Music Patronage at its Best
The great state of Washington has a handful of nationally and internationally significant exports. Along with technology and hops, music and cannabis are chief among the culturally relevant products. But unlike technology and hops, music and cannabis have been suffering under either harsh new economies or distorted market perceptions. Now, however, a new trend may be beginning—one in which music and cannabis can rise up together, in partnership.
At the center of this new movement are Navid Eliot (and his band Planes on Paper) and Amber Cole (and her cannabis business, Walla Walla Cannabis Company). Eliot, whose band is based in Yakima and has a large local following, had also recently been working as a show booker in the area. Through this role he was introduced to Cole, and, when in need of a sponsor for a bill he was putting on with renowned Seattle songwriter, Shelby Earl, Eliot reached out to Cole and Walla Walla Cannabis. Eliot says Cole couldn’t have been more supportive.
“She’s a big music fan,” says Eliot. “So I asked if she had any interest in being a presenter of the show, and she was all over it right away.” Walla Walla Cannabis Company paid the booking fee for the large, 350-person venue for the Earl show, and in return, Walla Walla Cannabis Company was advertised on the show’s materials as a welcomed partner and friend of the bands. And while this may seem relatively insignificant, in and around Yakima and Walla Walla, where the cannabis industry hasn’t been as well received as it has in Seattle, the partnership was a major development.
“When Washington legalized recreational marijuana,” explains Eliot, “a lot of Eastern Washington municipalities pushed back, passing restrictive zoning laws. While city and county legislative bodies recognized the financial boon that would be seen at the state level, they fought the opening of retail shops on a ‘doesn’t help our city’ platform.” In other words, weed companies had a bad reputation. But with the help of the popular Planes on Paper, this negative association can be reduced—or even removed altogether. “Now here we are, a region starved for the arts, and a retail industry being begrudgingly allowed to operate, and we make great bedfellows,” Eliot observes.
After the successful partnership with the Earl show, Walla Walla Cannabis Company has continued their support with Eliot’s band. They’ve signed on to sponsor a three-week West Coast tour, helping to pay travel costs. “There’s a benefit to being a patron of the arts,” Eliot says, whose band has about 3,500 Facebook followers and a 4,000-person mailing list.
“Our neighborhood retail shop is putting a local band on the road. They’re proud of the band that comes from their region. It’s almost like stepping into an old-world role, where people are just patrons of the arts because they think it’s important.”
And, in the end, despite possible judgement from the audience or looming doubt regarding the importance of the cannabis industry for certain areas of the state, Eliot says he is proud of his partnership with Cole and her business. He hopes it can continue to grow.
“Venues are struggling, people are struggling to pay ticket prices, bands are having a harder time figuring how they can play the small markets,” he says. “We proudly tell people that our show was presented by Walla Walla Cannabis Company, and ask that they remember that next time someone says, ‘But what did legalization do for OUR community?’ It kept art alive in your small town, at least for one more night.”