October 10-12, 2018 • Lafayette, Louisiana

The 7th edition of Music Cities Convention was held in Lafayette, Louisiana, the “Happiest City in America.

48 speakers and 265 attendees gathered to talk about how music can help build vibrant, global and safer cities over two full days of presentations, talks, panels and live music.

This year’s theme was “Diversity and Improving Our Cities and Communities through Music”, a key topic not only for Lafayette’s rich cultural history around Cajun and Zydeco, but also for cities big and small all over the world.

On October 10 we headed to the Blue Moon Saloon for the event’s opening reception where we ate, danced and even played music at the weekly Cajun Jam event.


October 11th in a beautiful and sunny Lafayette, we travelled to the Acadiana Center for the Arts to kick off Day 1 with the panel “Diverse Communities: Music, Diversity, City Development”, during which representatives from New York, Washington, Philadelphia and Lafayette debated on the challenges and opportunities faced by US cities.


An inspiring keynote presentation by Al Bell delved deeper into the US music scene by telling the story of Stax Records and Motown Records before leaving the stage to Carmen Gloria Larenas and Frutillar’s campaign towards becoming a UNESCO City of Music.


We concluded the morning with discussions on the importance of having affordable housing and on the music city of Tamworth, Australia, after which a superb performance by “little Nate” welcomed us into lunch at the Rock'n'Bowl® de Lafayette, hosted by the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation.  


The afternoon saw presentations by Nolfris “Slim Kuttar” Williams and Ryan Cazares, a panel discussion on “The Need For Powerful Community Radio In Music Cities” and further presentations on music education programs, artists’ livelihood and the role of music tourism in Louisiana which was presented by the office of Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser.


The day ended in typical Music Cities Convention style, with attendees heading to The Warehouse 535 to attend a special concert celebrating the life of Caeser Vincent.


Day 2 kicked off with Kath Davies introducing the audience to Kirkless, a small town with a thriving music community, followed by a presentation by Storm Gloor, the first professor to conduct a course on Music Cities, alongside three of his students.


We then heard from Sharon Yazowski on the Levitt Foundation and its contribution to community building, while Austin Barrows told us more about the amazing work the city of El Dorado has been undertaking.

The relationship between music and city planning was then analysed from an international point of view with talks from Clara Barbera, from the Berklee College of Music in Valencia, Spain, and from Abed Hathot, who shared the story and challenges of organising the Palestinian Music Expo.


Attendees had the chance to have lunch in the beautiful Parc Sans Souci before getting down to work on this edition’s roundtable, which focused on identifying the key steps that cities should take to become more supportive of artists.


Case studies from Louisiana, New York and Massachusetts led us towards the end of the talks, which was rounded off by a final panel on the role of governments in fostering diversity through music.

Attendees then headed to Girard Park to attend Festivals Acadiens et Créoles, the best way to conclude our Convention and to celebrate Louisiana’s incredible music heritage.


The event would not have existed if it weren’t  for our partners, so we would like to thank them for their support and for believing in music the way we do: Lafayette Convention & Visitors Commission, CREATE and Lafayette Consolidated Government.

The first 2019 Music Cities Convention will take place in Chengdu, China: it will be the first ever Asian edition and we couldn’t be more excited about it! Although for now head here to check out our Lafayette recap video:


Sound Diplomacy ANNOUNCES Music Strategy FOR the City of San Francisco

Following a competitive Request for Proposals earlier this year, the San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development has selected Sound Diplomacy to develop a Music Strategy for the City and County of San Francisco.

The San Francisco music sector is a key contributor to the $6 billion local nightlife industry and $1.1 billion local outdoor festival industry, and is a vital piece of the City’s fabric as an arts and culture hub for residents and tourists alike. Despite music’s local significance, no comprehensive study has been conducted to-date to understand the scope of San Francisco’s music ecosystem or the industry’s needs.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club at The Fillmore, (c) swimfinfan

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club at The Fillmore, (c) swimfinfan

The San Francisco Music Strategy will provide a comprehensive mapping of the City’s music-related assets, including, among others, local performance, recording, and rehearsal spaces, industry professionals, and educational institutions. Drawing from stakeholder feedback and global best practices, this effort will result in a strategic plan to engage San Francisco music makers, industry stakeholders, and audiences to support the industry’s future growth.

As part of this work, Sound Diplomacy will conduct an analysis of existing opportunities for local music businesses and an assessment of local music policies. The firm will also engage the city’s stakeholders through an online survey and interviews conducted in San Francisco during the week of December 10-14. Currently underway, the Music Strategy project will be completed by September 2019.

Sound Diplomacy is the leading global advisor on music cities strategies and market development. As strategists for cities, developers, large private sector organizations and governments, Sound Diplomacy provides cutting edge research and market expertise in placing music and music business strategy in city, urban and development plans. They work in over 40 countries and with over 100 clients, spanning public, private and third sectors, such as the Greater London Authority (UK), the cities of Vancouver, Huntsville and Muscle Shoals (Alabama), Brisbane (AUS), the region of Northwest Arkansas and organizations such as the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

You can find more information about the project and contact details at:



sound diplomacy start VILNIUS' NIGHT TIME ECONOMY strategy

Sound Diplomacy was hired in September to develop a study and strategic recommendations on Vilnius' night time economy. We are working with Vilnius to develop, strengthen and further its night culture ecosystem and growth as a world-class place to live, work and visit. 


As part of this work, we're releasing a survey in English and Lithuanian to assess the city's night time ecosystem, evaluate its economic and social impact and determine its strengths and weaknesses. The survey will only be open for two weeks until November 18, 2018, so please make sure to answer now and share it if you are a resident or visitor of Vilnius!

The survey is a continuation of the research trip to Vilnius that Sound Diplomacy carried out in October. Katja Hermes, Director of the German Office and Head of Projects, and Paloma Medina, Research & Project Manager, spent four days in Vilnius conducting a series of roundtables and interviews with local stakeholders and visiting different night time economy and culture spaces.

 Over 50 people attended the “Meet the Night Mayors” event created by the Vilnius Night Mayor Mark A. Harold on October 23, 2018, featuring our project partners from VibeLab Mirik Milan and Lutz Leichsenring. 



Launched globally on 6th November at World Travel Market, London

Sound Diplomacy, the global leaders of the Music Cities movement, in partnership with ProColombia and the UNWTO are proud to launch the world’s most extensive guide ever written on music and tourism.

The music industry is growing at twice the rate of the global economy. Global tourism numbers are increasing as well, with tourist arrivals increasing by 7% in 2017, from a year previous. But the relationship between music and tourism has never been defined globally, to look at how the sectors can partner to increase economic value on both sides. This is what this white paper offers.


This is the first report commissioned by the UNWTO that specifically looks at music as a key, primary driver of tourism. While we all enjoy music when we're travelling, never has music been looked at as a primary source of travel and tourism, from individual experiences to festivals, music heritage and the use of music videos to promote, and share, local culture and local experience. This white paper serves as a source of inspiration to help those working in tourism better realise and capitalise on their music tourism assets and show that around the world; from Australia to Mississippi, China to Argentina, music tourism is increasing visits, increasing spend, bringing people together and creating jobs.

The music industry – from streaming to live music – is growing at twice the rate of the global economy right now, and music, across all genres, create a sense of togetherness and openness that few other artforms and expressions share. Music enhances traditional ceremonies. It creates a transcendental moments you remember forever and most importantly, it is ubiquitous. From our hotels to our airports, from bars and restaurants, music is everywhere. It's all around us. This report, featuring over a dozen case studies from all over the world, explores the role, value and importance of music as a tool to enhance your destination and better tell your story.

It will be launched exclusively at World Travel Market 2018 in a joint press conference, followed by a panel exploring the value of music tourism, featuring some of the authors of the report.

In addition to the release, Sound Diplomacy have announced the next global Music Tourism Convention – the world’s largest conference exploring the relationship of music and tourism – to be held in Liverpool, UK on September 5 & 6, 2019. Part of Music Cities Events – the leading global conference series exploring the role of music and culture on our cities, places and quality of life – the convention will feature speakers featured in the whitepaper alongside other keynotes.

To download the guide and learn more, click here.


Music Tourism Convention:  
Sound Diplomacy:



Sound Diplomacy, the global leaders of the Music Cities movement, in partnership with Pro Colombia and the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) are proud to launch the world’s most extensive guide ever written on music and tourism.

This is the first report UNWTO has co-authored that specifically looks at music as a primary driver of tourism. Drawing upon experiences from all over the world, it teaches us how music is a tool to enhance destinations and better tell their stories.
— Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary-General, UNWTO

Titled ‘Music is the New Gastronomy’, the white paper is the first to examine and define the relationship between music and tourism. While we all enjoy music when we're travelling, never has music been looked at as a primary source of travel and tourism, from individual experiences to festivals, music heritage and the use of music videos to promote, and share, local culture and local experience.

In this report, we hope that you learn from the experiences of others, from all over the world, on how music is a tool to enhance your destination and better tell your story.

Both sectors are outpacing global economic growth. The music industry – from streaming to live music – is growing at twice the rate of the global economy right now and in 2017 international tourist arrivals worldwide grew by 7%. This white paper looks at how the sectors can partner to increase economic value on both sides. The report includes case studies examining the role of music in destination development, travel marketing, conferences and experiential travel – from music festivals and heritage music to the use of music videos to promote and share local cultures and experiences. Through these studies, the guide identifies areas for discussion and suggests opportunities for destinations to develop musical tourism products and boost their tourism branding.

We hope these case studies, lessons and experiences help you think more seriously, and deliberately, about your music offer, heritage and story. There's more value there than you know it. Just take a listen, and you'll realise music is a value-add across your entire touristic offer.

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Music is one of the greatest motivations for tourism. Whether live or recorded, experiencing the music of the world is celebrating its rich diversity and talent, promoting intercultural dialogue and encouraging exchange.
— Julian Guerrero, Vice-President of Tourism, ProColombia 


The full Music Tourism White Paper is available free for a limited period only. For more information about the guide, contact us



The Launch of Nocturnal Cities: Music Cities Events

November 2018 will be a very special month for Music Cities Events and Sound Diplomacy, as we will launch not one, but two brand new events dedicated to the Night Time Economy!

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Our first ever Nocturnal Cities Forum will be held in Truro, Nova Scotia on November 3, 2018 as part of Nova Scotia Music Week and will gather 150 delegates from all over Canada and the world, to participate in a full day of presentations, panels, and roundtable session in which we will explore the relationship between city planning, strategy, development and the night time economy.

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On November 22, 2018 we will travel south to Bogotá, Colombia, for our first Latin American Nocturnal Cities Conference. The event will discuss, debate and introduce new thinking on how to develop more vibrant night time economies, as well as on how to better manage the urban night. This event is a co-production between Sound Diplomacy, Bogotá Mayor’s Office and Bogotá Chamber of Commerce, and the event will also celebrate the fact that Bogotá is a designated City of Music since 2012 as part of UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network.

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We truly believe that the night is just as important as the daytime and it is crucial to carefully plan those hours in order to create a safer and more dynamic environment for residents and tourists alike. We are proud to be able to start a dialogue on such topics in the beautiful cities of Truro and Bogotá and we are very excited for what’s to come!

Learn more about our Nocturnal Cities events here.

Download our new “A Guide to Managing your Night-Time Economy”, co-written with Andreina Seijas. Available in both Spanish and English.



29-30 August 2018 • Cologne, Germany

On August 29-30 2018 we headed to Cologne, Germany to kick off the third edition of Music Tourism Convention – the first to be held in Germany & mainland Europe – to explore what music tourism means and how cities can benefit from it. We had over 30 speakers and 150 delegates from all over the world in attendance, and we introduced a new feature to the convention which saw us and 75 of the attendees travel to Düsseldorf for a very special music tour of the city.


This year’s theme was “The Importance of Music Genres in Tourism Identity” and Cologne, with its impressive music history, was the perfect location to discuss crucial topics such as music heritage, music trails and guidance, music tourism strategies and economic impacts.

On Wednesday morning we welcomed our delegates to Hotel Pullman, where breakfast awaited, and after a warm welcome from the First Deputy Mayor of Cologne, the Managing Director of the NRW Tourism Board and the Director of Conventions & Marketing for the Cologne Tourism Board, we were ready to set the ball rolling with the first panel: “Let’s Talk About Genre – Learning From Local Customs”.


We then travelled to Mississippi, USA and then back to Europe with a presentation from Liverpool. The morning ended with a panel which aimed to answer the question “How Does Music Fit Into a Tourism Master Plan?” and a performance by Mississippi Music Ambassador Steve Azar, before we headed for lunch which was provided by Visit Mississippi.


After lunch we visited Japan and learned more about the “Northern Soul Movement” and then discovered the “Urban Jungle” of North-Rhine Westphalia, before grabbing pens and paper for Music Cities Events’ iconic roundtable.

Presentations spanning from classical music in Germany to Sydney’s live music ecosystem and from USA’s branding strategy to music tourism’s economic impacts concluded the session: meaning it was time for the evening reception, offered to guests by Visit Vancouver, and for the c/o Pop Festival Reception and Live Show.


On 30th August, a limited number of guests took part in a very special tour of Düsseldorf’s music scene offered in partnership with #VisitDüsseldorf and Starting with a double-decker bus ride from Cologne to Düsseldorf, participants then embarked on a walking tour guided by local experts to discover the city’s past and present music landmarks.


Stops along the way included Kling Klang Studio, Salon des Amateurs, Creamcheese and Unique Club; the tour ended at city hall, where lunch was served before a final panel discussion and presentation.


Day 2 ended on a high note with a special performance by Love Machine at Stone im Ratinger Hof, the historic music venue where Germany’s punk scene was born.


This year’s Music Tourism Convention couldn’t have gone better and we would like to thank our partners for making the event possible, as well as all the speakers and delegates for sharing our passion for music and contributing to unlocking the potential of music tourism around the world.


Our next Music Tourism Convention will be held in Liverpool in September 2019 and we’re already very excited! In the meantime, here’s the official event video :)



This article first appeared in CityMetric

In August 2018, the UK Parliament passed an amendment to the National Planning & Policy Framework (NPPF), including a few sentences collectively referred to as the ‘Agent of Change’ Principle. Now, in England, any new development – residential, commercial or otherwise –planned for a site next to a noise-making premises would need to mitigate any potential risk to the existing premises, before receiving planning permission.

The new rule applies not just for music venues and nightclubs on high streets next to new developments; but also light industrial, factories and ‘back-of-house’ creators, such as art studios, instrument makers and textile manufacturers. It also defends existing residential developments: if a music venue wished to open in a quiet neighbourhood, it would need to demonstrate soundproofing, quiet dispersal and other requirements to get planning permission.

This is a step in the right direction, but it’s not a panacea, because there isn’t one. Local plans need to be rewritten and this rule must be respected in local decisions. There will be missteps – but the introduction of Agent of Change is a start to creating a more sustainable, healthy and supportive music and creative ecosystem in London and across England.

But we need to do more. So, what’s next on the list?

Here’s a few ideas that I feel are worth pursuing, so we can make the UK the world’s best place for musicians, creatives and all of us who benefit from, or interact with, their creative output.

1. Ratify Agent of Change in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland

This is a simple request, but one which requires local change in each country. Both Scotland and Wales have brought bills to their parliament to introduce this in their planning systems. It would be beneficial for the entire country, not just England, to make Agent of Change law.

2. Re-engage a debate about licensing

This is not specifically a British problem – mixing alcohol, live music and regulation, primarily at night, causes headaches everywhere. From Pittsburgh to Tbilisi, Tokyo to Bogota, striking a balance in regulating the night time economy is a challenge that divides communities.

But the current system here in the UK certainly doesn’t work. Local engagement in licensing hearings is low, and the people who chair and run these committees are often not the same people experiencing, and benefitting from, the activities they are regulating. The average age of a UK Councillor is over 60 (although this is gradually changing); and reactionary decisions create a mistrust in civic society: look at the London Borough of Hackney, for example.

In addition, since last year’s thorough licensing review by the House of Lords, which outlined the failures in the interpretation of the 2003 Licensing Act, nothing’s been done. A reduction in local authority staff and an increase in workload has compounded this problem: complicated, life-altering decisions are being made by those who lack the experience to do so.

The current failing regime is even putting further unnecessary stress on our health and social care system. Folkestone’s licensing framework, for example, recently introduced changes to limit evening and night time economy uses: Kent Online referred to the changes as a “final nail in the city’s coffin”, because it will further lead to the city attracting pensioners, rather than the young workers needed to support social care. This is not inevitable: further up the coast, Margate, is doing the opposite.

Across England, there have been a number of successful schemes promoting the benefits of the Night Time Economy. London has a Night Czar, Manchester a Night Mayor and Plymouth a Night Time Manager. More cities have joined the Purple Flag accreditation scheme for places that offer a good night out.

But such progress is still not reflected in policy. Licensing decisions are still based on negatives. And when locals can object to a business before its doors even open, that objection will be based on what it represents, rather than what it is.

So: let’s talk more about licensing.

3. Prioritise Our Small Towns and Cities More

I’m proud of being a small cog in the big machine that has worked to improve the music policy ecosystem in London. While we’ve had successes, there’s much work to do there.

But I feel now’s the time to prioritise the music infrastructure in our small towns and cities – and recognise that, to incubate talent, we need to start at all sources. Many small towns and cities, from Peterborough to Wells, Oban to Fishguard, have seen decreases in their music infrastructure since 2010. Only a few local music organisations remain – the rest were victims of austerity – and venues in which to play are closing, with new artists now relying on their parents, or infrequent night buses, to take advantage of performance opportunities.

This creates a talent development framework that relies more on uploading covers to YouTube than on engaging with one’s peers. Mix that with a reduction in music education provision, less budget for music services and the closure of youth clubs, and you get a perfect storm in which, in essence, we forget about the talent in our small towns and cities.

This must change. We need a national music towns strategy to audit existing infrastructure, ensure it is protected through the planning and licensing system as best as possible, and provide the tool for local authorities to better promote venues. We need a mechanism to turn vacant buildings over to creatives, on peppercorn rent, as practice facilities. We need all BIDs and LEPs to develop music policies and treat music as an industry, like any other. All this is possible.

We have much work to do in the UK. Here’s hoping next year, we have more to celebrate to ensure we’re continually creating the most music friendly country on the planet.


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.


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.