Guest Post

Sound Diplomacy at SXSW 2019

Guest post by Elizabeth Cawein.

I always know I’ve had a good SXSW when I’ve lost count of two things: number of tacos consumed and number of new bands discovered. This year was a win in both categories, so much so that it’s taken me almost a month to recover and put together a proper recap of the highlights!

I was honored to start off my week (truly, about an hour after my plane landed!) at the EU House, sharing some insights as part of a panel discussion on music export strategies.

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This is a topic I’m passionate about, and it was great to have the chance to highlight not just the economic possibilities of music export, but the cultural implications when we create opportunities for artists to build relationships and collaborations across borders.

Later in the week I had the chance to experience GovCity, the first gathering of its kind of innovators in government, and meet some stellar young people as a SXSW music mentor.

And of course, in between all of this I saw as much live music as I could! Naturally, I always love to check out what cities and countries are doing to represent at their own showcases and day parties, and this year was no exception – I took in bands at WeDC House, the Canadian Blast BBQ, Tulsa Boom Factory, and more. Sound Diplomacy was once again involved in organizing the German Haus at SXSW - 7 days of events around music, creative industries and tech - and I was glad to check out the new venue, meet my colleagues from Berlin and enjoy some live music. I also got to stop by the Recording Academy’s block party at the Four Seasons, another annual favorite, for some great live music presented by the Texas chapter. (And in case you missed it, they shared our Music Cities Manual on Grammy.com!).

My SXSW week ended as strong as it started, with our panel on music cities – I was thrilled to see how many people came out to be a part of this conversation at 5 o’clock on the Friday of SXSW, when a cold beer was most certainly awaiting them anywhere else! That turnout – along with so many conversations I had throughout the week with folks from across the U.S. and around the world – is an indication of how important this topic is, and how many people are invested in the music ecosystems in their home towns and cities. I so enjoyed moderating this conversation with Matthew Kowal from Majestic Collaborations, Kara Elliott-Ortega from the City of Boston, and Nick Mattera from Brand USA. You can check our Music Cities Manual here.

Furthermore, as part of 'Music Cities: The Impact of Music and Nightlife on Cities' programme at German Haus, Sound Diplomacy hosted a presentation on Music City Scope - an interactive model developed by the City Science Lab at Hafen City University, Hamburg in collaboration with Sound Diplomacy, Clubkombinat, and the Hamburg Music Business Development Association. Music City Scope is an interactive, digital model that analyzes the relationship between music and urban development and simulates development scenarios. The presentation session was attended by economists, researchers, business associations and night-time economy officials from European and US cities. 

MEET OUR U.S. LEAD ELIZABETH CAWEIN


As Sound Diplomacy announces plans for American outpost, get to know our first boots on the ground

Guest post by Elizabeth Cawein.


I don’t remember the exact day, month or year that I became obsessed with music – I imagine it really set in far too early for my recorded memory – but I do remember when I became obsessed with music and cities.

It was 2015, and I’d been spending the better part of the year working to build a nonprofit export office in my hometown of Memphis that would focus on leveraging our music for talent attraction, tourism and economic development, while creating a needed pipeline for our musicians to grow their national audiences. In the midst of that work I’d become interested in the interesting ways other cities – in the U.S. and across the globe – were approaching supports for their music ecosystems.

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Enter Sound Diplomacy and the Music Cities Convention, the first-ever in the states, held at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. in October of 2015. I saw a Billboard story about the conference by chance and was immediately intrigued. But it was just a few weeks away, so I figured it wasn’t practical to try to make it work. I decided to check flights, just in case, sure that the last-minute price gouging would make the decision for me.

Somehow, the flights were hovering around $115.

Almost as soon as I closed my Kayak.com search tab, I had an e-mail from my husband – he would need to be in D.C. at the end of the month for a conference. The exact dates of the Music Cities Convention. If I didn’t think it was kismet then (I did), I certainly know it was now.

That one-day event left me feeling the best kind of exhausted: my brain absolutely swimming with ideas, my passions ignited, and my preconceived notions smashed. I was hooked.

At the close of the conference I marched up to Shain Shapiro, Sound Diplomacy President and Founder, and asked what I needed to do to bring the Music Cities Convention to Memphis. Two years later, that’s exactly what it did. The Memphis edition of Music Cities Convention, held in October 2017, was in a way the beginning of my working relationship with Sound Diplomacy, as I spent a year working with them to put together the conference programming and logistics.

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A year later, I had the pleasure of working with the Music Cities team again for the Music Cities Convention in Lafayette, La., handling publicity and marketing for the convening. And in January of this year, we made it official. I’m thrilled to join the Sound Diplomacy team, especially at such an exciting time of growth with the opening of a new U.S. home base.

The reality is that America traditionally has lagged behind the rest of the developed world when it comes to funding and supports for arts and culture, so to see so many U.S. cities interested in thinking about innovative ways to grow their music ecosystems and understanding the broad impact that a healthy music community can have for their citizens is exciting, and I hope a sign of a paradigm shift ahead. The prospect of being invited to so many incredible places to discover their music cultures and to help them realize the potential in their own cities is a thrill for my music-and-cities obsessed brain, and an honor.

And beyond my hometown of Memphis – one of America’s richest and most important music cities – Sound Diplomacy is already working with some of my favorite American music hubs: New Orleans, Muscle Shoals and San Francisco.

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I also can’t wait to discover the music of Indianapolis, Fort Worth, and Huntsville. (And so many others I can’t mention just yet!) What I know to be true is that music makes our cities better. It drives economic impact, it creates jobs and attracts talent. It invites people to our cities, brings in hotel tax dollars and creates cultural connection through tourism. It improves education, it brings life to our neighborhoods. It gives us pride in a shared civic identity and makes us invest and care deeply in who we are as a city. And when our musicians thrive, our cities are full of creative people who can very often bring creative solutions to civic problems.

When our musicians thrive, our cities thrive. I’m driven by that belief, and lucky to be part of an organization that believes it, too.


SOUND DEVELOPMENT 2019 - ROUND UP


MUSIC, HIGH STREET REGENERATION AND COLLECTIVE ACTION

Guest post by Kat Hanna.


To kick start the Sound Diplomacy events calendar for 2019 and to engage with an increasingly hot topic concerning the urban planning and culture sectors, we hosted Sound Development, our quarterly mini-series discussion at East London’s newest destination, Republic.

We’ve invited our event chair Kat Hanna to provide an overview of the discussion from the event.

Tuesday February 5th, Republic, East India Dock


Whether it’s the almost daily announcement of closures or the empty units that have left high streets looking like gap-toothed smiles, the need for high street regeneration is hard to avoid. Yet while the symptoms of their struggle may be obvious, the cause is harder to diagnose. Too much retail. Not enough quality retail. The rise of online shopping. The decline of community.

As any well-assembled panel will tell you, the answer, of course, is that many high streets are struggling for a number of reasons, and so their regeneration will require a range of solutions. What these solutions have in common, however, is the ability to bring together a range of people to a specific place. In doing so, high streets not only offer what online shopping cannot – shared, embodied, human experience and interaction.

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The evening provided many examples of how music can help address the symptoms of a struggling high street. Dave Gray from Wrexham talked about the transformation of a former JJB Sports store into a community hub, focused around music, yet flexible enough to host exhibitions, meet-ups and all manner of events. Architects Tom and James Teatum emphasised the benefits of high streets that accommodate a range of uses, including residential and manufacturing, rather than simply retail.

But to use music to simply fill empty retail units is to overlook the full potential of music – not just as a source of demand for space, but as a vital contributor to local economies, communities, and individuals themselves. Just as Julia Jones was keen to point out the regenerating the high street should be about more than rescuing retailers, music should be used to generate human interactions, as well as just cash transactions.

Too often, the social and retail functions of the high street are presented as being in opposition to one another. In the recent past, there is perhaps some truth in this, as we today lament the passing of high street chains many communities once blamed for killing off independents. Yet as our discussion revealed, what works for the retail functions of the high street can also work for its social functions, and vice versa. Here’s three key takeaways that stand to benefit both these aspects of a successful high street.

  1. A range of spaces can attract a range of uses: A diversified high street means of mix of uses, and a mix of spaces. This requires a supportive, and perhaps more flexible planning system that encourages co-location and celebrates, or at least tolerates activity (including when its noisy and nocturnal). It requires developers to understand the nuanced needs of potential tenants, providing space suitable for both the production and consumption of music. Contrary to some assumptions, this does not always need to be specialised – as Achar Dillon of Killing Moon pointed out.

  2. Experience is everything: What high streets brands sought to offer based on cost and convenience can no longer compete in the age of online shopping. If retailers want to generate footfall, they must provide what cannot be offered with the swipe of a hand. Music may not be the only way of creating this experience, but its universality, adaptability and accessibility make it a particularly powerful way to do so. As Jennifer Wood from Southwark council highlighted, these qualities make music an increasingly common feature in social prescribing – addressing social, physiological and physical problems with non-medical, community-based solutions.

  3. Communicating value: The ability of music-related uses to animate or adapt of underused or ‘awkward’ spaces should not prohibit long-term investment in real-estate that supports the industry. This requires the music sector to focus on setting out its value, to local economies, high streets, and communities, ensuring that the sector is valued in its own right, not only as a tool used for placemaking or promotion.

As Lawrence Jones from Trilogy emphasises, these principles extend beyond the built form of the high street. Successful spaces, including workplaces, are those that offer a mix of experience, that encourage interaction between users, and that can adapt to a range of use, not just during the lifetime of a building, but the daily routines of an individual.


About the Author, Kat Hanna:

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KAT HANNA, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, URBAN CHANGE, CUSHMAN AND WAKEFIELD

An experienced urbanist and researcher, Kat Hanna has worked in London politics, planning and policy for the past seven years. Her research interests include urban economies, transport, and the relationship between technology and the built environment. Kat joined Cushman and Wakefield in 2017, focusing on long-term mixed-use development projects in London and trends in how we live, work and move around in cities.

Kat regularly appears as a commentator on urban affairs across a range of publications, media, and events, and was shortlisted for the EG Rising Star Award for 2018.


MUSIC. IT’S ALL PART OF THE MASTERPLAN.


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:

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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.