Can Music Foster Social Inclusion in Cities?

By Alexander Salem

Earlier in July 2019, the Sound Diplomacy Berlin team were invited to organise and host a panel discussion on the topic, “fostering social inclusion in cities through music”, at the #wirbleibenmehr city-festival in Chemnitz, Germany.

Chemnitz is a rather peculiar and conflicting city. Not just in terms of the socialist architectural legacy left behind from the former German Democratic Republic, but also in terms of the notorious global reputation it has gained following neo-Nazi rallies that have taken place in the city in recent years. Situated in the State of Saxony, some fifty kilometres away from the Czech border, Chemnitz is a relatively slow-paced and humble city. To most outside observers, Chemnitz has become synonymous with the increasingly popular far-right political group in Germany, Alternative für Deutschland [Alternative for Germany], amongst other far-right splinter groups based in the city – most notable of which being Bürgerbewegung Pro Chemnitz [Citizens' Movement Pro Chemnitz]. With an alarming spike in xenophobic violence and anti-refugee rhetoric, Chemnitz has become a stronghold of these far-right political parties; gaining over a quarter of the region’s electorate.

Ph: Gianni Mae performing at the #wirbleibenmehr festival, author’s own.

Ph: Gianni Mae performing at the #wirbleibenmehr festival, author’s own.

In an effort to shake off Chemnitz’s notoriety and to demonstrate both the city’s multiplicity and openness to the world, tens of thousands of Chemnitzers gathered at the #wirsindmehr [There are more of us] anti-racism concert in late August 2018. Frustrated by the negative images of the city and infamy earned by the far-right, an estimated 50,000 spectators turned up on mass, chanting to the songs of popular German artists, in defiance against the hateful and intolerant sentiments of far-right movements in the region. It felt, for one day at least, that music had the power to bind Chemnitz’s inhabitants together in ways that the city had never witnessed before.

 One year later, to commemorate the collective spirit and efforts of the #wirsindmehr concert, Sound Diplomacy’s Berlin team were invited to host a panel discussion at the #wirbleibenmehr [There are still more of us] event in Chemnitz’s city-centre. The city-wide festival hosted a remarkable line-up of notable artists from Curaçao’s Gianni Mae, to Berlin’s Dr. Motte, to Chemnitz’s TEREZA – along with various workshops, lectures and film screenings.

Sound Diplomacy’s panel discussion at #wirbleibenmehr festival, author’s own.

Sound Diplomacy’s panel discussion at #wirbleibenmehr festival, author’s own.

Sound Diplomacy’s panel discussion at #wirbleibenmehr festival, author’s own.

Sound Diplomacy’s panel discussion at #wirbleibenmehr festival, author’s own.

Speaking on the topic of “fostering social inclusion in cities through music”, Sound Diplomacy’s Katja led a nuanced and thorough discussion with four regional music culture figureheads. Jonas Zipf (Jena Kultur), Jörg Braune (Bandbüro Chemnitz), Lena Ingwersen (Music Cities Network) and Tilmann Löser (Klänge der Hoffnung) joined Katja in discussing several practical methods of engaging and fostering social inclusion in civil society through the organisation of regular music-related events in their respective towns and regions. The hour-long panel discussion culminated with one overarching message: music unites and galvanises different communities in the city in ways that extend beyond the confines of gender, nationality or migration-status. As such, the #wirbleibenmehr city-festival in Chemnitz is a testament to this endeavour.

Our Commitment to the SDGs. Part 1

Last year we joined the United Nations’ SDG Media Compact.  We were the only music company to sign it, joining a number of television stations and media outlets as signatories.  Our commitment has been to incorporate the Sustainable Development Goals in everything we do. Our events are gender equal, plastic free and sustainable, and we’re working to make them meat free.  We are committed to gender and pay equality. We’re doing all we can to ensure our offices are as sustainable as possible. We carbon offset flights. And we’re working on ways to bring the music industry and the SDGs together. 

This is the bare minimum.  Every day we need to do better.  We’re facing a climate emergency and I recognise that every time I get on a plane - something I do far more than most - I’m contributing to climate armageddon.  I also recognise that all of us, wherever we are, live within our own individual hypocrisies. I aim to be as carbon neutral as possible, but I fly all over the world.  And so on. We all do this. But this is no excuse.  

Working in music gives us an incredible gift, selling our universal language.  We all speak music. And yet, our business has little involvement with another global language, the one of sustainability created through the SDGs.  These 17 goals and 169 targets have been ratified by 193 countries.  The aim is that by 2030, the world is a much better place for all of us.  

These are lofty ambitions, but we all must try, everyday, to be better.  And given our platform with music and our work with global cities and organisations, we want to create a better structure to engage the music industry together with the SDGs.  Our plan, starting at Reeperbahn Festival this year, is to develop an SDG Music Compact, and launch it in 2020.  

The UN has signed Compacts with the fashion and media sectors, among others.  The Compact is an overarching commitment, industry wide, to the SDGs.  And in music, despite little correlation or collaboration with the SDGs, we’re doing as well in combating our global challenges as any sector.  Both Live Nation and AEG have committed to renewables and removing plastic.  The Keychange program is one of the most successful in any sector to increasing gender equality.  Many festivals are powering stages through waste and many countries operate fair play schemes, to ensure creators earn what they deserve.  But there’s only a few examples of our universal language - music - working with the universal language of sustainability - the SDGs.  Musicians perform as part of Global Citizen, or at other climate action conferences.  But these initiatives are few and far between. The music ecosystem as a whole is not tied to the SDGs.  

So here’s the plan.  Through a landmark partnership with the Reeperbahn Festival and their Creative Solutions Summit, we’re organising the first ever Sustainable Development Goals & Music Conference, on September 20th.  We have speakers confirmed from across the music industry - including Julie’s Bicycle and Live Nation - alongside SDG representatives from the UN and EU. On top of that, for the whole duration of the festival, Reeperbahn will also host the SDG Interactive Wall, a massive and special installation to understand and engage with the Sustainable Development Goals. Read more on the event here.

We’ve also confirmed additional programming at WOMEX and with a number of partners, are developing the wording of the Compact, to begin to seek signatories in early 2020.  Our partners include Music Declares Emergency, along with the UN itself.

In 2020, we will launch the EU wide Music Compact in Europe - a set of commitments and programming that brings music in line with the SDGs, to demonstrate our leadership and positive impact.  This will follow in 2021 with a global launch of the SDG Music Compact. 

Our focus is to ensure the music industry commits to gender equality, climate action, sustainable cities and fair pay.  But also, and importantly, our leadership in music must be included at the highest levels of debate around the world, rather than us simply being entertainment at the end of a conference.  

If every government around the world took music seriously as the economic giant it can be, we can create a new generation of creative entrepreneurs.  If we can make festivals carbon neutral, then our insights can be taken off the stage and into our towns and cities. If we included music in global development conversations, we can ensure music ecosystems are being developed in emerging economies, which can reduce poverty, increase literacy and promote equity.  To do this, we must first align the SDGs and music. This starts at Reeperbahn Festival. Join us.

Music Places: Halifax, Nova Scotia

By Katerina Ivanova

Back in May, I visited the Atlantic province and conducted interviews and roundtables with stakeholders from Nova Scotia’s music ecosystem. More on the project can be found here:


In this blogpost, I’d like to talk about Nova Scotia*’s capital city, Halifax, and its rich urban music, both past and present. With a population of over 400,000 inhabitants, Halifax is the largest urban area in Atlantic Canada and is Canada’s 13th most populous city.

Although most may not regard Nova Scotia’s capital to be a historic Canadian music city comparable to the likes of Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver, Halifax is home to many hidden musical gems. The city’s musical legacy is built upon many culture-bearers including Sloan, Joel Plaskett, Anne Murray, Holly Cole, Natalie MacMaster and Buck 65. Nowadays, Halifax is well known to Canadian musicians for its affordable living costs and collaborative culture.


The city has a complex racial and social history. In 1946, Halifax-born businesswoman and activist, Viola Desmond, challenged racial segregation when she refused to leave the “whites-only” section of a local cinema. Fast-forward to over 70 years later, Desmond became the first Canadian woman to be featured on the 10 CAD banknote in 2018.

Much like elsewhere in North America, Halifax implemented urban renewal plans in the 1960s that displaced many African-Canadians from established settlements to government-subsidized urban residences, while “simultaneously undoing generations of identity and ownership” according to local music journalist Adria Young. More recently, the North-End neighbourhood, home to the descendants of many of the relocated African Nova Scotians, has become the eye-candy of property investors and regeneration efforts that have brought flashy condos and trendy new businesses to the area. With them, fears of gentrification and rising living costs threaten the livelihood of the neighbourhood.

Image 3 - North End - MacDonald Bridge.jpg

Despite the challenges, in particular the predominance of Halifax’s pop and rock scenes, the city has nurtured a strong and growing rap and hip-hop scene; spearheaded by working class, African Nova Scotian and Indigenous artists and audiences. Zamani, Reeny Smith, Corey Writes, Aquakultre, are some of the young artists making waves in Canada and beyond, alongside more well-known names such as Ghettosocks.

CKDU, the largest campus and community radio station in Atlantic Canada has been a culturally significant institution since 1985. The station hosts six different ‘hip-shop’ shows. $mooth groove$ showcases and interviews the best of the local and international scene and has been on air for over two decades. While a more recent show, Black Power Hour, blends conscious hip-hop and hosts discussions surrounding social, political and cultural issues pertaining to the communities of Black Nova Scotians in the province.

Hopscotch Halifax, a community and festival that was established 10 years ago, celebrates and showcases the best in local hip-hop talent; from dance to DJ's, graffiti and MC's. The festival team is passionate about including a number of all-age shows, free or at affordable prices to encourage young people to participate in the city’s music scenes.

902HipHop is a young company founded and managed by Melissa MacMaster. It creates opportunities for local hip-hop artists by providing services such as full-service artist management, music licensing and sync for TV & Film music placements. It represents a handpicked roster of talented local artists, such as Quake Matthews and MAJE.

The Remix Project, a Toronto headquartered organization that provides top-notch alternative, creative, educational programs, facilitators and facilities for young people from disadvantaged, marginalized and underserved communities recently held a two-day conference with panels, workshops culminating in a packed hip-hop showcase at one of Halifax’s most beloved live music clubs, The Marquee, that I was lucky enough to attend. The entire event was free for all 16-29 year olds who had applied in advance.


Have a listen at this playlist of Nova Scotian rap, hip-hop & R’n’B artists, curated by Halifax producer Ghettosocks for Music Nova Scotia.

*Nova Scotia includes areas of the Mi'kmaq nation and it was home to the Mi'kmaq when European colonists arrived in the early 17th century. The province has the oldest African-Canadian community in Canada.

All photos by Katerina Ivanova, Sound Diplomacy


by Caitlin Buckley

Music embeds itself into our memories. Whether it be the day an album comes out, a song that represents a friendship, or the moment our favourite singer died. Pick a date in musical history and the events of that day are bound to spark nostalgia for thousands of people, but all for individual reasons.

On this day, 4th June, I’m sure it’s no different. In 1942, this date marked the opening of Capitol Records in LA. Starting with a release by Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra, “I Found A New Baby” and “The General Jumped At Dawn”. Founded with $25000, Capitol Records grew to represent Nat King Cole, The Beatles, and Frank Sinatra following its acquirement by EMI in 1955. Nowadays, it sits under Universal Music Group  and boasts acts such as Halsey, Naughty Boy, Paul McCartney, Sam Smith and Nine Inch Nails. Record companies are as relevant today as they were in 1942, they continue to grow and adapt to meet new demands. Two years ago, record companies in the UK saw a surge in earnings of 10.6% after overcoming the hurdle of illegal streaming and embracing the popularity of established streaming sites such as Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Music.

Record-breaking history also began with this date. The Beatles started a 28 week run at No.1 in the UK charts with “Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band” in 1967.  Furthermore, the album found itself back at No.1 in 2017 after being re-released for the 50th birthday of the record. They had already managed to exceed this 4 years earlier, however, with 30 weeks at the top with “Please Please Me”. Simon and Garfunkel still hold the record for 33 weeks at the top in 1970 with their album, “Bridge Over Troubled Water”.

Many people remember the day an album was released. On this day in 1984, Bruce Springsteen released his album, “Born In The USA” . Metallica released, “Load” in 1996, and  Disclosure, “The Face” in 2012.

This date also represents remembrance. In 2017 - Ariana Grande’s commemorative concert for Manchester, One Love, was held on 4th June. Arranged in memory of the 22 people who died in the Manchester Arena 2017 terrorist bombing, the benefit concert included Coldplay, Pharrell Williams, Liam Gallagher and Katy Perry. Benefit concerts have long been used to raise awareness, bring people together, and fundraise. Some of the biggest benefit concerts to date include Concert for Bangladesh in 1971, Live Aid in 1985, and The Concert for New York in 2001.

Every single day of the year is replete with the rich world of musical history and we get to experience it in so many ways.



In the first third of 2019 we’ve already hosted two sold out events in two separate continents and welcomed 600+ attendees from all over the world. So what’s coming up for Music Cities Events for the rest of the year and 2020?

Music Cities Convention - Chengdu, April 2019

Music Cities Convention - Chengdu, April 2019

We started 2019 with a Sound Development in London on February 5th and followed this up with our first-ever Asian Music Cities Convention hosted in Chengdu, China on April 10-12th. We had 100 delegates join us for our London event and 500 from all over the world join us in China.

Music Cities Convention - Chengdu, China, April 2019

Music Cities Convention - Chengdu, China, April 2019

Sound Development - London, UK, February 2019

Sound Development - London, UK, February 2019

Where do we go from here?

We have five events happening between May and September. We’ll start with another Sound Development in London on May 21st, then move over to Cannes, France for our first European Music Cities Forum held alongside MIDEM on June 6th, after Cannes we’ll head back to the UK for a Sound Development in Leeds on June 13th and then finish off September with our Music Tourism Convention in Liverpool on September 6th and another Music Cities Forum in Norrkoping on September 27th. Read on to find out about each event:


We’ll start in London on May 21st with the spring edition of Sound Development, partnered with the Association of Independent Music and ING Media. Property developers and music industry representatives will gather to explore stronger strategies to develop and champion better spaces and places. The first event of its kind, Sound Development has been held five times in London and New York and has brought 700+ key stakeholders and decision makers together.


Tickets are available on a 'pay what you like' basis, and all ticket revenue will be donated to Claire House Children’s Hospice. You can check out the schedule and speakers here and get your tickets at this link.


June will see us host our first-ever French event. We’re thrilled to have partnered with MIDEM and to be bringing our Music Cities Forum to Cannes on June 6th. This will also mark the first time Music Cities Forum is held in Europe, as previous editions were hosted in Indianapolis, USA and Vancouver, Canada.

Worldwide Village @ MIDEM in 2018

Worldwide Village @ MIDEM in 2018

The event will take place at the Worldwide Village Conference Room in Cannes in the morning of June 6th and will feature presentations and panels discussing topics such as how music can steer economic development or help achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the link between music companies and urbanism.

Check out our website for news and information - the full list of speakers will be announced in May.


We’ll also be returning to Liverpool on September 6th for the fourth global edition of our iconic Music Tourism Convention!
The event is hosted alongside Visit Britain and Marketing Liverpool, with as our key sponsor and will be held at the British Music Experience in Liverpool, the perfect setting for 200 international delegates to look into various areas of music tourism and expand on the opportunities the worldwide music and tourism sectors can gain from each other.

Music Tourism Convention - Liverpool, February 2017

Music Tourism Convention - Liverpool, February 2017

Line up, schedule and hotel deals will be announced soon on our website, but tickets are already on sale at a very special price: get yours here.


September will be an exciting month, as our second 2019 Music Cities Forum will also take place in Norrkoping, Sweden, our first Scandinavian event.

Our Norrkoping Music Cities Forum will be hosted alongside Norrkoping City of Music on September 27th and will gather 200+ attendees and 15+ speakers for a day of learning, best practice and examples of music's role on cities in Scandinavian countries and beyond.

On the following day, attendees will also have the chance to experience Norrkoping and Sweden’s vibrant atmosphere at the Culture Night 2019, which will see music performances, dance shows, theatrical performances, yoga, movies, crafts, exhibitions, guided tours and more be held in 300+ sites all over the city.

Norrkoping Culture Night 2016. Ph: Nicole Olsson

Norrkoping Culture Night 2016. Ph: Nicole Olsson

More information can be found on the event page, while early bird tickets are available until June 30th and can be purchased here.


Last but not least, our first 2020 event has just been announced!

On September 23-25 2020 Music Cities Convention will head to Denver, Colorado, USA to be hosted alongside Denver Arts & Venues, University of Colorado Denver, Colorado Creative Industries and The Music District. 40+ international speakers and 300+ attendees will meet in this creative, multicultural, innovative and thriving music city to dig deep into concepts such as urban planning, music, education, sustainability, creativity, community-building, health, tourism and much more.

Music Cities Convention - Lafayette, October 2018

Music Cities Convention - Lafayette, October 2018

The first info are now online and tickets are already on sale with early bird discounts here.

We couldn’t be more excited for what’s to come and we can’t wait to meet you at one of our confirmed events! While waiting, check out the highlights of our last Music Cities Convention Chengdu in this photo gallery!

Delivering Cardiff’s Music Ecosystem Strategy

In April 2019, Sound Diplomacy’s full report and strategic recommendations for Cardiff’s music ecosystem were made public by Cardiff Council, representing the culmination of 18 months’ work. In this time, we engaged with multiple council departments and over 130 stakeholders face to face, analysed answers from 1000+ survey respondents and organised multiple city visits. It is the biggest project of this kind we have completed in the UK to date.

2018_10_20 SwnFestival Day 4_SimonAyre_Buzzard-2340.jpg

Over the course of the work, we delivered a Music Vision to lay down our strategic aims and how we hoped to achieve them. We hosted a series of roundtables, open door meetings, town hall style debates, and 1 on 1 interviews with stakeholders in Cardiff’s music ecosystem, ranging from CEOs to students, university professors to classical musicians, venue managers, funders and promoters to everything in between. We launched a Full Music Ecosystem Survey to ensure local residents and organisations outside the music industry also had a chance to have they voices heard, and we undertook a Music Infrastructure Mapping exercise and an Economic Impact Study of the city’s music ecosystem, benchmarking our findings to data from other comparator cities.  

We then completed a Comparative Analysis report, looking at how legislation in areas such as Licensing, Planning, Transport, Governance & Leadership and Funding held up against counterpart policy in five chosen international cities. This was accompanied by a comprehensive Regulatory Assessment of Cardiff’s legislative landscape, and specifically how it interacted with, allowed or prevented music to thrive within it.

Once we completed the qualitative and quantitative stages of the research, we delivered the final report, which included the Key Findings & Strategic Recommendations, and an Executive Summary.

The recommendations are designed to build on Cardiff’s music ecosystem’s strengths, address the areas of underdevelopment, and lay down a path to make music an integral part of the city’s daily life. We are pleased to say that the public reception has been fantastic, with some of Cardiff’s music ecosystem’s leading figures engaging with the work very positively.

Since then, Cardiff’s Scrutiny Cabinet has given unanimous approval to the report, and the full set of recommendations have been approved, with both the Cabinet and all the opposition political parties agreeing to them.

Sinfonia Cymru, Photo Warren Orchard.jpg

I would like to thank every individual that worked with us, took an interest in the report, responded to the survey, attended a roundtable and shared information. Your participation and input has been invaluable and the work could not have been done without it. I look forward to the next stages of Sound Diplomacy’s relationship with the city, to see the recommendations being implemented, and work towards making Cardiff the Music City it aspires to be.

Read the Executive Summary here.

Rollo Maschietto, Cardiff Project Lead, UK Office