Chicago: Music City?

On Thursday night I found myself sitting in the Harris Theater for Dance and Music at Millennium Park contemplating the report on the music industry in Chicago, prepared by The Cultural Policy Center at The University of Chicago. You can get the entire report sent to you in an email as well as a digested synopsis on their website, but I’ll give you a digested digestion. I will be the mother bird, eating the worms and regurgitating back into your mouths.

Basically, the size of the music industry in Chicago is consistent with its population as compared to other cities, it has a very diverse musical palate, and there are a high number of concerts featuring both popular bands and critically acclaimed bands. BUT, the report feels that Chicago is still a city in hiding.

“By almost every measure, Chicago is a great music city…Yet other cities with smaller music industries and less vibrant scenes are much better known for their music. Unlike Nashville or Atlanta, Chicago has no carved out a specialty niche as a recording capital for a particular genre, nor has it established itself as a hub for the music industry’s trade shows, as Austin has done. And its variegated music scene has not developed a distinctive physiognomy like those found in some other cities with readily identifiable music districts…What [the music scene] becomes in the future depends on the genius of its music makers, to be sure, but also on what industry leaders, policymakers, and other stakeholders do with these findings.”

I recommend getting informed on this if you have anything to do with music in Chicago so your voice can be heard and you’re not left complaining that no one is doing anything to support musicians in Chicago. And no you don’t have to move to Brooklyn to make it (former Mpls Hold Steady), just get involved in your city. As panelist and President of Nu Face Entertainment Rita Lee said, “The Windy City! We burnt down twice and we’re still here!”

Everyone feels that the music industry is changing and it is up to the musicians and industry members to foster the change instead of the owners forcing the artists to adapt to whatever is most profitable. There was some semi-scary talk about branding and exposure, but this is an inevitable conclusion in modern America, so as long as the collective group of musicians is in control of this branding then I see no problem with it.

Director of Cultural Planning for the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs Julie Burros and Executive Director of the Chicago Music Commission Paul Natkin are working together to educate the Chicago community in a series of seminars beginning February 4th entitles “Building Your Band” followed by one on March 10th subsequently called “Building Your Audience”. Nice, they give you a month to get your band together and then they bring you along slowly, yet firmly. So for anyone still waiting to realize their dreams as a rock star, now there are no excuses.

Some cool info I found out: The CMC got the Chicago Airport Commission to agree to make all music piped into the airports to be by Chicago artists or by artists on Chicago-based labels. Starts February 1st.