are ambitious. “We will be offering support and facilities for those interested in creating, producing, promoting and enjoying themselves.”

There are plans for a comprehensive cultural programme in co-operation with international authorities and institutions, offering something for all ages.

Moscow’s expat music scene may be vibrant and diverse, but it primarily consists of people who support themselves via full-time jobs, often unrelated to music.

“Not all of the expats are here because of music; they all have serious jobs with various companies,” says Don Craig, a US-born musician who has lived in Moscow since 1993.

“They play music out of passion, and have made a hobby, which is playing events in Moscow. They are always up for helping out with charities, and love to play evenings at various bars, pubs, and nightclubs in Moscow.”

“For me, it was more of a hobby, and I certainly never considered the possibility of it being my main source of income,” says Helen Ashdown, former member of My Silver Revolver and contributor to the Moscow News .

“I don’t know if this would be possible, especially with the visa issues.”

“We gig about two to three times per month; we could conceivably play more, but our work schedules don’t permit it,” says Alex Shifrin, owner of The Creative Factory, an advertising agency, and member of the interestingly named French Whore Named Babette.

“You could probably play two to three club gigs a week if you actively looked for them,” says John Delargy, vocalist and guitarist for Croupier.

“Then there are all the expat society sport and charity balls that take place throughout the year, corporate summer parties and Christmas and New Year parties.”

Most Moscow-based expat musicians agree that they shouldn’t target only expat crowds, however.

“We’re in Russia, so it would seem that an expat-centric scene is very limiting in terms of audience and return,” says Shifrin.

“There’s only so many times you can play in front of the same audience before they grow tired of you.”

The founders of the Expat Live project seem to share this idea, and say their activities will be run in co-operation with local partners.

Another area of the project’s operation would be helping musicians with rehearsal rooms and studio recording as well as gigs.

According to Delargy, it would be useful to have lists of venues with contacts and reviews attached, and a means for musicians to network with one another. 
“I think that there is a real need for a resource to simplify the process of starting a band in Moscow,” he says.

“In the beginning, it took a lot of time and effort to find a studio to rehearse in that was in a relatively central location and had functioning equipment.

“Word of mouth is great, but it can take a long time to spread sometimes.

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