In 2018, the City of Huntsville entered into an agreement with Sound Diplomacy, an internationally recognized consulting group, to conduct an extensive music audit to assess the strengths and opportunities of Huntsville’s music economy. In August 2019, the results of the audit, which include specific recommendations for the City to enhance this aspect of its economy, were presented to the Huntsville City Council.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
The City of Huntsville is focused on two complementary goals: Supporting a diverse economy and developing an attractive quality of life. The opportunity to support and develop Huntsville’s music scene can address both of these goals. In economic terms, a robust music industry can create jobs as well as attract workers to jobs in other industries. When considering quality of life, a thriving and diverse music scene enhances the entertainment options for those who call Huntsville home.
A music audit is an in-depth examination of a community’s music industry – the artists’ environment, the venues, the educational infrastructure and the underlying music culture. A successful music audit articulates a thorough understanding of a community’s music ecosystem and creates strategies to grow that ecosystem. The goal is to outline the steps that should be taken to realize that growth whether it is through City initiatives, supporting private music industry efforts or both.
$150,000 base fee over the course of a year. The Sound Diplomacy leadership and staff made multiple trips to Huntsville as part of the study, conducted extensive quantitative and qualitative research and analysis of our specific industry opportunities and needs and prepared multiple reports to help shape Huntsville’s strategy. The music audit is a multi-phase process that includes: (1) gathering data/inventory of existing various music-based factors of a community (i.e. music education, music-based jobs, venues, current economic impact, etc.), (2) determining the current relevance of music in the community and the community’s potential to expand a music-based economy, and (3) developing a business strategy to grow music and the arts in the community.
It is difficult to limit it to three. One of the main opportunities identified from the audit’s surveys and analysis was communication: within the industry and between the industry and external organizations like the City. Considerating that, the following recommendations should be among the first to be implemented:
- Holding at least two music industry forums annually to foster collaboration within the existing music industry of Huntsville and to provide growth in this economic sector
- Creating and maintaining a music-specific events calendar
- Establishing a “Music Advisory Board” of industry professionals to liaise with the City and to ensure the implementation of the Audit’s recommendations
Likewise, the audit recommends the City of Huntsville pursue events-based initiatives such as expanding programming in our public spaces, planning for an amphitheater and restarting an old event (like Big Spring Jam) or creating a music week (perhaps around #256day).
The Music Advisory Board will work with the City to oversee the implementation of the Audit’s recommendations. Anyone with experience in any part of the music industry can apply by e-mailing Dennis Madsen, City of Huntsville Manager of Urban and Long Range Planning, at Music@HuntsvilleAL.gov. Board Members will have experience in music, be it teaching, performing, producing, promoting, managing, etc. In the early phases, the City is committing matching staff time to assist with the establishment and function of the Board. The City is also making an active investment in venues and encouraging investments in new private venues that will support the mission (Music Hall, Amphitheatre, etc.).
Longer-term, the Music Officer position would be sourced through the City and potentially with industry partners, and their role would be as a resource for people working in the Huntsville music scene. They might help link artists with venues or management, introduce new artists to connections within the community or coordinate the planning of major music events. The Music Officer(s) would also assist in the marketing and recruitment of additional music-related jobs to further enhance the overall music industry within Huntsville.
Creating the Music Advisory Committee gives the City of Huntsville a good sounding board as implementation proceeds. Programming public spaces is a way to increase the exposure of Huntsville’s music scene. In developing the list of priorities, it comes down to what is realistic in the short-term, but also what sets the City up for success in the long-term.
Near-term will be about making connections. Using the Music Advisory Committee to establish regular communication with the City, and to make sure the Audit stays active; working with the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau to promote and expand Huntsville’s music offerings; supporting partners like Downtown Huntsville, Inc., the North Huntsville Business Association and South Huntsville Main Business Association in creating events in public spaces and identifying an entity that can create and maintain that music-specific events roster.
Building upon existing resources, like the Hip-Hop Tech Conference and Listen Local, the City of Huntsville anticipates more music venues coming online as well as more unique music-oriented events in Huntsville in addition to more diverse artistic representation. Long term, the City of Huntsville’s own music identity will develop in regards to both music-related jobs and events.