Olympia, the capital city of Washington, the birthplace of riot grrl, K Records and a pit stop for Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, generates a pretty staggering amount of money via its historic and historically avant-garde music scene, according to a new study from Saint Martin’s University, as reported by The Olympian.
The city, population 46,478, was estimated to have generated $88.3 million for the city in 2010, a figure that lead researcher Riley Moore characterized as “conservative,” the Olympian quoted the PhD as saying. His estimates didn’t include the music industry’s impact on hotels, for example. Whether or not the city is “over” as The Stranger jokingly postulated, it’s obviously worth a surprising amount of money.
The scene could be thought of as Seattle’s avant-garde southern sister. The city was home to Bikini Kill, a founding keystone of the riot grrl movement, during the band’s founding in the early ’90s. Olympia and Portland-based label Kill Rock Stars released Bikini Kill’s first 7″s on the label, which also operates a sister imprint 5RC, dedicated to more “challenging” music.
K Records, a now-famous label founded in 1982, is still releasing sterling records of left-of-center pop, from Mirah’s “Changing Light” (2014) to The Blow’s minimal tongue-in-cheek performance art.
And Kurt Cobain infamously decamped from his hometown of Aberdeen to Olympia on his path to international superstardom.
Even with this rich and ongoing history, the figure of $88.3 million a year generated by music far from the mainstream is surprising and encouraging, as driven as it is by the local scene and its attendant live music economies.
With perhaps the understatement of the year, city councilman Jim Cooper told the Olympian that “this is something that’s valuable to promote.”