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December 05, 2007

Richard Florida

More Music

« Walkability Index | Main | The Memphis Manifesto »

I was thinking of the music project on the way into Memphis - the land of BB King, Elvis, Sun Studios and so much more.

Popular music is not just about sound.  It seems to me popular music is a particularly vivid and useful lens for viewing the evolution and cutting-edge of contemporary capitalism.

Music is highly tied to technological innovation - the phonograph, radio, cable television, internet, social media, and the ipod are just a few rthat come to mind.

Music is connected to social change, the 30s and 60s for example.

Music shapes new business models. The band as a mechanism for developing and disseminating sounds - sort of like the startup company: It is in many ways a metaphor for team production.  The shift, today, to artist-based production and dissemination via the internet and social media.

I could go on, but dinner beckons.  Oh for those Memphis, dry-rub ribs.

Your thoughts?

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Comments

Robert

Memphis ranks low on the Creative class index even through there are apparently many talented musicians living in Memphis. To me this is just further proof of the idea that engineers not artists or musicians contribute proportionately more to economic growth. Music is a winner take all business with only a handful of big artists responsible for most of the revenue. Thus only a handful of musicians contribute most of the economic output. With engineers EVERY engineer can make significant contributions to economic output. For example, a complex software program can be broken down into modules which can be each coded by different engineers each engineer being assigned a different function to code. If this were a tax calculation program then each module would be essential to the overall package and thus each engineer contributes. With music it is completely different and that is one of the reasons that explains Memphis's low economic ranking.

Furthermore, after reading some of of documents posted on this site many city managers/advisors seem to think incorrectly that attracting artists is neccessary to attract engineers to their city. I remember reading an advisor/ city manager saying something to the effect that "we need to concentrate on attracting and supporting artists and that the engineers will take care of themselves." This is exactly the opposite of what should be done. It is the engineers that you need to provide support for in order to prime the pump of your local economy not musicians or artists.

Jim Mohagan

When the 20th century is looked back on with some perspective, I believe the greatest cultural achievement will be judged to have been the popular music created by, and originally for, Afro-Americans. Its cultural stature and influence will be equivalent to 19th century French painting or Elizabethan theater.

From Ragtime through Blues, Jazz, Swing, Rhythm & Blues, Rock, Soul, Funk, Rap, & Hip Hop, generational waves of incredible music, enabled by new electronic technologies such as recording machines, record players and radio, reached and influenced people throughout the country and eventually the world.

The original source for this musical powerhouse was a small group of regional cities - Memphis, New Orleans, Atlanta & Dallas. The records were on small, local labels and the musicians mostly knew each other. BTW, did you know that Robert Johnson once played in Ontario?

We are now 10 years into a technological revolution similar to the electronic one a century ago, but this one is global right out of the gate. What new creative explosions are waiting to be unleashed? Where will the new centres be?

Abby

The defining element of popular music has always been youth. Young people with a willingness to push the boundaries of acceptability and the buttons of older generations, whether through genre or technology. Do you think music becomes less of an art when associated with capitalism and the money making machine (aka, Radiohead- artists, not entertainers since they essentially gave away their new album)?

RF

Abby - A new business model is surely in the making. Music may be in the lead here, but the writers' strike also indicates it extends further. And open source software ... Well, let's just say this new business model for the creative industries is rapidly evolving. At bottom is the battle between creativity and control, and IP is at the center of it.

Jim -Touche and nicely said. These are the themes running through the music project. I agree wholeheartedly with your characterization of the long-run impact of this kind of American music. These crossroads - migrant-magnet - cities were the focal point of the worldwide dissemination of this new sound. At dinner in Memphis last night we were not only astounded by how incredibly fresh this music still sounds, but how much about it our wait-person knew. I also agree that this new musical evolution is global out of the date. Will post about that in a minute.

Kelly Shaw

I'd like to learn more about the music project mentioned here, is there a post or program that could bring me up to speed?

No doubt musicians are creative class, however they are artists first.
Art for the sake of itself is difficult to market, but thankfully this doesn't limit it's creation and emotional impact. The drums were taken away, but the vocal harmonies were not. Totally appreciate Jim's points. Human emotion is everywhere not just creative centers.

As an art form music has possibly seen more commercial success than any other single form. Now we have a music business.
Commercially creating music (not muzic) is not the same as commercially creating new software or equipment. The problem solving models are different. The reasons why are different.

I think it is important to identify the differences in motivation and methods between artist and knowledge worker when defining or describing creative class communities of interest or practice.

RF

Kelly - Well said. There are some previous posts, including one under the favorite posts section - It's Only Rock and Roll. The others are this month or late last month. Thanks for your points They are well taken and important. You got me thinking, which is always a good thing.

Gary Dee

Robert - as an engineer who has struggled to live in creative class-friendly cities (now in Portland, Oregon), I look at Silicon Valley (San Jose, Santa Clara, Milpitas, Palo Alto) and see a suburban sprawl with the headquarters of Fry's Electronics ... which is what most engineers seem to want! While I knew of people who lived in San Francisco and commuted down the 101 in the 80's and early 90's, that has become less viable with the reverse commute disappearing as traffic flows evened out.

That was also the case in Chicago, where I moved up to Evanston after the reverse commute on the Kennedy went away, for work in Arlington Heights. And there, the majority of my colleagues lived in the NW Suburbs rather than the City or North Shore.

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