Music. It’s all part of the Masterplan.

Guest post by Ben Reed.

The masterplanning process is flawed. And it’s adversely affecting people's lives and wellbeing.

Let's look at why the masterplanning is often a complex process and needs to be modernised to lead with a 'consumer first' approach.

Tangentially, if masterplanning is straightforward, why has the number of residential planning applications in London fallen by nearly a third, year-on-year, in the first quarter of 2018? Read more here.

So, what jumps out when looking at, or creating, a masterplan? Are you looking at streets, public squares and places? Are you looking at pedestrian routes, rights of light, vehicle movement, tech infrastructure and green spaces? Or are you looking at planning use classes, residential and commercial space quantums and how best to get planning permission?

It's fair to say that most developers are looking at the masterplan as part of a project workstream, a vehicle to get funding, a robust cost model, and finally, planning permission to deliver a successful project - and make a tidy profit. On the other end of the spectrum, the architects, engineers and masterplanners are caught up with the detail, mix of uses and sensitivities to the neighbouring areas.

So, who is looking at the consumer and resident journey? Where is the pub? Where is the music venue? Where do you walk and know you may bump into a friend or get lost? Where can you create and make things? How will the masterplan foster a community? These considerations are not the role of a placemaking agency to action because they are appointed too late in the process, nor should this be the role of a public art agency.

I feel that masterplanning needs to draw from the experience of cultural and music experts - right from the embryonic stages. Use people who know how to create places that have the best possible chance of being popular and successful - places that are in tune with the needs of the community and visitors. This ensures that things are built to the right spec, will attract the right operators and tenants, will stand the test of time and generate revenue.

For help with your next mixed-use project contact Sound Diplomacy.


About the Author, Ben Reed:

With 20 years spent in the advertising world, Ben has built up a network of brands and businesses interested in exploring new ways to connect with their customers and places. Ben's focus is to work with global brands on how to sculpt powerful brand experiences within physical spaces.

Ben has seen placemaking inform the complex masterplanning process for large regeneration projects, but now sees placemaking as an overused term – so Developers, Councils and Cities are drilling down into what it actually means.

Ben is a guest contributor to Sound Diplomacy and a member of the London Music Board.


Press Release, May 2018

Sound Diplomacy, the global leaders of the music cities movement, has added two leading UK
executives to their board of directors. Alexandra Notay, the Build-to-Rent Fund Director for PfP Capital, the fund management business of Places for People, and Nicole Yershon, CEO of Lab for Hire and bestselling author of Rough Diamond, Turning Disruption into Advantage, join the global firm’s executive board alongside Robert C. Hain (CEO & Chairman, City Financial), Nigel Hart (CEO, Geneve Capital), Derek Linfield (Legal Consultant and Chairman of Cornish Lithium Limited and Mkango Resources Limited) and Scott Cohen (Founder and VP International, The Orchard and Co-founder, Cyborg Nest).

Celebrating its 5th year in May, Sound Diplomacy have expanded its global footprint developing music strategies around the world and advising the real estate sector and large, international organisations.

Known for expanding the ‘music cities’ model, which sees music strategies incorporated into cities’ economic development, tourism and industrial expansion plans, Sound Diplomacy count Lendlease, Greater London Authority, United Nations Industry Development Organisation (UNIDO), City of San Francisco, Walton Family Foundation, Legal and General, Canadian Independent Music Association and the City of Brisbane amongst its clients. The firm also convenes the leading global suite of conferences on the role of music and public policy, including Music Cities Convention (in partnership with Martin Elbourne of The Great Escape, Glastonbury and NH7 Festivals), Music Tourism Convention and Sound Development. Over 200 city representatives have attended their events, from all continents bar Antarctica.

Recent successes include developing a business model for the City of Wolverhampton to confirm regeneration works on its Civic Halls property, developing research for Madison Square Garden Company to advise on the viability of its new London arena project, securing planning permission for 3 venues in London, programming Spain’s largest music and tech conference, BIME, and delivering a music strategy, through UNIDO, for Cuba.

Sound Diplomacy has offices in London, Berlin and Barcelona, and is in the process of opening an office in the United States, later in 2018. With Notay and Yershon, it adds cutting edge experience across property development, real estate and placemaking, plus marketing and disruption and in engaging new tech.

 Nicole Yershon, Founder NY Collective & LabForHire&Co.

Nicole Yershon, Founder NY Collective & LabForHire&Co.

 Alexandra Notay, Build to Rent (Multifamily) Fund Director at PfP Capital

Alexandra Notay, Build to Rent (Multifamily) Fund Director at PfP Capital

Nicole Yershon is a maverick, inspiration and the original rough diamond. She is at once a consultant, speaker, judge, mentor, connector and Amazon #1 Best Selling author. She works on the front line of innovation - bringing organisations kicking and screaming into the 21st Century. In that sense she properly defines disruption. Nicole founded and runs the NY Collective, which includes a marketing agency, a leading online course, a Lab for Hire and a consulting practice. Prior to that, she was CEO of Ogilvy Labs and has been voted one of the 100 most connected women in tech by Wired Magazine.

Alexandra Notay is a strategist, problem-solver and skilled people manager with a global network of board-level relationships and strong record of successful delivery. She is an internationally recognised conference speaker, moderator and workshop facilitator. She has led master planning, regeneration and PPP economic development projects in London, Moscow, New York, Istanbul, Barcelona and many other global cities. In April 2018 Alex joined PfP Capital to create and manage a new Build to Rent (Multifamily) fund having spent 19 months as Director of Product and Service Innovation across the wider Places for People Group, one of the largest property development, management and regeneration companies in the UK. Previously, Alex ran a leading strategy consultancy whose clients included Grosvenor, Grainger plc and the Greater London Authority. Prior to that she was the youngest ever VP at the Urban Land Institute, the oldest and largest network of multidisciplinary real estate and land use experts in the world. Alex is a published author and editor of over 30 books and reports on real estate, including the
renowned ULI UK Best Practice Guide on Build to Rent (2014 and 2016). She is also a passionate musician, having been a member of the National Youth Choir of Great Britain and managed the multi-award winning London chamber choir, Chantage.

Sound Diplomacy is thrilled to welcome Notay and Yershon to the Board of Directors, effectively immediately, and to continue to develop and champion a model that demonstrates the economic value of music in cities, towns and places around the world.

Music Cities Convention Melbourne: April 18-20 2018

Our first ever southern hemisphere Music Cities Event was held on April 18-20 2018, with Music Cities Convention travelling to Melbourne, Australia for its 6th and biggest ever edition!

  Both convention venues: Arts Centre Melbourne & Deakin Edge

Both convention venues: Arts Centre Melbourne & Deakin Edge

Melbourne, home to more live music venues per capita in the world, was the perfect location for our 325 international delegates and 40+ global speakers. The event theme was 'It takes a village to make a music city', and talks varied from ‘how we can make noisy cities work for everyone’ to ‘what music can learn from sport’ to ‘the impact of cultural policy on music cities policies’.

  Our first panel on the impact of cultural policy on music cities policies.

Our first panel on the impact of cultural policy on music cities policies.

The event started with a dinner for our international speakers and with amazing views of Melbourne at the Sofitel hotel. The next day saw the international speakers network with the victorian delegates at the Victoria Live Music Roundtable held at the incredible Bakehouse Studios, and the first main convention day then took place on Thursday 19th April at the Arts Centre Melbourne, with the second day moving to Deakin Edge.

  Our panel on the visitor economy at Arts Centre Melbourne

Our panel on the visitor economy at Arts Centre Melbourne

Our official party was held in combination with Melbourne Museum, and a very special Music Cities Convention themed Nocturnal event. The event saw attendees head to the museum at night for live music, food, special giveaways and the chance to roam the museum at night hearing from the museums experts on specially selected musical artefacts.

  Nocturnal party at the Melbourne Museum

Nocturnal party at the Melbourne Museum

We launched a number of new aspects at this edition, including the new ‘My Music Cities’ series of talks, which sees a speaker from each continent attend to talk about what’s happening in their city, and through these talks we welcomed speakers from Zimbabwe, Colombia, Netherlands, Australia, China and the USA. Another first for the convention was a panel entirely focused on Asian Music Policy, including speakers from Singapore, India, and Indonesia.

  The panel on Asian Music Policy at Deakin Edge

The panel on Asian Music Policy at Deakin Edge

The event was a sell-out, and we welcomed more than 325 delegates from all over the world, including 15 countries, 60 cities and 6 six continents.

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We of course couldn’t have organised the event without our partners, including Creative Victoria and Music Victoria who hosted the event with us, as well as RRR our media partner, The Appointment Group our official travel partner and our supporting partners the City of Melbourne, Green Music Australia, Arts Centre Melbourne and Festyvent.

"The convention is just great. I've had the chance to meet so many people from all over the world...and we've had so many conversations. That's my favourite part." Kok Tse Wei, Deputy Director Music, Singapore National Arts Council

"The Music Cities Convention is a great event. Not only can you share what you're doing in your city, but you can also learn about best practices, share problems and establish a network of corporation with others." Maria Claudia Lopez Sorzano, Secretary of Culture, Leisure and Sport, City of Bogota, Colombi

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Our next Music Cities Convention will be held in Lafayette, Louisiana, USA on October 11-12, with first speakers and the first draft schedule being launch in the first week of June

But for now, you can check out what our Melbourne event was like with our official video.




Music Cities Forum, Indianapolis: May 8, 2018


This May, we held our second edition of Music Cities Forum and first to be held in the US. Indianapolis, Indiana was the host and the event included panel discussions, presentations and collaborative round tables, with attendees and guest speakers exploring the theme: 'Outlining A Music Strategy for Indianapolis and understanding its impact on Indianapolis' growth, competitiveness and creative development.'

Speakers were invited from Denver, Austin, Memphis, Atlanta and London UK to provide key insights for Indianapolis on how a music strategy for Indianapolis could be developed.

 Lauren M Pacheco and Jennie Devoe discussing the needs and challenges of the artist community. 

Lauren M Pacheco and Jennie Devoe discussing the needs and challenges of the artist community. 

Hosted at intimate local live music venue The HI-FI and the historic Fountain Square Theatre, the day involved a range of presentations and panel discussions with music industry experts, artists and civic members.

 Elizabeth Cawein, Sean M Starowitz, Chris Ghal and Linda Broardfoot discussing the role that music plays on tourism and economic development. 

Elizabeth Cawein, Sean M Starowitz, Chris Ghal and Linda Broardfoot discussing the role that music plays on tourism and economic development. 

All proceeds from the event were donated to Musical Family Tree a not for profit organisation with the mission of sharing and supporting Indianapolis’s music.

The forum, centred around harnessing the value that music can bring to Indianapolis, explored the needs and challenges of the local artist community, the restrictions and needs of the business economy, how to navigate local policy, as well as the effects that music can have on tourism and economic development of a city.

“Music impacts a city, and specifically bridges art and entrepreneurship, like few things in life,” said Indy Chamber President and CEO Michael Huber. “As Indianapolis continues to build momentum in a 21st Century economy, it needs a talented, creative workforce to support future growth. Music and the creative class help us build a more diverse and inclusive community that challenges convention and encourages innovation. Indy’s rich musical roots, from jazz legend Freddie Hubbard to Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, are a reminder of how Indy’s talented individuals can reach audiences across the world by simply sharing their passion.”  


Alex Mann from the Music Venue Trust, (UK) presented on the subject of why grassroots venues are integral to the development of cities and culture and the difficulties and hurdles that they face at the MVT in the UK.

 Alex Man talking about the importance of supporting grassroots venues. 

Alex Man talking about the importance of supporting grassroots venues. 

The day closed with an informative roundtable discussion where all attendees and speakers were divided into groups to look at the ways in which they would create a framework for the city.  


The event finished off with networking and drinks, as well as free access to all the pinball machines in HI-FI. There was food from Thunderbird, followed by a concert featuring local bands The Wldlfe and Dream Chief.

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Check out the Indianapolis playlist here to hear more from the city: 

Music Cities Forum: Indianapolis was made possible with generous support from community sponsors and event partners including: Central Indiana Community Foundation, Indy Chamber, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Live Nation, HI-FI, Deylen Realty, Joyful Noise Recordings, Eskenazi Health, Visit Indy, Flaherty and Collins, Meitus Gelbert Rose, Tinker Coffee Co., MOKB Presents, Bohlsen Group, Fourth Sunday Music Co., Do317 Media.









Five Years of Sound Diplomacy - SXSW 2018

March is always one of the most exciting months for the Sound Diplomacy Berlin team as we are busy preparing to leave behind the German winter for sunny Austin, Texas. 2018 marked the fourth year in which we co-produced German Haus - Germany’s official representation at SXSW, together with Initiative Musik and IHM - Hamburg’s Music Business Association.

GERMAN HAUS (c) Dan Taylor for GERMAN HAUS Initiative Musik.jpg

For the second year in a row we were based in our home-away-from-home - Austin’s friendliest music club Barracuda. From March 10th-15th, German Haus and the German Pavilion at Austin’s Convention Center welcomed over 10,000 visitors, 1,300 German conference delegates and 22 bands and artists, making 2018 the most successful German presence ever.

German Haus at SXSW - 14 March 18 - Image copyright Dan Taylor -

True to the festival’s innovative and cross-disciplinary spirit, German Haus hosted a variety of showcases, panels, networking activities, workshops, concerts and parties over five days. Our highlights included the Wunderbar Wednesday with Krautrock focus that saw a panel on the latest documentary about legendary producer Conny Plank, as well as an acoustic performance by legendary Midge Ure of Ultravox fame; and a full day of discussion around Blockchain and its impact on the music industry.

German Haus 18 (c) Dan Taylor for GERMAN HAUS Initiative Musik.jpg

In addition to German Haus, Sound Diplomacy co-hosted a Music Urbanism panel at the SXSW inaugural Cities Summit, where together with three US experts we discussed music’s role in how cities are designed, planned and built.

GERMAN HAUS LEYYA  (c) Dan Taylor for GERMAN HAUS Initiative Musik.jpg

We also organised the Berlin Beats showcase with the support of Musicboard Berlin, showcasing a wealth of musical talent from Berlin with sets by Berlin Community Radio, Roi Perez and Monoloc.

All photos by Dan Taylor for GERMAN HAUS Initiative Musik.

Five Years of Sound Diplomacy - Music Strategy for Cuba

In September 2016, we were chosen by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) to develop a music strategy for the most musical island in the world: Cuba. The project has been going on since then, and it has been one of the most amazing and challenging projects. I have met incredible professionals and the most talented musicians. The project is funded by the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) and is supported by the Cuban Ministry of Culture.


The project consists of a series of workshops, roundtables and conferences that have taken Sound Diplomacy to Cuba on seven occasions, and there are still two more to come! Five members of our team and two external experts on sound engineering and IP law have travelled over to Cuba, and we have visited three different cities so far, with two more to come. We have all learnt a lot from the Cuban music industry, and have thoroughly enjoyed each trip.


Alongside this, the project has taken me to Mu:Con, in Seoul, to join a Cuban trade mission to the Korean capital. And we have also been with some of our Cuban friends in Barcelona and at Music Cities Convention Berlin.


During the project we have spoken with many representatives from the main music organisations on the island, learning about the challenges and assets of the music sector and discussing the opportunities and how they see the future of music in Cuba. From these conversations, we have developed a series of recommendations, some of which are being implemented at the moment. These recommendations cover everything from music education and skills to internationalisation or digitalisation. We also designed the first steps for a music city strategy in Santiago de Cuba, a music paradise on the Oriental side of the island.

You can find more information on the project here.