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How music impacts city planning: Part 1

In the first of a new series, Center for Music Ecosystems director Shain Shapiro looks at the role of music cities in 2022

14 Jan 2022

Shain Shapiro, Sound Diplomacy

How Music Impacts City Planning: Observations for 2022. Part 1.

In the first of a new series, Center for Music Ecosystems director Shain Shapiro analyses the role of music cities in 2022…

Last year, I wrote a series on Post Pandemic Music Ecosystems and how they could improve in 2021. Twelve months on there are advancements, but we have a long way to go.

Music – the making of it, providing education, enjoying it, the industry that commercialises it and how all of us, through public funding, pay for it – continues to impact how we plan, live in, and interact with the places we call home. Music can improve mental health, bring us together, make us smarter and more equitable. But it can also be contentious and divisive. Regardless, for it to benefit everyone, it needs careful planning, management, and importantly, resources. I believe music will become an even larger part of all our lives in 2022, so this series outlines some observations of what we should expect in 2022 and how we can all make the most of music – whoever we are and wherever we live.

In 2022, Music Will Become A Louder Voice in Government. Will We Listen and Importantly, Invest In Its Benefits?

There is more music out there than ever before. Over 60,000 tracks are uploaded to Spotify alone every day. There are more places to listen to music, be it in person, on TV, in adverts, in bars, restaurants and hotels, in gaming, or in the metaverse. We can own music-themed NFTs. Music rights continue to be traded robustly (for example, David Bowie’s estate sold to Warner Music last week). The value of music copyright — the songs we listen to — grew by 2.7% to over $32 billion in 2021. The pie is larger, wider, and deeper than ever before.

This is being mirrored in city halls, county boards, and statehouses around the world. There are more music boards, music commissions and music officers in cities & places than ever before. Every province in France has a music office (here’s one, as an example). In December, Greater Manchester set one up. Every state in Australia has a music office, same with every province in Canada. More cities became UNESCO Cities of Music. This is happening in communities of all sizes. For example, Kirklees (a region centred around Huddersfield) in the North of England declared a Year of Music for 2023.

“Music continues to demonstrate a return on investment”

The recognition of music’s value in government –  no matter the size – expanded in 2021 and the trend will continue in 2022. More headlines of seven-figure rights deals, coupled with the continued economic challenges the pandemic has brought on local communities, which includes artists, venues and businesses, will further strengthen a need to act.

Music continues to demonstrate a return on investment; how to best capitalise on this to benefit local communities will continue to command more time in council minutes, memos and reports. This time translating to greater resources for music in communities is what 2022 will reveal.

Most of the place-based boards and commissions are volunteer and few have legislative or advisory clout. There remains a disconnect between the growth of the commercial music industry and its potential impact on improving communities, as much of the success, especially with heritage acts (where 69.8% of all market share in the United States, for example, is catalogue or heritage artists), is long past caring where the artist originated from. We are all listening to more music, but much of it is music we know. This does not always mean this success leads to greater educational infrastructure, studios, access to instruments, and conscientious regulatory frameworks to enable new music to thrive. This is an opportunity for all of us this year.

Boards being able to review planning applications that impact music infrastructure (as is the case in Cardiff), levies (be it on streaming, arena and stadium tickets) to funnel investment in local talent, creating non-profit local music rights structures (as I have advocated for), ensuring there are music offices in all levels of government (such as Australia) committing to music education everywhere (Lewis Prize is a great influence) and addressing systemic racism all cost money. In many places, the teams have been assembled, but that’s as far as we have gotten. In 2022, more of them should be playing meaningful games, so the analogy goes.

“A noise complaint creates bureaucracy, costs, takes time, forces people to take sides and destabilises communities”

Noise Complaints: It Will Impact More Of Us & We Need Better Solutions To Mitigate It

Basic functions of civic society are often ignored when they function behind the scenes. Think of rubbish removal, street sweeping, bus driving, and so on. When they break down, they impact all of us. Few of us take our rubbish directly to the tip. All of us lucky enough to drink clean water for the tap ignore the infrastructure required for it to happen and clean water is only important when you don’t have it.

The same goes for a night’s sleep or a cherished night out. However, as our cities continue to increase in density, we’re making decisions – across planning, licensing, building design and business activities – that is, at least if you believe the data, making cities noisier. The pandemic greatly exacerbated sound and noise issues in communities. In London, they surged by 50% in 2020.

After months of silence, when life returned to main streets and city centres, so did all of us, and we are noisy creatures. No matter who is in the wrong, a noise complaint creates bureaucracy, costs, takes time, forces people to take sides and destabilises communities. This is a complex issue and instead of focusing on the effects, 2022 should be a year where we – collectively – address the root causes. Often, it is down to decisions made in planning (where homes are built, what construction material is permitted, how structures are designed, how areas are landscaped), in addition to the actions of residents and businesses.

There are dozens of cities grappling with this issue (San Antonio is a good case). So my plan, and I hope you join me, is to do something about it. The Center for Music Ecosystems is going to develop – with experts – a model noise ordinance and a set of best practises for all towns and cities to use – if they wish — in hopes to make it available to all communities in 2022.

“I believe that a dozen more countries states and places – at a minimum – will begin exploring the role and impact their music ecosystems could have on their citizens in 2022

2022 Will Be A Year of Music Policy Experimentation, Rhetoric, and Advancement

Many more governments are experimenting with music policies at a local level than ever before. In the final weeks of 2021, Saudi Arabia hosted its first music conference and launched a strategy. Abu Dhabi did the same across the wider creative industries. Zimbabwe finished an extensive study into its music economy with the help of UNESCO. The Philippines is in the middle of a study now.

What becomes of this is to be seen. In countries that lack robust copyright regimes, will these studies entice governments to take action to protect and embolden intellectual property? What are the implications of the changing nature of how music makes money, especially in places that restrict internet access or lack music education? Will music be a tool to increase equity, or further the wealth gap? Is growth for growth’s sake the be-all and end-all, and how does this impact music’s role in addressing the climate emergency?

I believe that a dozen more countries, states and places  – at a minimum – will begin exploring the role and impact their music ecosystems could have on their citizens in 2022. I anticipate increased investment in the aforementioned countries (maybe a new music board or two) as well. Many more songs could support many more pensions in 2022, but we must back these commitments with action, rather than rhetoric.

If we invest in local music policy, continue to improve local relationships through conscientious sound and noise policies and encourage all governments to explore and invest in their music ecosystems, 2022 will be a good year. That’s our objective and what we aim to achieve. If you’re up for joining me or partnering on a project, please get in touch.

For Part 2, I’m going to explore the role of music ecosystems in combating the climate emergency in 2022, and what we can look forward to together.


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