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Your Local Music Scene Could be Boosted by a Music Census - and You Have the Power to Help It Happen
Written by:
Emily Plazek

You’re in the majority of musicians if you aren’t starting your career in a music hub like LA, NYC, or Nashville. From MIC’s headquarters of Pittsburgh, we observed how many cities are becoming mini hubs - which becomes more fascinating to observe when a Music Census sweeps in.

City-specific Music Censuses trump federal data, which oftentimes cities rely on to get a feel for how their music scene is getting along. Cities care about their music scenes for a lot of economic and city branding reasons, so having a grasp of its unique scene’s data is insanely vital. Don Pitts from one Music Census company, Sound Music Cities, explains it like this:

“Federal data does not capture the reality of music scenes, in part because work in the music sector typically is not reflected in existing labor codes. …A local or regional music census solves this long-standing issue by directly surveying individuals to enumerate what is really going on within a local music scene. It collects key information from respondents, including geography, experience, occupation, education, employment, income, music business operations, regulatory impacts, and much more." 

Music Censuses reveal how a city’s unique music industry can be improved by large scale and easily shifted small changes. Often these changes are much better led from the grassroots community - as in, not top-down from the largest stakeholders and government, but from the musicians and music entrepreneurs (venue owners, promoters, etc.) themselves.  

“...Recommendations result from more data-driven consensus amongst the community ...catalyz[ing] the collaborative efforts of those who wish to grow and support their music scenes as regulatory barriers come into focus, civic and philanthropic resources are activated and music people are empowered to take ownership, not just of their problems, but their solutions as well.”

 

Why Would this Matter to You?

Understanding and supporting your city’s plans for its music scene can help you with your personal music plans incredibly because you learn about: more places/events where you can play/network, the city’s investments into regulations and financial barriers you didn’t know were preventing venues from supporting you (say goodbye to some common negative assumptions here), changes in noise ordinances to lower complaints and create more harmonious communities of entertainers and neighborhoods, and much more. 

Cities want their citizens to engage, your agendas align - but many times musicians feel at a standstill against their city because of lack of communication and effort. Sometimes the real work can only begin when a third party like a Music Census company brings everyone together with the persuasive power of rock-hard data that shows the reality of what’s going on in that scene.

What to Do.

We at MIC want all musicians to thrive, so we bring this topic to the table to spread awareness to you musicians that you have power in this. Simply: you can reach out to your city to suggest a Music Census to catalyze a little action. Try your Mayors Office or Tourism Office - although, it could be some other office, all city governments are a little different. 

In which case, to skip some lost time Googling, you could ask Don Pitts of Sound Music Cities to help you find the right person to contact - just email him with the email address we'll give at the bottom of this article. He doesn’t charge a fee for anyone (especially never from musicians themselves, he works with cities) until services are decided within a city - but he offers this help of networking and reaching out at the beginning for free. Of course, like any company, it hopefully leads to your city hiring Sound Music Cities, but it’s not required. The real idea is that a rising tide lifts all ships: the creation of his company doing a job for your city catalyzes the creation of many music jobs, and boosts the effectivity of the already-existing ones, within that city.

Actually though, there aren’t that many companies out there offering Music Censuses - and as in any industry, some people have all the talk but none of the walk. So, when Sound Music Cities came to Pittsburgh, we paid close attention, compared them to their competitors. We ended up becoming good friends with Don Pitts, the Co-Founder and President, because we respected the results of his work so seriously. Here is some of what we respected:

Why Sounds Music Cities is our personal suggestion.

SMC has published official Music Censuses and worked on special projects in Austin, Seattle, Charlotte, DC, and Pittsburgh (and a couple other cities that aren't publicly announced yet because they're in the research phase). The Pittsburgh Music Ecosystem Project (the one that involved us here at MIC) began in 2018 when SMC researched and personally surveyed the city to create the Music Census. SMC held town halls, conducted grassroots interviews, and continued researching - eventually completing and publishing the Census publicly online for everyone in the city to read. This transparent publication of the Census meant that all of the stakeholders (the city, the musicians, the venue owners, the radio owners, the record shop owners, the labels, the publishers, the management companies, the arts councils, the publicists, etc) all got the same treatment of information. This helps encourage community to grow and, because they see each other in the data and talk about it, this is especially useful in city-wide applications because sometimes different sectors within an industry assume negative things about each other. Data takes away negative speculation and combats gossip, getting to the meat of the issues and opportunities. Again: a rising tide lifts all ships.

When these Music Censuses are published for cities, it’s not about quick fad diet fixes - the cities experience gradually, real change, like awareness-raising of local music in general. Now, the City of Pittsburgh throws a “Love PGH Music” Month, in July - and it's boosted by the year-round collaborations of local craft brewers beginning to feature local musicians on new brew batches. The beer idea didn’t come immediately after publication of the Music Census, it was a natural progression from word of mouth and increasing excitement over local music city-wide. Also, being a college town, some of the students cited that they felt positive effects from the Music Census, in the form of breaking down walls of unhealthy reliance between musicians and promoters who didn't understand younger audients, and supporting their unique venues (like the Pitt-famous Bushnell, one of MIC MVMT artist Andrew Chris's former stomping grounds).

Every city walks away with different takeaways. Austin was monumental for noise ordinance meditation, changing the game industry-wide setting a new standard for facilitating conversation around complaints (making communities out of complainers and the subject of their complaints, I kid you not.) Charlotte created new music communities: CALM and Fair Play. The Charlotte Area League of Musicians (CALM) was founded “to bring together musicians of all genres in the greater Charlotte area to maximize opportunities for musical advancement and collaboration through education, advocacy, and inspiration.” Vibing with similar spirit, Fair Play "envisions and advocates for a fair Charlotte music scene where what makes us different is what makes the difference."

The bottom line is that through the power of data in Music Censuses, Don and SMC bridge the divide between musicians and unreachable entities in ways that create long-term change. He says, “A music community that does a better job of aggregating and articulating its own interests will be heard and taken more seriously by the larger community. This is why we focus on community-based solutions. Our philosophy is that they take time, but they work.”

Email Don Pitts at don@soundmusiccities.com and he will personally help you find the right person in your city to talk to about a potential Music Census.

Your Local Music Scene Could be Boosted by a Music Census - and You Have the Power to Help It Happen
Your Local Music Scene Could be Boosted by a Music Census - and You Have the Power to Help It Happen
MIC is my baby.

You’re in the majority of musicians if you aren’t starting your career in a music hub like LA, NYC, or Nashville. From MIC’s headquarters of Pittsburgh, we observed how many cities are becoming mini hubs - which becomes more fascinating to observe when a Music Census sweeps in.

City-specific Music Censuses trump federal data, which oftentimes cities rely on to get a feel for how their music scene is getting along. Cities care about their music scenes for a lot of economic and city branding reasons, so having a grasp of its unique scene’s data is insanely vital. Don Pitts from one Music Census company, Sound Music Cities, explains it like this:

“Federal data does not capture the reality of music scenes, in part because work in the music sector typically is not reflected in existing labor codes. …A local or regional music census solves this long-standing issue by directly surveying individuals to enumerate what is really going on within a local music scene. It collects key information from respondents, including geography, experience, occupation, education, employment, income, music business operations, regulatory impacts, and much more." 

Music Censuses reveal how a city’s unique music industry can be improved by large scale and easily shifted small changes. Often these changes are much better led from the grassroots community - as in, not top-down from the largest stakeholders and government, but from the musicians and music entrepreneurs (venue owners, promoters, etc.) themselves.  

“...Recommendations result from more data-driven consensus amongst the community ...catalyz[ing] the collaborative efforts of those who wish to grow and support their music scenes as regulatory barriers come into focus, civic and philanthropic resources are activated and music people are empowered to take ownership, not just of their problems, but their solutions as well.”

 

Why Would this Matter to You?

Understanding and supporting your city’s plans for its music scene can help you with your personal music plans incredibly because you learn about: more places/events where you can play/network, the city’s investments into regulations and financial barriers you didn’t know were preventing venues from supporting you (say goodbye to some common negative assumptions here), changes in noise ordinances to lower complaints and create more harmonious communities of entertainers and neighborhoods, and much more. 

Cities want their citizens to engage, your agendas align - but many times musicians feel at a standstill against their city because of lack of communication and effort. Sometimes the real work can only begin when a third party like a Music Census company brings everyone together with the persuasive power of rock-hard data that shows the reality of what’s going on in that scene.

What to Do.

We at MIC want all musicians to thrive, so we bring this topic to the table to spread awareness to you musicians that you have power in this. Simply: you can reach out to your city to suggest a Music Census to catalyze a little action. Try your Mayors Office or Tourism Office - although, it could be some other office, all city governments are a little different. 

In which case, to skip some lost time Googling, you could ask Don Pitts of Sound Music Cities to help you find the right person to contact - just email him with the email address we'll give at the bottom of this article. He doesn’t charge a fee for anyone (especially never from musicians themselves, he works with cities) until services are decided within a city - but he offers this help of networking and reaching out at the beginning for free. Of course, like any company, it hopefully leads to your city hiring Sound Music Cities, but it’s not required. The real idea is that a rising tide lifts all ships: the creation of his company doing a job for your city catalyzes the creation of many music jobs, and boosts the effectivity of the already-existing ones, within that city.

Actually though, there aren’t that many companies out there offering Music Censuses - and as in any industry, some people have all the talk but none of the walk. So, when Sound Music Cities came to Pittsburgh, we paid close attention, compared them to their competitors. We ended up becoming good friends with Don Pitts, the Co-Founder and President, because we respected the results of his work so seriously. Here is some of what we respected:

Why Sounds Music Cities is our personal suggestion.

SMC has published official Music Censuses and worked on special projects in Austin, Seattle, Charlotte, DC, and Pittsburgh (and a couple other cities that aren't publicly announced yet because they're in the research phase). The Pittsburgh Music Ecosystem Project (the one that involved us here at MIC) began in 2018 when SMC researched and personally surveyed the city to create the Music Census. SMC held town halls, conducted grassroots interviews, and continued researching - eventually completing and publishing the Census publicly online for everyone in the city to read. This transparent publication of the Census meant that all of the stakeholders (the city, the musicians, the venue owners, the radio owners, the record shop owners, the labels, the publishers, the management companies, the arts councils, the publicists, etc) all got the same treatment of information. This helps encourage community to grow and, because they see each other in the data and talk about it, this is especially useful in city-wide applications because sometimes different sectors within an industry assume negative things about each other. Data takes away negative speculation and combats gossip, getting to the meat of the issues and opportunities. Again: a rising tide lifts all ships.

When these Music Censuses are published for cities, it’s not about quick fad diet fixes - the cities experience gradually, real change, like awareness-raising of local music in general. Now, the City of Pittsburgh throws a “Love PGH Music” Month, in July - and it's boosted by the year-round collaborations of local craft brewers beginning to feature local musicians on new brew batches. The beer idea didn’t come immediately after publication of the Music Census, it was a natural progression from word of mouth and increasing excitement over local music city-wide. Also, being a college town, some of the students cited that they felt positive effects from the Music Census, in the form of breaking down walls of unhealthy reliance between musicians and promoters who didn't understand younger audients, and supporting their unique venues (like the Pitt-famous Bushnell, one of MIC MVMT artist Andrew Chris's former stomping grounds).

Every city walks away with different takeaways. Austin was monumental for noise ordinance meditation, changing the game industry-wide setting a new standard for facilitating conversation around complaints (making communities out of complainers and the subject of their complaints, I kid you not.) Charlotte created new music communities: CALM and Fair Play. The Charlotte Area League of Musicians (CALM) was founded “to bring together musicians of all genres in the greater Charlotte area to maximize opportunities for musical advancement and collaboration through education, advocacy, and inspiration.” Vibing with similar spirit, Fair Play "envisions and advocates for a fair Charlotte music scene where what makes us different is what makes the difference."

The bottom line is that through the power of data in Music Censuses, Don and SMC bridge the divide between musicians and unreachable entities in ways that create long-term change. He says, “A music community that does a better job of aggregating and articulating its own interests will be heard and taken more seriously by the larger community. This is why we focus on community-based solutions. Our philosophy is that they take time, but they work.”

Email Don Pitts at don@soundmusiccities.com and he will personally help you find the right person in your city to talk to about a potential Music Census.

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