I sit around a table with members of Indy’s music media, along with representatives from The Indianapolis Star, local radio station WTTS, and more. The reason for this Thursday morning gathering? We’re all weighing in on the current state of music in Indianapolis, discussing successes and failures we’ve seen locally in recent years.
This roundtable was one of 13 that took place between July 8 and July 12, with music policy consultancy Sound Diplomacy moderating the discussions. In addition to the media roundtable, there were two roundtable discussions with local artists (musicians, singers, music producers, etc.). Other roundtables featured recording industry and studio representatives, music retail and tech representatives, music education representatives, and more.
“One of the values of these roundtables is clearly the fact that we are able to speak to the music ecosystem in its width,” says Sound Diplomacy senior project manager Azucena Micó, who traveled to Indianapolis to moderate the roundtables and gather information on Indy’s music ecosystem. “The other thing is that things in paper [regulations] can be read one way, but then when they turn up in reality they are not a big deal.”
As mentioned in our original story on the Indy Music Strategy, one unique piece of legislation that affects Indianapolis is the dancehall ordinance. This was highlighted in the regulatory assessment, which was put together as part of the Indy Music Strategy’s Phase I. Although it would seem to have some implications on Indy’s music community, Micó says the dancehall ordinance was not a major issue that came up during the roundtables.
“On paper, it sounds like a burden, but the venues didn’t complain about it,” she says. “I personally think that it’s still something that needs to be out. It’s collecting money from the venues that doesn’t necessarily revert into them at the end, so I don’t really think that it should still be in place.”
While talking to about 120 people over the course of the 13 roundtables, Micó says one consistent topic that came up was the “all-ages vs. 21-and-over” issue with Indianapolis music venues.
“At the end, this city faces the same kind of problems [as other cities] in many ways,” Micó says. “All-ages and 21+ seems to be a big issue here more than in any other city that we’ve been to, although it has always been mentioned [in other cities].”
On the other hand, one major positive that Sound Diplomacy found through their regulatory assessment was the ability for individual Indianapolis artists to receive grant funding.
“On a positive note, it’s super interesting and unique that the Arts Council can give grants to artists and not only nonprofits because that’s usually a very difficult barrier to surpass for artists in general, and musicians in this case,” Micó says.
Now that the roundtables have been completed, Sound Diplomacy is working on putting together a survey that will gather further information from the Indianapolis music community at large. As part of this survey, all Indianapolis residents will be asked to share their thoughts, whether they’re musicians or simply music fans.
“It will be quite specific,” says Micó of the public survey. “If you’re a musician, you will get some questions. If you’re a music business, you will get others. It’s very catered toward specific actors because we really want to understand the most specific assets and challenges for every different sector within the ecosystem.”
Following the public survey, the final part of Phase II (i.e. the ecological impact assessment) will be drafting a map of Indy’s music ecosystem.
“In the map, we’re going to include all the music assets in the city,” Micó says. “Venues and recording studios are the most obvious [to be included], but there will also be music education assets and where the record labels are based.”
After completing the ecological impact assessment, Sound Diplomacy will move on to Phase III, which will be an economic impact assessment. Fundraising is still being done in order to fund Phase III, although Indy Chamber’s Jim Rawlinson says the Indy Music Strategy team is “very close” to reaching the dollar amount needed in order to move forward.
“We’re going to do an economic impact analysis, which will try to find out the value of music in the city,” Micó says. “[We’ll be looking at] how much it’s really worth, how many jobs it generates, how much money it gives to the city and the population, average wages, and more.”
Following the economic impact assessment, the final step is to put together a plan for the city, in order to have it be the best music city it can be.
“With all the findings we’ve gathered through the process, we come up with a plan, which is a series of recommended actions that the city can undertake in order to become a music-friendly city and log the value of music for social, cultural, and economic growth,” Micó says.
All in all, the strategy’s intent is to make the most of what Indy already has in place.
“We don’t want to necessarily create anything new or reinvent the wheel,” Micó says. “What we want to do is maximize what’s there and help the existing ecosystem find better ways and get the most effective support from the city for them to thrive and develop.”
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