Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Music Cities Convention Memphis – Harness The Power Of Music To Make Better Cities | Music Think Tank

Music plays a major, boundless role in city life. Yet most locals pay little attention to the multifaceted work that goes into developing vibrant, open cities capable of attracting, nurturing, and retaining musical talent and sustaining a rich nightlife. Enter Music Cities Convention: a bold attempt of putting music cities—their creation, current state, and sustainability—on political agendas throughout the world.

Two years and several International editions after their successful inaugural US edition in Washington DC, Music Cities Convention returned to the US last week. Last week’s edition brought together local and regional government, academics, consultancies, and music industry representatives all in Memphis to discuss and debate the development of vibrant music cities. Co-founded by The Great Escape’s Martin Elbourne and CEO of global music market development agency Sound Diplomacy, Dr. Shain Shapiro, this year’s convention brought together cities from around the world and showcase solutions and tactics taken in cities to use the music industry – and all its variants – to improve city life.

Every city needs a music strategy

The conference kicked off with the help of two esteemed Memphis institutions, The Stax Museum of American Soul Music and the Memphis Slim Collaboratory, who co-hosted the opening reception. Representatives from all over the world spent Thursday discussing the development of music markets, examining how to make US cities more artist-friendly by analyzing case studies of international cities that prioritizes comprehensive music strategies to drive economic growth. All in all, Thursday’s discussion underscored Music Cities Conventions’ vision: all cities can—and should—have a music strategy!

This year’s programming included several panels and presentations on incorporating music into city planning and policy making, including “Smart Music Cities: Data Driven to Support Artists,” “Every City Needs a Music Strategy,” and “Time for the Cities: Let Music ‘Take You There’,” a panel dedicated to asking how can property developers and the creative industries work more collaboratively. Memphis’ own talents also contributed, from singer/promoter Tonya Dyson, who helped develop the Memphis Slim Collaboratory, to Lawrence Matthews (aka Don Lifted), who pioneered genre-breaking performances in non-traditional venues. Deron Hall of the Memphis Arts Engine and Darren Isom of the Memphis Music Initiative will also contribute.

Although there were plenty of artists featured in these panels, MCC also had organizers, legal authorities, and cultural ambassadors appear at these discussions to share their insight into capitalizing on the musical life of a city. Panelists from this year’s convention included Igor Lozada, the head of culture for the city of Guadalajara, Mexico; Australia’s Emily Barker, whose most recent album was recorded at Sam Phillips Recording Service; Justine Avila, executive director of Nashville’s Music City Music Council; and Shawn King, Colorado’s “Music Ambassador” (and drummer and trumpeter for the indie-folk band Devotchka). 

Solving Music City Challenges

On Friday morning, Visible Music College opened their doors to the Music Cities Network, which hosted a series of round table discussions designed to bring the Thursday programming to life. Conference attendees got to engage in direct dialogue and share their knowledge as policymakers, city leaders, and music industry representatives.

Throughout the day attendees discussed a wide array of key topics such as improving the community’s access to music education, developing policies in conjunction with urban development, as well as how music can play a role in infrastructure and driving tourism.

Building a music city starts with recognizing the full scope of what falls under the music economy umbrella, which stretches far beyond the musician, the music industry professional, or venue owner. Rather, it encompasses a wealth of sectors, including hospitality, tourism, security, legal, and even utility and, therefore, creates a ripple effect that affects people working and employed in these various sectors. Once a city’s music economy – and all its supporting sectors – have been taken into account, city stakeholders can start working on formulating policy that nurtures these music scenes and help them become a driving force in the economy at large.


Music scenes are no longer restricted to cities like Austin, Nashville, Seattle, Chicago, NYC, and LA—with dedicated music strategies, every city can get a taste of the vibrancy, openness, and economic growth that a strong music eco-system creates. Music Cities Convention has established a global platform that allows cities from around the world to share their knowledge and expertise so that others can develop their music scenes into sustainable, economic and cultural forces.

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