Music & The Creative Class: Why Place Matters To Music & Music Matters To Place

Map nashville (Part 3) In previous installments of Music & The Creative Class, I explored the importance that musicians and the business that follow them play in the growing Creative Class that is reshaping America and much of the developed world.  Not only does music add flavor to a neighborhood or city, as they have in Nashville, Memphis or New Orleans; but musicians are also often "fruit fly indicators" or harbingers of future growth as they have been from Austin, Texas and Brooklyn Heights, New York.

But if musicians mater to place, how much does place matter to musicians. In an era of net based social networking and online collaboration combined with fast and easy travel, it is tempting to say that where musicians live matters far less than it once did.  But in Who's Your City?, the follow up to Richard Florida's groundbreaking The Rise of the Creative Class, the author argues that for most "creatives", where to live is the most important decision of their lives. 

Music is most often a collaborative art form and it would be easy to answer…

the question of how much place matters to music with that fact alone. Musicians need to be near other musicians, but for them to thrive, they also need affordable housing, places to perform and fans to see them. And along with each of these comes businesses, managers and support staff.  Over time, a community grows that then attracts more of the same.

In "Who's Your City", Florida recounts the tale of Jack White of the White Stripes moving his band from the grit of Detroit which shaped his sound to the polish and twang of Nashville.  Despite the seeming incongruity, White is thriving because he finds the Music City more professional, less confrontational and less melodramatic. "Like Silicon Valley, it is a place where the best and brightest in their fields can collaborate with other top talent",  Florida writes, as well as be supported by a shared infrastructure.

Does every musician need to pack up their instruments and flock to the nearest music mecca to make it?  Florida argues that "super star cities" attract and support many creatives.  But musicians and artists, who are so fed by individualized muses may be a bit different than computer programming creatives tethered to their own brand of keyboards. Overtime, for example, Nashville may change the music that Jake White makes just as Detroit helped form it.

But wherever White or others makes music, they will need people to perform with and fans to come see them. Look to your left and to your right the next time that you walk down the street. Are your surrounded by other creatives and the people that support them?  Is this your tribe?  If not, can you build one?

TOMORROW: Music & The Creative Class resources.


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  1. If you wanna play The Masters, play with Tiger Woods. If not, hang around your putt-putt course. Most local bands we know don’t even come to shows. They’re too busy masturbating in their garages or listening to crappy radio or convincing themselves that “all they need” is that “big break” from the “cool venue,” (which they don’t go to) and they’re on their way. No matter WHERE you live, get out, see a show, spend time with other musicians, create your own band-battles in your own backyards. Fiction/book/literary writers do it all the time. The music business is so corrupt, though, that it has driven home the idea that the pie’s so tiny, the competition so fierce that there’s no room for new/developing bands, that all they can really do is stay in their crappy moldy storage-unit practice space and bang away for hours and hope for a call one day from a nifty venue. Or move to Nashville! Ask any wannabe fiction writer at any of countless thousands of workshops, seminars, writer’s groups that she will one day be published, and she’ll tell you she will. Nobody “develops” a writer. Nobody develops bands, either. Writers learn. Bands don’t. Doesn’t matter where you live. Get with the program.

  2. Jack White was a mega famous, millionaire before he moved to Nashville. He wasn’t even doing White Stripes at the time when he moved, he was playing with The Raconteurs. I don’t think that was a very good example.

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