In our last entry about Music Development Strategies, we discussed the key ingredients needed as a city embarks on creating a successful music development strategy. And the way to get this development underway includes building a vision, researching the potential solutions, and the discipline to create and execute the plan while getting all of your resources to contribute. Having a sound music strategy provides the beneficial economic impact across many sectors including tourism, city brand building, cultural development, and more.

But how do you go about building a plan to develop a skilled musician workforce? As promised in the last article, we'll tackle the elements of a vision here based on the common problems across many music cities, and the techniques that have worked to address them. The key lies in understanding musicians, and not treating music like other creative sectors.

We agree with this core statement in The Mastering of a Music City: "The music industry starts with the artist. From there, an infrastructure and network of people grows around the artists and furthers their careers. A robust industry creates employment in all areas of music from its creation, to performance, to distribution and promotion."

Cities must approach musician revenue as a workforce development issue

We’ve been in the digital transformation of the music industry for years now, yet the business education/career development we are teaching our musicians are aimed at the music business of the past and highly inadequate for today's music industry. The question is how do we do this, and what does that mean? More specially, support for musicians needs to directly address the 4 critical issues facing musicians in every music development strategy which were exposed in the 2015 Austin Music Census:

  1. Musicians don’t make enough money.
  2. Musicians lack the music business knowledge and skills required to make money with music within today’s disrupted music industry.
  3. Musicians find it difficult to network and collaborate with others in their industry and across other creative sectors.
  4. Musicians lack access and knowledge to necessary resources and services that can help.

An interconnected set of solutions to meet the musicians needs and moving beyond the status quo

We see a lot of general business counseling for non-music businesses in cities and municipalities, but does it match the specific help they give to restaurants to get started, small businesses to handle their bookkeeping and hiring, and stores to get their permits?

Musicians have over a hundred revenue streams they can tap in the music industry today, and each activity they do such as live shows, royalties, licensing, and music sales has proven techniques available to them if they simply learn them and apply the concepts. But some of the income streams only flow to them if they register their work at least a dozen times in an alphabet soup of royalty agencies. Generic consulting for creative businesses or small businesses do not provide the musicians with the specific "how to" knowledge to make money with their music. If we're going to really tackle the four critical issues listed above, providing foundational support for musicians in your city requires a comprehensive plan. The good news is there is a way forward that connects all the dots:

  • Invest in better, targeted revenue development.
  • Shift the professional development services to methodical programs and away from panel discussions and informal workshops.
  • Consistently address the needs of existing working professional musicians rather than entry level or early stage musicians and bands.
  • Provide pro-level best practices training on expanding revenue opportunities.
  • Focus on expanding the connections for local musicians to business and revenue opportunities in other cities and countries.

We’ll dive deeper into how to do this in future blogs, plus Live Music Support for local business that provide live music outlets for musicians to have a place to play in the next blog. In the meantime, think about what additional challenges and opportunities your musicians have in your city and the existing resources available to them.