The city of Huntsville has big plans to expand its music scene

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -  The city of Huntsville began a music audit in April 2018, now they are sharing the next steps.

Huntsville leaders hired Sound Diplomacy of London to conduct the audit. After they analyzed the city's current music economy they made tangible recommendations on how they can grow it through building infrastructure, updating zoning, and creating better collaboration opportunities.

WHY

As North Alabama continues to grow there is an increased need to attract more employees. The city of Huntsville hopes that creating a more vibrant music scene can help them convince prospective employees to call Huntsville home.

Huntsville Manager of Urban and Long Range Planning, Dennis Madsen said, "It's not just about affordable housing and a good job. A lot of folks want to know when I am not at work or I am not at home there are fun things to do."

Madsen says the city didn't just take on the audit because they "like music" they saw it as an opportunity for economic development. "When you grow an industry that has potential you can support all of the attendant industries that serve it," Madsen said.  "If you start getting more concerts that means more revenue for hotels, more revenue for restaurants, that's more revenue for other amenities that might be served when people come into town."

Madsen also said the region has a deep musical heritage and that is something they want to embrace.  Many people travel from all over the world to visit the Shoals and tour 'Fame Recording Studios'  and 'Muscle Shoals Sound Studio'. The city of Huntsville wants to make the region a place music fans want to linger around in.

NEXT STEPS

Implementing all of the findings will take years but here is what you can expect to see soon.

  • A volunteer music board
  • A music officer
  • More elaborate local music events
  • Music conferences

THE MUSIC BOARD

Madsen said the first step is to create a music board. He said the volunteer board will be made up of 7-9 community members that are involved in the local music industry.

"Maybe some artists, some folks who manage venues, some folks who program music, maybe produce music, to kind of get them together to serve on something kind of like the arts Huntsville board," said Madsen

The board will help the city facilitate and manage the audit findings to improve the local music scene.

Madsen said city leaders chose to appoint a board because they recognize they are just that, a city government and they recognize there is a lot they don't know about the music field.

The board would give us insight as to who the city should reach out to, when and where they should host festivals and work as a liaison between the city and the music community. "We see it very much as kind of a partnership," said Madsen.

30  to 40 people have already turned in statements of interest, and the city is still welcoming more applicants. To apply, reach out to Dennis Madsen. His email is music@huntsvilleal.gov.

The city legally has to create an ordinance before they can appoint the board. Madsen said they are working on the ordinance right now, and they expect to have it approved within the next month. They plan to have the board established by the end of 2019.

MUSIC CONFERENCES

Madsen said the private industry is also taking off on its own. He mentioned Codie Gopher who is the Co-founder and General Manager of Slow Motion Soundz, an independent music company based here in Huntsville.

On October 17 Gopher is hosting a Hip-Hop Tech Conference for the fourth year.  According to the event's website, this year's focus is on establishing the possibilities for Hip Hop Tech development, defining the direction of teaching Music Technology in Huntsville public schools, the global influence of hip hop, the future of STREAM, and many more real-time issues.

The city said they are potentially interested in building on events like this to add to the music economy.

MUSIC OFFICER

The city will also appoint a music officer. The position will be a full time paid position. They will be responsible for coordinating all of the efforts and putting them into action. They plan to have the role filled by the end of 2020.

VENUES

Madsen said the city is considering redoing John Hunt Park. The city is going to add a mountain biking and cross country track, and they are considering music as they make changes.

There are also plans to build a $4 million 8,500 capacity amphitheater in Mid-City.

MORE MUSIC IN SCHOOLS

Madsen said implementing music in schools will likely take "a lot of work and a lot of partnerships" but they already have a head start.

He said people like Mario Maitland with the Maitland Conservatory are already partnering with schools. The conservatory partners with Jemison High School and has created a music technology club.

Madsen said the city hopes to expand on the idea that students can learn about what goes into producing music. "It helps folks understand that while we are frequently exposed to the artist, there is a whole lot that goes into presenting the artist," Madsen said.

From production to graphic design, the city said that high school students would benefit from learning these trades.

He said adding more music curriculum to schools will not just help students pursue a career in the industry, it will also help them appreciate it.

"You're not just creating artistry, you're creating a broader audience for the artist," Madsen said.

CHILDREN'S EVENTS

Madsen said that many parents have reached out to the city to establish more children's productions.

He says there are already a few opportunities for that around the city in places like Tangled Strings, but he thinks there may be opportunities to add more.

The city has been talking with some other places that have venues that may be willing to support an 'Emerging Artist Night' where artists can perform and gain some exposure.

Anther opportunity mentioned by Madsen was more neighborhood music festivals or neighborhood festivals in general.

"The great thing about neighborhood festivals is it's a great way for emerging artists to kind of get their feet wet," said Madsen.

Creating more opportunities could be a key part of growing the region's music scene.

For more information on the music audit or if you have questions or ideas email music@huntsvilleal.gov.

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