Does Philadelphia have talent? Councilman Oh thinks so

Philly City Councilman David Oh

When it comes to rejuvenating the economy, sectors like housing, manufacturing, and small business tend to steal the most attention. Councilman David Oh, however, has his eyes on music.

At a Thursday news conference in City Hall, the councilman unveiled PHL Live, a four-month contest to bring prominence - and prizes - to deserving Philadelphia musicians. A sort of Philadelphia's Got Talent.

"We want to recognize music as not just a hobby, but a job that needs to be paid," Oh said. "This is really about the economy of the music industry. I'm no musician, but I want to make sure musicians in this city can succeed in their industry."

Artists of any genre can begin submitting videos on after the website's launch on Aug. 15. Following the Sept. 30 deadline for video submissions, 13 judges - musicians and executives from Lenfest Broadcasting L.L.C., Rock on Philly, Underground Arts, Seed Philly, and other entities - will choose the top five musicians in 10 genres: jazz, hip hop/rap, country/folk, R&B/blues, gospel, rock/alternative, world, classical, pop/dance, and DJ.

Details are still in the works, but throughout November those 50 finalists will compete in 10 battles of the bands at various Philadelphia venues, including MilkBoy, Warmdaddy's, and Hard Rock Cafe. Tickets for the battles will be $3.

The finale, pitting the winner of each genre against each other, will be at the Trocadero in December. The champion will receive, among other awards, $500 and studio time. A "people's choice" winner will take home a smaller prize.

"I'm glad to see it. This city used to be a destination for a lot of people" to start making music, said Art Daniels, a music copyist at the Free Library of Philadelphia and a flutist, who, alongside a bongo drummer, opened the news conference with a short duet. "The arts sure need help."

James Claiborne, who covers arts and music events for the online entertainment guide Philly 360, called Oh's competition "a great start."

"Having a city - any government - get behind and galvanize art and culture is always a good thing," Claiborne said. "They have a lot of loose ends to tie, a lot to figure out, but it's definitely a great start."

Seed Philly, a community of tech start-up companies based in the city, has been working with Oh's office for 21/2 years on the project and created the website free of charge, according to founder Brad Denenberg.

"We want people from every nook and cranny in Philadelphia to know that they have a chance," Oh said. "Some of them will be rock stars, some of them will not be rock stars - but we hope they will find themselves along the way."

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