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Sound Diplomacy begins nation’s largest music-ecosystem survey in Tennessee Valley 

Published on May 31, 2018

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Music industry audits aim to position Huntsville as Alabama’s First Certified Music City and highlight the Muscle Shoals region music legacy to increase the value of music across North Alabama.

May 31, 2018

(Huntsville and Muscle Shoals, Alabama) — Huntsville and the Muscle Shoals Region in North Alabama have come together to commission the largest music audit and inventory ever seen in the United States.  Representatives from Sound Diplomacy, a London, Berlin and Barcelona-based music policy consultancy and global expert in developing long-term and self-sufficient music strategies, will be in North Alabama next week as part of a bold initiative that could see Huntsville gain national attention as the state’s first certified Music City and accentuate the existing prestige of the Muscle Shoals music influence.

In a landmark move, the region’s cities (Huntsville, Tuscumbia, Sheffield, Muscle Shoals and Florence), along with leading developer RCP Companies and the Florence CVB have partnered to commission this piece of work which will map the existing music ecology in the region and produce an action plan to increase its value and competitiveness.  To start the project, the consultants and local leaders will hold a ‘Town Hall Meeting’ to learn about the project and weigh in at an open forum on June 6.

“This is the most forward-thinking initiative we’ve been a part of in a long time,” said Shain Shapiro PhD, CEO, Sound Diplomacy.  “Five cities in partnership with CVBs, Heritage Areas and the development sector across a region coming together to make the most of their collective music past, present and now future. It’s a privilege to work in Huntsville and the Shoals and we’re excited to be a part of this.  North Alabama is very, very cutting edge.”

In April, the Huntsville City Council voted unanimously to engage Sound Diplomacy on a music ecosystem study for the city, which ultimately will provide a comprehensive picture of the area’s music assets – from talent to recording studios to performance spaces – and its opportunities – from music-friendly municipal codes, ordinances and zoning, to economic impact.

“Look at the most dynamic cities today, and you’ll likely see an exciting music and cultural scene,” said Shane Davis, Director of Urban Development for the City of Huntsville.  “When we go after the best and brightest workers and the most innovative companies, entertainment is a major item on the checklist. This work will help us understand what we are doing well, what we need to do better, and to develop a set of strategies so that music can be integrated into our growing economy.”

Adjacent to Huntsville, The Shoals Area – including quad-cities Muscle Shoals, Florence, Sheffield, and Tuscumbia, the Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area and the Florence CVB – followed the lead by approving an audit of their music history, existing ecosystems related to advancing tourism and all aspects of music performance as an economic driver.  Together, the cities aim to develop the most comprehensive and compelling music offer in the region, one that includes the globally renowned Americana MusicTriangle and award-winning artists across multiple genres, from hip-hop to country, blues to soul.

This is the first time a region has commissioned an audit, one that sees music elevated as a key economic driver for the region. The City of Huntsville is investing in expanded music venues at Butler Green, the Von Braun Center’s new music hall, and a new amphitheater at MidCity.  In addition, developers RCP are establishing a new music hub called the 7-2 at MidCity and in the Shoals, the continued development of the legacies of both Muscle Shoals Sound and FAME Studios continues to grow, soon-to-be subject of a new series to be produced Johnny Depp and Nancy Wilson and due for release in 2019.

“North Alabama is well-positioned to be a global leader in the creative economy,” said Judy Hood, Executive Director, Muscle Shoals Music Foundation. “Governments and successful companies around the globe are embracing the importance of creative industries as a source of employment and cultural growth. During the past five years the Shoals area has experienced unprecedented growth in music tourism. The fact that all four cities in the Shoals signed off on this study shows that our leaders understand and embrace the potential of music as a key economic driver.”

Sound Diplomacy will have Katja Hermes – Global Director of Projects and Azucena Mico, Deputy Global Director of Projects, embedded in Huntsville and The Shoals region beginning June 4 conducting field research and meeting key stakeholders across the public and private sectors. On June 6, Sound Diplomacy and the City of Huntsville will host an open forum from 5:30-8 pm at the Yellowhammer Lost Highway Bierhall.  This forum will allow the community to meet the Sound Diplomacy team, learn more, and engage with the music industry audit.  All are welcome. Further meetings will be announced for Muscle Shoals Region, through local channels.

WHAT: Open Forum on Huntsville’s music industry audit, hosted by City of Huntsville and Sound Diplomacy

WHEN: 5:30-8 p.m., June 6

WHERE: The Yellowhammer Lost Highway Bierhall, Campus No. 805,  2600 Clinton Avenue West, Huntsville, 35805.

WHO: Open to the public


Sound Diplomacy is the leader of the global music cities movement.  As strategists for cities, developers, large private sector organizations and governments, Sound Diplomacy provide cutting-edge research and market expertise in placing music and night time economy strategy in city, urban and development plans.  Sound Diplomacy works in over 20 countries and counts the Mayor of London, City of San Francisco, Lendlease, Walton Family Foundation and City of Brisbane as clients. They also run the global leading series of conferences of music and public policy, called Music Cities Events.