Local Culture Card: A Plan To Save Local Musicians, Retailers
As the pandemic continues to inflict damage on communities across the nation, this article explores the idea of a Local Culture Card, sponsored by state or local government, which would act as a kind of debit card, earmarked for spending on nearbye artists, retailers, and non-profits.
By Chris Castle from Music Technology Policy
The Local Culture Card would be a limited purpose debit card that permits the cardholder to purchase goods or services from a designated group of “local arts vendors” who would be artists, retailers or nonprofit arts organizations operating in the locality of the user. It would be like a targeted gift card sponsored by state or local government, local corporations, radio or television stations.
Local culture cards would be distributed free of charge to local residents charged up with a minimum payment that must be spent within 30 days of activation. Once funds are used, the issuer or sponsor could elect to replenish the funds on the same 30 day basis.
Alternatively, the local culture card could be sold like a gift card on the same terms.
The purpose of the Local Culture Card would be to empower consumers with purchasing power to directly inject cash into a local artist community—and quickly. This would help everyone in the supply chain from vinyl manufacturers to one-stops to local record stores to the artists themselves and their songwriters.
Those local arts vendors would sign up to accept the Local Culture Card as payment for goods or services. The Local Culture Card could not be used at Amazon, Spotify, Target, Best Buy, Apple or other big box retailers because the benefit would be too diffused and would not retain local funds in local communities. The card could instead be used for purchases at a local brick and mortar store’s online operation or to make a Venmo contribution for a live stream performance for a local artist (or purchase directly from the artist’s Bandcamp account).
The Local Culture Card would initially be charged with a minimum amount of credit or could be purchased like a gift card. It could be branded by locality, state or region and could also be branded as a sponsored card by either state or local government or other private sector sponsor. It could be included or branded as Record Store Day collateral or similar commercial efforts as it will be effective in both commercial and noncommercial applications.
For example, an Austin Culture Card could be sponsored by the Austin Music Office or the City of Austin Economic Development Department. City funds would be used to charge up the card with a minimum amount of spending power, say $50.
Artists like Guy Forsyth or Dave Madden could sign up to accept payment through a webpage for their direct online sales or contributions through Venmo or Paypal for live streaming events. Local retailers like Waterloo Records could sign up to accept the Austin Culture Card for purchases at their online store of recordings by any artist. Ballet Austin could sign up so that patrons could use the Austin Culture Card to donate to that organization. Alternatively, Austin Creative Alliance could sign up to accept donations for any of its member organizations.
The same process could be repeated by the Texas Music Office for artists statewide through the TMO’s “Music Friendly City” operation, or by the Small Business Administration for regional or national artists, retailers or organizations.
Alternatively Local Culture Cards could be sponsored by corporations and distributed to their customers or radio stations and distributed to their listeners. Indie labels could sponsor cards as a tie in with local record stores that carry the label’s recordings.
The only other requirement for using the Local Culture Card would be that the money had to be spent within 30 days of issuance or it would expire. Ideally a bank issuer would agree to provide the card as either a physical or virtual credit card for a zero transaction fee. Remember–the Local Culture Card is not scrip, it’s cold cash placed directly into the hands of artists, retailers and arts organizations by their fans.
While the examples I’ve given are from Austin, there is nothing unique about Austin. The Local Culture Card would be relevant for any city with a cultural community from New York to New Orleans–that the fans want to retain during and after the pandemic.