Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Leveraging music as cultural heritage for economic development: part two, popular music

Jukebox at the Slash Run Restaurant, Upshur St. NWBesides the great hamburgers and the poblano rings, a big reason I like going to the Slash Run tavern on Upshur Street NW is their killer jukebox, which includes albums by The Vibrators, Iggy Pop. the New York Dolls, etc.

For some discussion about codifying a community's musical heritage and music as an element of a city's cultural ecosystem, see "Song remains the same" and "Ground up (guerrilla) art #2: community halls and music (among other things)."

DC.  DC Music Download and Listen Local First DC are local music promotion and development initiatives.

The music presentation company IMP (It's My Party) is still independent and a force in the industry even as the industry otherwise consolidates. Their 9:30 Club was an early anchor for the revitalization of the U Street corridor--they moved to that area in the early 1990s. 

Unsuccessful in getting the ability to remake the Uline Arena into a concert facility (instead it's an REI and offices), IMP is opening a new club as part of The Wharf development in Southwest DC ("9:30 Club's I.M.P. Announces New $60 Mil. Washington D.C. Venue," Billboard).

Chicago ignoring the potential of rhythm and blues.  I've touted Chicago as one of the rare cities that has a master plan for the promotion of music both in terms of cultural heritage and the arts as well as for economic development.  (Austin and Seattle also focus some attention on the support of music as an element of cultural and economic planning.)

But Crain's Chicago Business argues ("Blues is Chicago's most famous cultural export. Why don't we do more to promote it?") that the city ignores the economic opportunity present within the history of the city as a major center for the presentation of rhythm and blues music. From the article:
Though Chicago dwarfs New Orleans, Memphis and St. Louis in population and economic might, a weekend in any of those places drives home the missed opportunities back home. All three cities have museums dedicated to telling the music's story; tours and branded districts where people can walk in the footsteps of legends; airports, parks and streets named in their honor, life-size statues for tourist selfies; and, of course, an abundance of live music clubs that all three cities actively help promote throughout the year.

Chicago's failure to acknowledge seminal figures who were born or made their most influential recordings here—Muddy Waters, Curtis Mayfield, the Staple Singers, Jimmy Reed, Mahalia Jackson, Louis Armstrong, Chuck Berry, Sam Cooke, Thomas Dorsey and Benny Goodman—has become an opportunity elsewhere.

Memphis brands itself as "Home of the Blues and Birthplace of Rock 'n' Roll"; New Orleans claims native son Louis Armstrong with an airport and downtown park named in his honor though he made his most influential recordings in Chicago; and last year St. Louis opened the National Blues Museum, a $13 million, 23,000-square-foot institution revitalizing its downtown riverfront.

Chicago has none of that. ... Memphis is a textbook example of how changing attitudes toward its musical past helped turn its economy around. By the 1990s city officials were indifferent to its many legacies because they assumed the stories were known and there was nothing new to say. That changed when Kevin Kane became head of the Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau. He switched the city's slogan from "Give Me Memphis" to "Home of the Blues and Birthplace of Rock 'n' Roll" and rebranded the city to highlight its music heritage. That meant creating an entertainment district along historic Beale Street where music is played seven nights a week to 4.5 million visitors each year, courting the Smithsonian Institution in Washington to build the Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum with $2 million in grant money and helping the Blues Hall of Fame open with $250,000 in startup costs. Coming up is a redevelopment of the area around Graceland featuring a new 200,000-square-foot complex and 450-room hotel.

Perhaps Memphis' greatest success is the 2003 opening of the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, a 17,000-square-foot nonprofit complex built on the site of the original Stax Records label that is connected to a successful charter school and music academy. The destination, which got city incentives, helped revitalize the surrounding area west of downtown, now nicknamed "Soulsville."

Today Kane says tourism is a $3.2 billion industry that attracts 11 million visitors a year and supports 20,000 jobs. He says Memphis' rebirth is due to officials who ultimately bought into the global perception of the city as a music destination.
Nashville: moving beyond country music, but still wanting to preserve country music heritage. Nashville is known as the center for country music, but the music scene there is wider than what people think.

The Associated Press ran a great story, "Guitar plays second fiddle as Nashville symbol," a few years ago about the city's then new branding campaign, which is focused on promoting Nashville as "Music City," not "Country Music City."

 A sign bearing music notes in Nashville, Tenn. The guitar, an iconic symbol of Nashville's music scene, is beginning to play second fiddle as the city's visual ambassador. Music notes and symbols are emerging in Nashville's logo as city promoters seek to illustrate the variety of music, in addition to country music, that is made in the city. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

There are ongoing issues too with the loss of buildings associated with that history in the face of development pressure.

"Preservation" of buildings in the Music Row District (not formally designated historic) is tough now because many of the buildings are "obsolete" and not necessarily still used for music-related activity. And the real estate market is strong, so the prices offered to property owners for "old" "obsolete" buildings are very attractive.  But at the same time the city's "Music City" brand, for tourism (Nashville's Convention Center has the Music City name) and business development, is based on this history.

According to the Nashville Business Journal ("Nashville halts future development on famed Music Row"), galvanized advocates and the recently created Music Industry Coalition have successfully petitioned the local planning commission for a development moratorium, to give them time to assess historic assets and come up with a plan for retention of the most important.  (Also see "Momentum builds to preserve Music Row" from the Nashville Tennessean.)

A moratorium on development gives the community a chance to catch up building and zoning regulations to current conditions, rather than let the velocity of the real estate market run roughshod over other considerations.

Working with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Music Industry Coalition proposed the creation of the Music Row Cultural Industry District, focused on maintain the district as a center for arts production (see John Montgomery's work, "Cultural Quarters as Mechanisms for Urban Regeneration. Part 1: Conceptualising Cultural Quarters" and his later book, The New Wealth of Nations for the difference between arts consumption/presentation versus arts production).

-- "A New Vision for Music Row: Recommendations and Strategies  to create a Music Row Cultural Industry District Nashville, Tennessee"
-- "Executive Summary, A New Vision for Music Row"
-- "Recording Studios on Nashville’s Music Row: Directory for group tours and special events
-- "Music Row Design Plan Draft," Nashville Metro Office of Planning

Austin: still "The Live Music Capital of the World?".  I've written a bunch about Austin and the place of music in its cultural ecosystem, Austin Music People is the trade association for the music industry in that city.

These days the city is known for the big South by Southwest extravaganza, which started as a musician promotion event and morphed into a wide ranging "conference" on creative-digital innovation.  I've often felt that the PBS show "Austin City Limits" doesn't get enough credit for helping to anchor that city's music industry.

Notions Capital calls our attention to an NPR story, "The Struggles Of Austin's Music Scene Mirror A Widened World." According to the piece, the income Austin musicians earn from live performances is on a long term decline.

One of the problems might be their "brand," which is focused on presenting live music--Austin as "The Live Music Capital of the World."  Not only are they losing venues as the city intensifies through the triple development whammy of being the state capital, home to one of the nation's largest universities, and a major center for the IT industry, they are losing artists as housing costs rise, but also, as people age they tend to "go out less."  From the article:
Pitts' work culminated in the voluminous Austin Music Census he commissioned and released in 2015. It found that, as revenues continued to grow for the larger events, the city was bleeding jobs within the local music economy.

"We were seeing a real decline across the board in what we called our primary music economy. At the same time, we were seeing an uptick in revenue from the festival economy. SXSW, Austin City Limits — those folks were doing really well," says Jennifer Houlihan. She is the former executive director of a local music industry advocacy group, Austin Music People, and now the director of business development of a local music business, Nomad Sound. Houlihan worked with Pitts during her time with Austin Music People.

"As Austin has become more expensive and attractive — particularly to tech companies," she continues, "a lot of our folks [members of the local music industry] that work for tips and minimum wage can't afford it anymore." She says the city is losing its largely middle-class creative folks to the suburbs. ...

Technology isn't going anywhere, but without a focus on grassroots creation and local vibrancy, much of its distributive value may wither, as creators are barred from growing into their own.
To be successful as a destination presenting live music, you have to constantly replenish the audience. As entertainment trends and audiences morph, at what point do you get diminishing marginal returns from this focus?

Similarly, it's hard to focus on small venues as the industry continues to consolidate.  For example, more people go to big multi-performer shows, and a few firms, particularly Live Nation, control more parts of the industry (vertical integration) and venues.

Nashville chose to deal with the widening and consolidation of the music business by broadening its reach and appeal to more segments of the audience and market.

Mike Ness has an "Orange County" bumper sticker on his guitar. Photo: Matt Masin, Orange County Register.

Orange County.  House of Blues (an illustration of consolidation within the industry, as their venues across the country allow them to sign artists to a tour of their "circuit") which is owned by Live Nation, recently moved within Anaheim to a new facility.  Social Distortion--one of the early bands as part of the County's punk movement--was the opening act ("Social Distortion rocks the brand new House of Blues," Orange County Register). From the article:
Orange County’s own Social Distortion seemed like the perfect act to open the new House of Blues location, now at the Anaheim GardenWalk, and as hundreds of fans gathered early Tuesday night to be the first inside the brand new venue, they could be overheard chatting about why their favorite local band was indeed the best choice.
Music presentation chains are capable of playing the local card as well as anybody.  Plus, for people who don't go to similar establishments elsewhere, as far as they're concerned, House of Blues in Anaheim is a local institution.

-- Opening Social Distortion song, "Don't Drag Me Down," played at the House of Blues, Anaheim, 2/28/2017

Conclusion.  Part three is "BTMFBA revisited + maintaining the cultural ecosystem in the face of  urban intensification/"supergentrification."

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At 2:00 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

At 5:40 PM, Anonymous Mike Licht said...

The most vibrant music scene in Nashville is in East Nashville:

A few thoughts:

-- Cities that subsidize rehearsal space are more likely to retain resident musicians and dancers.This has been more common in European cities that have old, vacant industrial buildings.

-- People may not be leaving their sofas to go see live music, but they sure go out to eat at restaurants a lot more. Eateries in high-rent areas are reluctant to book live music during dinner hours because they would lose valuable table space.

At 6:33 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

it's not about music, but there was an article about how Chicago theaters, to make money, are emphasizing restaurant development, appropo your point about restaurants.

but I don't know about losing table space to music, although that is an issue sure. It's too f*ing loud in restaurants as it is. Live music makes it even louder. (I have a hearing issue with sound bouncing off walls, although it doesn't seem to be as bad as of late.) I wouldn't go to a restaurant with live music. If I see live music, it's at a space dedicated to it.

I mentioned Slash Run. It's a dinky place. They have shows later in the evening on some nights. We haven't gone. Logistically though, the space is so f*ing small, I don't see how it could work.

Back in the 1990s though, I would go to those kinds of places on 14th St., U Street, and in Arlington, when I was much more into going to see live music.

2. the point about rehearsal space is key. I was thinking about it as I was writing. I sort of mentioned it in my seminal piece "arts, culture districts, and revitalization" dating to 2009.

When I travel I pick up all the papers and stuff I can find. In Minneapolis-St. Paul in 2007 I was struck by the number of ads in the back of their equivalent of the City Paper offering rehearsal spaces.

And a few years ago when I went to the new apt. building at 1st. and M Streets NE (now an Avalon Bay property) I was struck by how in their amenities offering they included three music rehearsal rooms.

It shapes my thinking about amenities in social housing, as well as the broad support of various disciplines in cultural planning.

It's why I make the point that each discipline needs to be intricately involved in developing "their own cultural plans."

Maybe they don't have to write the plan, but they need to be constantly prodding the people who do.

At 6:37 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

... in the late 1990s I took the train (I think, maybe it was a bus) one night to Philadelphia to see the Murder City Devils in some hole in the wall space that wasn't a restaurant, just a commercial space near Temple U I think. Those were the days.

The old piece about guerrilla places comes out of that kind of experience.

I also think there needs to be renewed attention to "social halls" in churches. Other than rec. centers, increasingly there are no such flexible spaces around, other than churches.

Sadly, the offer I got to work for DPR was withdrawn, but the idea of making more flexible and usable the space at rec. centers was something I was thinking about a lot.

At 9:34 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

I forgot to include a section on Toronto, which has some of the same issues as Austin in terms of loss of venues.

Music issues in Toronto

At 6:33 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Coachella, the lineup for 2017 doesn't feature "heritage acts."

More Toronto:

At 5:33 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Travel piece from Toronto Star on Austin as "live music capital"

Erica Shamaly, new director of music ec. dev. for City of Austin

At 3:30 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

really good piece about the failure of music stores to focus on "the experience" of letting people try instruments.

At 9:41 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Austin dance clubs evicted by new property owner looking to significantly increase rents:


At 7:52 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

DC to do music census:

At 12:44 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

"Last of New York Bohemians", Amy Malden, NYT 5/10/2020

Mentions closures of places, how musicians have lost venues for gigs.

At 6:11 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Semi-related both for music as an element of cultural plans, and for a media and communications element within cultural plans, is local alternative weeklies.

This NYT article is about "City Pages" of Minneapolis, which was recently shuttered.

At 5:59 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

This Curbed article from 2016 lists c. 1970s clubs that would have been part of the scene as depicted in the tv show "Vinyl" which ran one year on HBO.

The commenters list some other places too.


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