Council looking to support local music, education

Wade Ogle, owner, does inventory Monday at Block Street Records in Fayetteville. The store has been open for over five years. Visit for more images. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/J.T. Wampler)
Wade Ogle, owner, does inventory Monday at Block Street Records in Fayetteville. The store has been open for over five years. Visit for more images. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/J.T. Wampler)

FAYETTEVILLE -- Northwest Arkansas needs to invest in music because it can be a significant economic and cultural driver, according to a new study.

The Northwest Arkansas Council commissioned a study in partnership with the cultural planning firm Sound Diplomacy to understand the economic impact of the region's music industry. The council is a group of local leaders set up to foster regional cooperation.

"Sound Diplomacy's report demonstrates the music industry's important role in the Northwest Arkansas Council's economic development strategy," Nelson Peacock, president and CEO of the council, said in a news release. "A vibrant music economy contributes to economic growth, workforce development, artistic education and tourism."

The research showed the music industry is responsible for $389 million in annual economic output and generated 3,972 jobs.

Shain Shapiro, founder and CEO of Sound Diplomacy, wrote in the report that its objective is to encourage the development of music spaces, create more opportunities and ensure fair pay for musicians and other workers in the industry, and recognize and protect music education at all levels.

The Northwest Arkansas Music Ecosystem Strategy and Action Plan outlines recommendations to increase and support the industry over the next several years.

Some of the recommendations:

• Establish a full-time staff dedicated to the development of a "music ecosystem" and the implementation of the report's recommendations.

• Encourage cities, through cultural planning, to support new and existing music venues.

• Develop ways to help the diverse, culturally rich communities that, historically, have not been supported by institutions.

• Create grants, residencies, exchanges, workshops and more for musicians to make and record music, tour and develop business and marketing skills.

• Support the creation of dedicated artist-centric spaces and, possibly, a centralized music hub for musicians and businesses to research, experiment and test ideas.

• Nurture, grow and attract music businesses and music-related technology and multimedia sectors to support local artists.

• Build partnerships with K-12 schools, arts education organizations, Northwest Arkansas Community College and the University of Arkansas to expand music education and create pipelines of local skills and creativity.

The analysis includes an assessment of policies, venues, spaces, organizations and relationships.

A new, full-time regional arts service organization, yet unnamed and created in August with support of the Walton Family Foundation, will lead implementation of the recommendations, along with a task force of regional music stakeholders, according to the council.

"Music is one of the most accessible and engaging art forms around the world," Allyson Esposito, executive director of the regional arts service organization, said in the release. "We have a critical mass of talented musicians working across all genres in Northwest Arkansas, and we must do more to leverage the existing creativity, expertise and assets in our community while at the same time boosting regional assets with national and global connections."

Sound Diplomacy spent 15 months in 2018 and 2019 gathering information and analyzing the region's music industry. The firm conducted more than 500 interviews with community and music industry leaders.

Lend an ear

The Northwest Arkansas Council has released a new Music Ecosystem Strategy and Action Plan aimed at growing and supporting musicians and the music industry in the region.

The council commissioned the study to better understand the economic impact of the region’s music business and how to better support those involved.

Source: NWA Council

NW News on 03/10/2020

Story originally published at 1:00 a.m.

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