Music and the success of a city

Last fall I attended a pair of conferences: Music Cities and Future of Music Coalition’s “Future of Music.”

They were both excellent and I wanted to share with you my notes and some thoughts on the role of music and the creation of music in the success of a city.

Recently, someone involved in the business health of the city I live in asked me to lunch to talk about a variety of business/growth/communications things in the hopper. Like any town, mine has lots of moving parts and many interests.

During the course of our conversation I mentioned the idea of using music as key performance indicator for the success of a city–something I first encountered at the Music Cities conference.

Later, my friend referenced this idea of music as a happiness quotient. I see music as something more directly relevant to the success of a city and here is how I tried to explain it:

It’s not really a happiness quotient, it’s an indicator of whether the city is successful for its citizens.

In order to be making music, citizens need:

  • Time to practice (above all their financial commitments, family commitments and other basic needs)
  • Money for instruments, music, etc. (above all their financial commitments, family commitments and other basic needs)
  • Control/access to real estate/physical space to practice
  • Functional working relations with other people (to play music together, to organize performances, and so on)
  • Desire to create something of lasting value

These five areas–time, money, physical space, working relationships, and desire to do something/make something–are critical factors for the success of a city.

Certainly other activities contain elements of these factors, but very very few will contain all five and to as deep a degree as music will, and/or will not reach as many socio-economic segments.

This sort of measure is particularly interesting when applying to underserved groups or identifying weaknesses in well-served groups.

For example, our town has immigrant populations (some in their second and third generations here) that are nearly invisible in our local music culture. If that’s true, why is that? Is it lack of time? Lack of physical space? Lack of functional relationships (with places where they might perform and/or with musicians outside their group)?

It’s important to note that these are genuine terms of success and not just a mood ring. People make music when they are sad or depressed as well, so it makes for a poor happiness quotient.

But it’s a very useful as a barometer of how well the citizens are actually functioning as a society.

I’ve attached my own notes from the Music Cities conference, which are in mindmap format. If you’re new to mindmaps, just spend some time looking and following the lines around and you’ll get the hang of how it works.


And musicians…

I think it’s useful for all of us to consider how we can improve on those five core areas both for ourselves and for other groups. How we work with the business community (securing venues and rehearsal space) and how we work with other musicians (of different styles) and how we work different people (who maybe don’t look like us or eat the same kind of food we do) helps us grow.

These things help us grow as good humans and artistically sensitive musicians. But they also help us grow audience. These things help us grow an audience that genuinely cares for our success.

Comments are closed