Toronto’s Canadian Music Week has added a one-day international creative economy summit, The Mastering of a Music City, May 7 at the Sheraton Center to further expand the discussion of developing music cities around the world.
Canada has long touted Toronto as the national hub of the industry, but Halifax was once known as “Seattle of the North” and Calgary is the country’s country music capital. And there are other cities around the globe, known throughout the years for their music scene and history: Austin, Seattle, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, Nashville, Manchester, Liverpool, Los Angeles, New York and more.
Participants in this summit will come from the music industry, artistic community and the government.
Put together jointly with the help and input of Toronto’s Music Canada, London’s International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI); Brighton, England’s Music Cities Convention, the CMW conference will “explore in-depth the relationship between creative city planning, quality-of-life and the music industry,” according to the press release.
The Mastering of a Music City was inspired by Music Canada’s Report on Toronto’s 2012 Music City initiative with Austin, and directly by Music Canada and IFPI’s report The Mastering of a Music City, Key Elements, Effective Strategies and Why It’s Worth Pursuing, which debuted at Midem, in Cannes, France.
Billboard spoke with CMW president Neill Dixon about the summit.
You’ve done one-off panels on the “music city” topic for three years. What made you realize there was enough interest for a full-day summit?
The interest is certainly there. It just seems to be popping up at every music event I go to; there’s usually a panel talking about it. Martin Elbourne from Glastonbury has done a couple of conferences on the subject. So it’s got to the point where it’s in everybody’s vernacular. Everybody knows what it is, but how do you get there?
You’re calling it an international creative-economy summit.
Obviously music is part of the creative economy. Music is not the only thing that cities sponsor. They sponsor sports; they sponsor literature and all types of creative endeavors, but music has made a huge economic impact in the last 10 years. That’s been documented with all these economic impact studies that different cities have been doing. The most visible would be Austin. We’ve all been going to South By for many years, but only in the last 10-12 years has that city sprouted up with hotels and restaurants. In the last 15 years, a lot of tech companies have moved to Austin so they’ve got a young a workforce. They’ve got a cool city; that’s another factor that music makes a city a lot more livable and a cool place to live. And that’s what attracts young workers and that’s what attracts tech companies.
Toronto is a music city. It’s been a music city for decades. The major labels are headquartered here; many indie labels; managers, booking agencies; and we’ve spawned a ton of great talent. You’ve had a success conference and festival for decades. What are we lacking? Why are we not a “music city”?
We are a music city, and you’re right — and all those things add up to it. We hit on a lot of the elements described in the Mastering of a Music City report that Music Canada and IFPI authored, if you will. The difference is some cities calls themselves “music cities” and some cities tagline themselves with “music city.” Chicago, they call it the Home of the Blues; Austin is the Live Music Capital of the World; and Nashville is the Country Music Capital. We just haven’t done that.
Is it just about branding?
It is partially branding and some of those cities have long heritages so they feel comfortable in looking over their music heritage and taking advantage of that as part of the brand of the city. But newer cities, including Austin, basically said, ‘We’re gonna run with this,’ and they just proclaimed themselves the Live Music Capital of the World. It wasn’t awarded to them. But every time I land there, there’s a band playing at the airport. They go all the way to remind you everywhere you go — billboards and posters and ads in their local magazines, that that’s who they are, so that’s part of their image and their DNA and that’s what they want to be known as.
We’ve got the talent; we’ve got the audience. Is one of the main components of mastering a music city getting government onboard? Is that key to this?
That’s totally key to this and that’s what this conference is all about. And this is not only to bring people up to speed with the benefits that other cities have — and this is not aimed at Toronto; we’re hoping a lot of cities take part in learning how they can use these strategies to make their cities a better place to live, and bring in extra money from festivals and music-friendly policies that they develop and that kind of thing. The idea is to share knowledge and better practices because some people have been doing this a lot longer than others and there’s a lot of things to learn from it.
Are most of the cities what we would already consider music cities or are there any that have to build it from the ground up?
Yes, there’s a number of them. Hamburg, Germany. That’s only been in the past five or six years. We’ve got the managing director of the Hamburg Music Business Association and somebody from the Reeperbahn Festival talking about how they work with their city and have created a worldclass event and tourist destination, as well as a business destination. Calgary, it’s [their] Year of Music next year, so we invited their mayor. We’re going to be doing mayors’ session, as well so we hear from the other side and there will be a number of people from the planning departments.
There are a number of smaller cities. There’s Sheffield [England]. Some of them have a rich musical heritage but you don’t have to. The idea is it helps. Sure, you can put up a Beatles museum, but it’s not necessary, so cities that weren’t the home of jazz or the home of the blues or whatever, they can still have a strategy on how they can build a music city.