The Charleston City Paper recently wished longtime music/entertainment contributor Shawnté Salabert all the best on her recent move up to the Big Apple ... but we didn't quite say "goodbye." Fortunately for us and our readers, she'll remain connected through occasional stories and features throughout the year. Unfortunately for the local band scene, Salabert's departure also means the end of a major web resource, CharlestonRocks.com — a site that came in extremely handy on a weekly basis for me as I tried to reacquaint myself with the city's band scene in 2005.
Salabert, 27, moved to Charleston from Milwaukee in mid-2001. She immediately started writing as a freelancer about the local band and club scene. By Jan. 2002, determined to consolidate a working list of bands and a pre-Myspace online headquarters for the local fans, she went to Geocities and set up her own website.
"CharlestonRocks.com evolved from a frustrating internet search in Dec. 2001," says Salabert. "One evening, my friend Tanya Ray and I wanted to check out some live music. She wasn't plugged in to the local scene yet, and I had only been in Charleston for five months. While we were able to find band schedules and venue listings online and in the local print media — including the City Paper — we weren't able to find out anything about the bands. Few of them had websites, and this was long before the explosion of Friendster and Myspace. She joked, 'We should make a website.' I took her seriously, and CharlestonRocks.com launched."
The website began as a basic collection of local and nearby bands, listed alphabetically and by genre. Additionally, it featured news, photos, audio, venue information, occasional reviews and interviews, and random Top 10 lists. Salabert promoted the site with printed stickers, business cards, decals, and magnets, and press releases.
"As publicity grew, we started getting regional and national requests for interviews and inclusion on the website," says Salabert. "Ultimately, the focus shifted to a more encyclopedic use — straightforward listings of musicians/bands and venues. Caitlin Cahill [Currently City Paper's web editor] redesigned it last year, which we paid for with funds raised a year prior during a CharlestonRocks.com fundraiser held at the old Mandalay/Club 275/Warehouse at King and Wentworth."
In general, the response from local bands and clubgoers — from the busy working bands and veteran players to the up-and-comers and hipster barflies — was positive and appreciative.
"It depended on the band," asserts Salabert. "Cover bands, acoustic acts, and jam/funk bands generally treated us like goddesses because we were interviewing them and getting their information out there when the rest of the media outlets weren't interested. A lot of them didn't have websites, so they dug the free exposure. We went to a lot of random shows. We didn't avoid the cover bands and acoustic guitar dudes because we wanted to hit the spectrum. We got a lot of flack about this. I got the impression that a lot of people in the 'music scene' felt that we were just two silly girls with a silly website. I really didn't give a shit. We were made fun of on the Chord & Pedal message board, but then again, maybe that's just an indication that we actually were part of the local music scene, if the bored scenesters had enough time to talk shit about us.
"We also got positive attention from more 'established' bands and the indie rockers," she adds. "People often commented that the website was helpful on more than a local level, to bring some sort of cohesive Charleston music list into the greater netsphere. We also ended up getting e-mails from regional and national bands and inquiries from A&R reps."
In recent months, it became too difficult for Salabert to properly maintain the site on her own — especially with the writing assignments, day job duties, and the new opportunities facing her in New York City. In Dec. 2005, CharlestonRocks.com officially went offline.
"It was kind of a sad moment, because that website helped foster some really great friendships and amazing moments in the last four and a half years," says Salabert. "It also helped me get my writing gig at the City Paper and helped me forge relationships with some national PR companies and record labels that I still have today. What a great experience, though ... some people thought it was 'cheesy' or some sort of vanity project, but it came from a very honest place."