Building a network of Music Cities the UK can be proud of

This blog post first appeared in PRS Foundation

At Sound Diplomacy, we witness first hand the social and economic benefits that music brings to cities. Most of our time is spent talking to people about music; how it stimulates creativity and creates jobs, attracts investment and drives growth, but also how it brings people together and how it shapes people’s lives.

We work with governments, cities and neighbourhoods around the world on strategies to identify, protect and enhance their music ecosystems – by which we mean the connected web of artists, live music venues, music industry and music education. We are currently working on music strategies with Cardiff Council, the City of San Francisco, and Cuba (with UNIDO), to name a few.

Our work has pulled us in many different directions, but when it comes to nurturing talent, the one constant has been the importance of small, independent ‘grassroots’ music venues to artist development.

These venues are run by passionate people who are experts in their field, are good at spotting talent and willing to give acts their first opportunities. These venues regularly program new and unknown artists with no expectation of financial reward. They are the foundation on which the music industry is built, playing the same role to small theatres that experiment with new shows and actors.

There is a clear route between early-stage career access to independent venues and the creation of world-class performers.

From a city planning perspective, a connected network of emerging talent can lead to an increase in investment and tourism to an area, as local scenes, breakaway stars, and world class talent rise to the surface. Local economies spring up around these scenes, bolstering their social and economic credentials.

Supporting grassroots venues is key to fostering a network of emerging talent. Music is a national success story. It is a key factor when we decide to live, visit or work in an area. For every £1 invested in music in the UK, £4 is generated. Why aren’t more councils investing in this resource? Can we work toward building a network of Music Cities the UK can be proud of?

Similarly, property developers across the UK harness the attraction of lively, vibrant neighbourhoods, often highlighting music venues in their marketing brochures. I would love to see more developments include music at the earliest stage of master planning, instead of as an afterthought bolted on at the last minute – or worse, not considered at all.

The tide is slowly changing. From our perspective we are working with more governing bodies and developers on music strategies than ever before. Allowing emerging talent access to spaces in which to develop is a key step to ensuring the work we do is self-sufficient, and successful.

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Rollo Maschietto
Lead Consultant, Sound Diplomacy

Rollo was Secretariat of the London Music Board for 12 months, during which the rate of grassroots music venue closures was successfully reversed and a commitment from the Met Police to scrap Form 696 was obtained. He has since lead the delivery of the inaugural Mayor of London’s Sounds Like London music campaign, involving over 300 events, partners and artists, and has recently overseen Cardiff Council’s first ever music strategy, the largest of its kind completed in the UK to date. Prior to joining Sound Diplomacy, he managed a roster of electronic music artists for EXS Management, leading on strategy, album campaigns and international tours. He has delivered a series of multi-thousand capacity festivals in London, and has managed a handful of record labels.