A new report says music can have a powerful impact on the economy and people’s wellbeing, provided places develop the right infrastructure to support it. 

Photo of the Beatles
The Beatles, used to create effect by Liverpool during its Albert Dock redevelopment
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Towns and cities must become fully affordable for artists if they are to protect their music offerings, a new guide by consultancy Sound Diplomacy claims.

Places are urged to “humanise [their] buildings and land” and ensure arts, music and culture are incorporated into an affordable housing strategy – using tax incentives and micro-grant schemes to encourage artists to relocate to an area and stay there.

The guide also highlights the importance of mapping the local music environment, protecting music education in schools and supporting the night time economy.

The recommendations follow a recent report from a parliamentary inquiry warning politicians and the music industry of the need to protect grassroots music venues to stem the tide of closure across the country. 

“Few cities understand how to plan, manage and develop music for economic, social and cultural gain,” says the Sound Diplomacy report. “Only a handful have developed the foundation in policy to sow the seeds of music across industry development, tourism, sustainability, social inclusion and health and wellbeing.

It continues: “If you don’t monitor [music’s] activity and understand its value to other city departments and assets, it will depreciate and your city will lose the substantial benefits music can bring.”

Increasing value

The report, called Music Cities: Your Manual, is described as a set of tools, case studies and lessons for increasing the value of music in cities, towns and places.

The authors say their method leads to the development of new music infrastructure, networks, jobs and strengthened economies.

They recommend that places: 

  • Draw on their heritage, as Liverpool did by making its association with The Beatles central to its Albert Dock Development
  • Link together music and tourism, by making it easier for visitors to go to grassroots music venues, and by playing local music in transport stations or on buses
  • Prioritise music education at all levels and pledge to “stop cutting music education funding”.

The report also calls for music to be central to health and wellbeing policy, given increasing amounts of research that shows it can reduce stress and create “better, happier, more efficient people, from birth to death”.

Lessons

The report concludes with key lessons from cities that operate thriving music policies, including the importance of networks of non-music professionals like planners and people in the hospitality sector, and the need to lose a sense of fear about communicating successes and failures.

Similarly, it warns places must keep planning regulations in mind, as they are equally as important – if not as glamorous – as marketing and branding plans for local music. 

“Your music policy is a process. There is no beginning, middle and end,” the authors add. “Treat it as a garden – nourish the soil, water the plants and deal with the pests.

“And keep a close, watchful eye. If you do that, you’ll enjoy the fruits of your toils year in, year out.”

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