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“The Pittsburgh Music Ecosystem Study”: Sparknotes Edition
Written by:

by Emily Plazek, July 19, 2018

“It’s not a chicken or egg thing, it’s not about steps 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 -- it’s multiple steps at the same time. The process of addressing some of these issues is in the community building.”

- Don Pitts, Sound Music Cities

The study is found at: http://www.pghmusicproject.org/

It’s 86 pages long and took more than a pregnancy of calendar time to complete “The Pittsburgh Music Ecosystem Study: Activating a Community Response”, released to the public today -- so let’s get real: you  might TLDR (too long, didn’t read) this thing.

Well, we eager beavers at MIC read it for you - so let us catch you up with our own Sparknotes-inspired version so you Pittsburgh indie musicians understand how this affects you.

First, here’s why you’ll trust our take on the study, in case you don’t know who MIC is:

MIC (Music Industry Connected) is a music career research consultancy headquartered in Pittsburgh because we believe it’s the quintessential indie (independent) music city: it’s a home-pride town packed with creatives who want to follow their dreams and aren’t burdened by the woes of the typical fame standards like Hollywood, geographic genre generalities like Nashville, and stressful cutthroat competition like NYC.

Our one-on-one research with bands, rappers, singer/songwriters, beat-makers, movie composers, and more in our MVMT help us develop our IMBM: Indie Music Business Model to help musicians (1) make money and (2) sustainably run the emotional+mental+physical marathon that is a music career.

We teach, we research, we experiment, we live the indie music life personally while studying the myriads of other musicians that are doing the same. Then we proudly share unique “home-run” strategies for indie music careers to gain exposure, income, and self-defined measures of success on our website’s blog, and through one-on-one consulting.

The leaders of this “Pittsburgh Music Ecosystem Project” approached MIC last year for help in understanding Pittsburgh’s music scene, so we’ve been behind-the-scenes contributing our knowledge and observing the intense manpower put into this study. Here’s the article from when I, MIC Founder Emily Plazek, sat as one of the panel experts at the “Pittsburgh Music Ecosystem Town Hall” at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater in February: http://micpgh.com/sanctuary/are-you-asking-the-right-questions-in-your-music-career

Now, let me tell you what we at MIC don’t do:

  • Identify the leaders in a music city and empower them to lead in effective and wide-reaching ways (Leadership Development)
  • Offer access to grants and training seminars (Career Development)
  • Tackle government regulatory reform to support live music in local venues (Regulatory Reform)
  • Create networks between music services and providers (Industry Development)
  • Develop live music from the technical side and hosting local music festivals (Audience Development)

Surprise -- you just tasted the 5 areas of action in the “Pittsburgh Music Ecosystem Project”.

Get to the Sparknotes lists, please!

Indie musicians, here are the meat and bones you’re looking for: in the study you’ll read about these recommendations and proposed action items (and more than this, but we promised this would be a short article).

Leadership Development

  • Civic Engagement Training Program: a bootcamp to develop skills in many areas, aimed at elevating the ecosystem’s ability to become more accountable for its own needs and interests
  • Music Industry Change Initiative: a 3-year initiative with dedicated administrative support to focus on finding longer-term solutions to root-cause issues affecting Pittsburgh’s music world

Career Development

  • A multi-institution music industry education pipeline
  • An intensive grant program for artist/band creative development
  • A wide range of music industry workforce training seminars (rather than just entry-level education) like a “Registration-athon” for all PRO and related services, and a Revenue Development Workshop Series on how to collect from 170+ potential revenue-streams as indie musicians

Regulatory Reform

  • Amusement tax reform for live music venues under 350 in capacity
  • Centralization of sound complaints into a 311 process
  • A partnership strategy for music-friendly districts to develop new locally-controlled sound ordinance overlays
  • Adoption of a best-practice sound management strategy
  • A pilot program to temporarily explore hybrid uses and a more diverse classification of nighttime venues in zoning and land use code
  • Clearer role designation for the Office of Nighttime Economy in the city code
  • “Small Wins” like requirements for musician “loading/unloading” signage, and daily venue and public safety updates (such as a Slack online communication channel) to post show end times, anticipated audience sizes, etc.

Industry Development

  • “The Pittsburgh Music Venue Alliance” (it’s an international trend)
  • A central directory of service providers
  • Music mentoring opportunities for younger industry entrants
  • Music sub-sector networking events (there are over 40+ sub-sectors)
  • Philanthropic support outreach
  • A wide spectrum of business and nonprofit support opportunities
  • Live music venue best practices guidebooks
  • A 6-month “Leaders in Pittsburgh Music” Program
  • A regional alliance with neighboring cities (think Columbus, Cleveland, etc) to develop shared resources like venues, touring services, booking agencies, promoters, artist residencies, etc.

Audience Development

  • “Love Pittsburgh Music Month” with WYEP radio and multi-venue support
  • A Music Fan Survey to study “Love Pittsburgh Music Month” and to curate patron-centered live music experiences often in non-traditional places
  • A master gig calendar online
  • City-wide marketing combining Local Sports Heroes and Local Music Heroes (i.e. Pittsburgh Sports Stars sharing streaming playlists of their favorite local bands)
  • Micro-loan program for venues (for audio installations and more)
  • FOH certification resource
  • Expansion of “Iron City Rocks Pittsburgh Music Awards”
  • “Pittsburgh Basement Music Festival”
  • Online guide for non-traditional spaces to host live music

“This study provides a starting point and benchmark for change. Just by becoming aware of its own interconnectedness (the premise of the music ecosystem), Pittsburgh’s music community can activate a response, especially with an initial focus on building its own leadership capacity. This enables music people to start working collaboratively across sectors on deeper systemic issues affecting development of careers, audience, industry and music-friendly government policy.

“By resisting the temptation of quick fixes, true population-level change for the thousands of participants in Pittsburgh’s music ecosystem will become possible, and music can become more widely embraced for its powerful potential to help drive Pittsburgh’s resurgence as an exceptional and vibrant place to live.”

Fact vs. Fiction

Amid the opportunities and hopes identified in the study, frustrations were also voiced during the study’s 10-month run by the 1,800 respondents in the online surveys and the 100 personally-conducted interviews.  So let’s address some of this negativity caused by fear of the unknown, and a lack of facts.

  • FICTION: “Sound Music Cities” is a pretentious consultancy from Austin sweeping into Pittsburgh claiming it could “fix” our music industry without knowing anything about us.
  • FACT: Sound Music Cities was hired to perform a job that Pittsburgh needed: to identify causes and catalyze solutions to maximize our city’s music scene potential. This study is the product of not only data-gathering throughout Pittsburgh’s music industry, but also many other music city projects across the country that Sound Music Cities either has had a hand in, or learns from their mistakes and victories. (Look for these case studies scattered throughout the study.)
  • The goal was not to “fix” something that was/wasn’t broken, but rather to identify ways we can maximize Pittsburgh’s music scene - and Sound Music Cities did the intense research for us.

  • FICTION: The City of Pittsburgh hasn’t supported the local music scene.
  • FACT: This study was spearheaded and financially funded by
  • The City of Pittsburgh Office of Nighttime Economy
  • Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership
  • 91.3 WYEP  
  • Support from The Heinz Endowments and Henry L. Hillman Foundation.

  • FICTION: There’s a specific issue that’s making our music city “fail” indie musicians.
  • FACT:   The study basically explains how a rising tide will raise all boats. It’s time to recognize and put aside the insecurities that create walls of competition between us. There is unlimited shelf space in everyone’s brains for music, the misconception that we shouldn’t work together to build everyone up is misinformed.    
"It’s not a chicken or egg thing, it’s not about steps 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 -- it’s multiple steps at the same time. The process of addressing some of these issues is in the community building." - Don Pitts, Sound Music Cities
  • A music industry is the sum of all its parts -- including each indie musician like you! Like a good sports team, if we throw all our efforts into the arena while our teammates do the same, we’ll all help Pittsburgh reach its music city potential.

Now Read it and Get Involved!

The trick of this article was to get you to want to go read the whole study now (gotcha!). Yeah, it’s long, but it’s conversationally-written, eye-opening, sprinkled with snazzy infographics, and packed with interesting case study stories. Plus, it will get you pumped about the future of Pittsburgh’s music scene and how your own music career can fit into it.

So get involved:

Step 1) Enjoy reading the study, and share it with your musician and music industry friends! Start the conversation about how to engage in the action with the rest of us!

Step 2) Attend the next “Pittsburgh Music Ecosystem Project” Networking Event at the Hard Rock Cafe on 8/15. Register by clicking here.

Step 3) Stay turned in the coming weeks as we at MIC work on our next steps for how we’re going to pitch in, too! Follow MIC on social media (@musicindustryconnected). We want to do our part as a fellow community member, so at the very least we’ll update you with how the project’s going.

We at MIC fully support the passion behind this project -- and we cheers the beginning of this study being put into action!

Share your comments below, then send this Sparknotes recap to your Pittsburgh music friends!

“The Pittsburgh Music Ecosystem Study”: Sparknotes Edition
“The Pittsburgh Music Ecosystem Study”: Sparknotes Edition

by Emily Plazek, July 19, 2018

“It’s not a chicken or egg thing, it’s not about steps 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 -- it’s multiple steps at the same time. The process of addressing some of these issues is in the community building.”

- Don Pitts, Sound Music Cities

The study is found at: http://www.pghmusicproject.org/

It’s 86 pages long and took more than a pregnancy of calendar time to complete “The Pittsburgh Music Ecosystem Study: Activating a Community Response”, released to the public today -- so let’s get real: you  might TLDR (too long, didn’t read) this thing.

Well, we eager beavers at MIC read it for you - so let us catch you up with our own Sparknotes-inspired version so you Pittsburgh indie musicians understand how this affects you.

First, here’s why you’ll trust our take on the study, in case you don’t know who MIC is:

MIC (Music Industry Connected) is a music career research consultancy headquartered in Pittsburgh because we believe it’s the quintessential indie (independent) music city: it’s a home-pride town packed with creatives who want to follow their dreams and aren’t burdened by the woes of the typical fame standards like Hollywood, geographic genre generalities like Nashville, and stressful cutthroat competition like NYC.

Our one-on-one research with bands, rappers, singer/songwriters, beat-makers, movie composers, and more in our MVMT help us develop our IMBM: Indie Music Business Model to help musicians (1) make money and (2) sustainably run the emotional+mental+physical marathon that is a music career.

We teach, we research, we experiment, we live the indie music life personally while studying the myriads of other musicians that are doing the same. Then we proudly share unique “home-run” strategies for indie music careers to gain exposure, income, and self-defined measures of success on our website’s blog, and through one-on-one consulting.

The leaders of this “Pittsburgh Music Ecosystem Project” approached MIC last year for help in understanding Pittsburgh’s music scene, so we’ve been behind-the-scenes contributing our knowledge and observing the intense manpower put into this study. Here’s the article from when I, MIC Founder Emily Plazek, sat as one of the panel experts at the “Pittsburgh Music Ecosystem Town Hall” at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater in February: http://micpgh.com/sanctuary/are-you-asking-the-right-questions-in-your-music-career

Now, let me tell you what we at MIC don’t do:

  • Identify the leaders in a music city and empower them to lead in effective and wide-reaching ways (Leadership Development)
  • Offer access to grants and training seminars (Career Development)
  • Tackle government regulatory reform to support live music in local venues (Regulatory Reform)
  • Create networks between music services and providers (Industry Development)
  • Develop live music from the technical side and hosting local music festivals (Audience Development)

Surprise -- you just tasted the 5 areas of action in the “Pittsburgh Music Ecosystem Project”.

Get to the Sparknotes lists, please!

Indie musicians, here are the meat and bones you’re looking for: in the study you’ll read about these recommendations and proposed action items (and more than this, but we promised this would be a short article).

Leadership Development

  • Civic Engagement Training Program: a bootcamp to develop skills in many areas, aimed at elevating the ecosystem’s ability to become more accountable for its own needs and interests
  • Music Industry Change Initiative: a 3-year initiative with dedicated administrative support to focus on finding longer-term solutions to root-cause issues affecting Pittsburgh’s music world

Career Development

  • A multi-institution music industry education pipeline
  • An intensive grant program for artist/band creative development
  • A wide range of music industry workforce training seminars (rather than just entry-level education) like a “Registration-athon” for all PRO and related services, and a Revenue Development Workshop Series on how to collect from 170+ potential revenue-streams as indie musicians

Regulatory Reform

  • Amusement tax reform for live music venues under 350 in capacity
  • Centralization of sound complaints into a 311 process
  • A partnership strategy for music-friendly districts to develop new locally-controlled sound ordinance overlays
  • Adoption of a best-practice sound management strategy
  • A pilot program to temporarily explore hybrid uses and a more diverse classification of nighttime venues in zoning and land use code
  • Clearer role designation for the Office of Nighttime Economy in the city code
  • “Small Wins” like requirements for musician “loading/unloading” signage, and daily venue and public safety updates (such as a Slack online communication channel) to post show end times, anticipated audience sizes, etc.

Industry Development

  • “The Pittsburgh Music Venue Alliance” (it’s an international trend)
  • A central directory of service providers
  • Music mentoring opportunities for younger industry entrants
  • Music sub-sector networking events (there are over 40+ sub-sectors)
  • Philanthropic support outreach
  • A wide spectrum of business and nonprofit support opportunities
  • Live music venue best practices guidebooks
  • A 6-month “Leaders in Pittsburgh Music” Program
  • A regional alliance with neighboring cities (think Columbus, Cleveland, etc) to develop shared resources like venues, touring services, booking agencies, promoters, artist residencies, etc.

Audience Development

  • “Love Pittsburgh Music Month” with WYEP radio and multi-venue support
  • A Music Fan Survey to study “Love Pittsburgh Music Month” and to curate patron-centered live music experiences often in non-traditional places
  • A master gig calendar online
  • City-wide marketing combining Local Sports Heroes and Local Music Heroes (i.e. Pittsburgh Sports Stars sharing streaming playlists of their favorite local bands)
  • Micro-loan program for venues (for audio installations and more)
  • FOH certification resource
  • Expansion of “Iron City Rocks Pittsburgh Music Awards”
  • “Pittsburgh Basement Music Festival”
  • Online guide for non-traditional spaces to host live music

“This study provides a starting point and benchmark for change. Just by becoming aware of its own interconnectedness (the premise of the music ecosystem), Pittsburgh’s music community can activate a response, especially with an initial focus on building its own leadership capacity. This enables music people to start working collaboratively across sectors on deeper systemic issues affecting development of careers, audience, industry and music-friendly government policy.

“By resisting the temptation of quick fixes, true population-level change for the thousands of participants in Pittsburgh’s music ecosystem will become possible, and music can become more widely embraced for its powerful potential to help drive Pittsburgh’s resurgence as an exceptional and vibrant place to live.”

Fact vs. Fiction

Amid the opportunities and hopes identified in the study, frustrations were also voiced during the study’s 10-month run by the 1,800 respondents in the online surveys and the 100 personally-conducted interviews.  So let’s address some of this negativity caused by fear of the unknown, and a lack of facts.

  • FICTION: “Sound Music Cities” is a pretentious consultancy from Austin sweeping into Pittsburgh claiming it could “fix” our music industry without knowing anything about us.
  • FACT: Sound Music Cities was hired to perform a job that Pittsburgh needed: to identify causes and catalyze solutions to maximize our city’s music scene potential. This study is the product of not only data-gathering throughout Pittsburgh’s music industry, but also many other music city projects across the country that Sound Music Cities either has had a hand in, or learns from their mistakes and victories. (Look for these case studies scattered throughout the study.)
  • The goal was not to “fix” something that was/wasn’t broken, but rather to identify ways we can maximize Pittsburgh’s music scene - and Sound Music Cities did the intense research for us.

  • FICTION: The City of Pittsburgh hasn’t supported the local music scene.
  • FACT: This study was spearheaded and financially funded by
  • The City of Pittsburgh Office of Nighttime Economy
  • Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership
  • 91.3 WYEP  
  • Support from The Heinz Endowments and Henry L. Hillman Foundation.

  • FICTION: There’s a specific issue that’s making our music city “fail” indie musicians.
  • FACT:   The study basically explains how a rising tide will raise all boats. It’s time to recognize and put aside the insecurities that create walls of competition between us. There is unlimited shelf space in everyone’s brains for music, the misconception that we shouldn’t work together to build everyone up is misinformed.    
"It’s not a chicken or egg thing, it’s not about steps 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 -- it’s multiple steps at the same time. The process of addressing some of these issues is in the community building." - Don Pitts, Sound Music Cities
  • A music industry is the sum of all its parts -- including each indie musician like you! Like a good sports team, if we throw all our efforts into the arena while our teammates do the same, we’ll all help Pittsburgh reach its music city potential.

Now Read it and Get Involved!

The trick of this article was to get you to want to go read the whole study now (gotcha!). Yeah, it’s long, but it’s conversationally-written, eye-opening, sprinkled with snazzy infographics, and packed with interesting case study stories. Plus, it will get you pumped about the future of Pittsburgh’s music scene and how your own music career can fit into it.

So get involved:

Step 1) Enjoy reading the study, and share it with your musician and music industry friends! Start the conversation about how to engage in the action with the rest of us!

Step 2) Attend the next “Pittsburgh Music Ecosystem Project” Networking Event at the Hard Rock Cafe on 8/15. Register by clicking here.

Step 3) Stay turned in the coming weeks as we at MIC work on our next steps for how we’re going to pitch in, too! Follow MIC on social media (@musicindustryconnected). We want to do our part as a fellow community member, so at the very least we’ll update you with how the project’s going.

We at MIC fully support the passion behind this project -- and we cheers the beginning of this study being put into action!

Share your comments below, then send this Sparknotes recap to your Pittsburgh music friends!

Talk with us on social media because we, too, are humans who like to feel substance in our souls.

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