Money from Music: Where We Live

Posted on September 11th, 2013 by Jean Cook in What We're Learning. 1 Comment

C. Immersion into a music ecosystem
Of course if you want to be in movies you should be in L.A.
– Rock Band Guitarist

In certain parts of the country, there is a critical mass of the music industry that wants and can afford a certain kind of ‘behind the scenes’ musical service – film and television studios needing background music, publishers looking for hit country songs, or recording studios seeking hired gun musicians to book for studio sessions. Our interviewees described again and again how the concentration of these opportunities – especially in Los Angeles and Nashville – attracts musicians and composers, and how a unique location-centric culture develops within that music community.

With film and TV it does matter where you live, absolutely. I think you have to be in L.A. if you’re really serious about it.
– Classical Composer

Almost everyone that has any kind of success in the country market locates somewhere near Nashville, [even if it’s just] their business management. [Being located in Nashville allows for] a very centralized kind of marketing and communication.
– Nashville Songwriter B

If you’ve taken the trouble of re-locating to a place like Nashville then people know you’re serious. The perception is that you’re here to get down to work. There’s also the perception that if you’re here for any length of time, you probably developed a track record of some kind,…[which is] important [to] your credibility as a songwriter.
– Professional Songwriter

These kinds of perceptions and expectations are fed in part by the real accomplishments of their peers. Our survey found that over 30% of respondents who lived in Nashville reported getting some commercial radio airplay, and Nashville residents were seven times more likely to say they received frequent commercial radio airplay than the general survey population.


Similar observations were made about how certain genres seem to have aligned themselves with certain locations.

If you want to do something on a major record label scale [in urban music] I think that you need to be in Atlanta or New York…and California (only, in my opinion, because record labels are in California)…If you’re doing country, I think it serves you well to be in Nashville, but quite a bit of R&B and Gospel music is recorded there as well. If you’re doing some rap and definitely Spanish-based music, then Miami would be key…
– Entertainment Attorney in Atlanta

One interviewee made the observation that for a genre like classical music, the key funders who drive music production are less often industry players such as record labels, publishers, or production studios. Instead, classical groups rely more on individual patrons, foundations, and corporations for support. For an operation as large as a symphony orchestra, there are only a few places with a critical mass of patrons of the arts and foundations who can support that kind of infrastructure, and those are the largest cities.

…if you just do the math, even if we’re selling on average 2,250 seats per show… it’s still somewhere between 8,000-10,000 people a week for 30 weeks coming to hear this symphony. That’s not going to happen in most places in America, unless you have a huge population base to draw from
– Symphony Orchestra Manager

Next: who doesn’t need to live in a music city?

One response to “Money from Music: Where We Live”

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