Music policy leaders from San Antonio, Seattle, Alberta, Milwaukee, New Orleans, San Francisco, Austin, Fort Collins, London Ontario, Victoria BC, Memphis, Washington DC, Toronto, Portland and Kalmar Sweden, connected for two days of intensive discussions and presentations this month in Austin.

From the beginning we felt a shared belonging, as we went around the room hearing what was and wasn’t working for each participant in their respective communities. Certainly, the field of music policy and the development of the concept of music cities has made great strides in recent years. But this work of building bridges across sectors and professional cultures can feel unsettling for each of us individually. We can get pulled in so many different directions, so this time together in the same room discussing and reflecting on ways to make real progress on our most important issues helps re-define our “center.”


Sound Music Cities and the Music Policy Forum (which together hosted the gathering) put together a fast-paced and diverse set of topics, including revenue development, music venue preservation, community radio’s role in local music scenes, measurement and data collection strategies, export, audience development and community partnership development.

From these sessions each of us collected a tool-kit of ideas—snapshots of things that have worked or not worked for others. Throughout the coming year we will be able to draw on this expertise, which is one of the greatest benefits from this group pooling its experience into a shared knowledge-base. It bolsters our confidence to initiate new ideas in our respective communities.

Finding the right questions 

Based on the discussions of the think tank, Sound Music Cities and the Music Policy Forum suggest we consider the following questions:

  • What is our field? How do we define what we can do?
  • How do we communicate what we cannot do, in a way that inspires music ecosystem participants who have historically segregated themselves, to engage with others, diversify outside their industry subsectors, and take greater roles?
  • How might our understanding of the language of public policy more effectively drive the formulation and deployment of music-friendly policies?
  • How do we nurture greater equity and diversity in music industry leadership, partnerships and cross-sector collaborations?
  • Are there methodologies we can borrow from larger social change initiatives to address our music ecosystem’s biggest problems?
  • And, speaking of which, the question that is bringing our field to a crisis point currently: What more can we be doing to address the affordability crisis in many of our cities?

We look forward to supporting and assisting this community-of-practice for the challenges ahead. Stay tuned over the coming weeks and months as we dive more deeply into each of these questions from the think tank.