The Buy-in: Municipal Music Strategy Development (Part 2)

Assuming you’ve completed phase one of your music strategy “Doing Your Homework,” you’re ready to begin phase two: the buy-in.

Your champion (mayor or councillor) has agreed to put forward a motion to develop a music strategy. That was the easy part. You’ll also need support from the rest of city council. Divide and conquer. Your music group, now called a “steering committee” or “task force,” should set up meetings with city councillors and send them a link to The Mastering of a Music City. If the motion is being made with human and financial resources attached, you’d better schedule a meeting with the city manager too. S/he/they won’t be happy if there are resources allocated that weren’t budgeted; but, lucky for you, the city manager doesn’t have a vote. However, outside of elected officials, this person has the most influence at the city, so make nice.

The city manager is more than likely going to nominate some unsuspecting employee to take the lead on this project—but there’s already a task force chair, so a co-chair structure might be a fair compromise. Instead of the city manager appointing a librarian or a government worker who “really likes music” as your co-chair, suggest the department that makes the most sense. If you have an economic development department or, better yet, a cultural/creative economic development department, ask for the director and not the GM; you will need your co-chair to be able to attend meetings. Another department to consider is planning. A city planner will know about regulations, zonings, by-laws and other useful information—and they’re really smart.

The motion will be made public about two weeks prior to the council meeting. Hopefully, you’ve timed it to coincide with a big music event in your city; if not, create one. Perhaps the music journalist or publicist on your task force is able to spread the word? The easiest and most effective way to receive buy-in from the community is to engage early and often. Show up at the council meeting. Bring an artist; council meetings are usually pretty serious, so lighten things up! If there’s an opportunity to speak, tell the mayor and council why your city needs to develop a music strategy.

Jumping ahead, the motion has passed. Is it time to celebrate? Always. But the work is just beginning. This is a great time to engage the music community. Convene an advisory committee; 20-30 music industry professionals (yes, artists too!) who will help shape your music strategy. Ideally, the first meeting will be with your music study consultant, who will facilitate a SWOT analysis. The consultant will also convene focus groups, one on one interviews, and conduct a survey. It is your responsibility to push the survey out to your network; the data should capture respondents from music fans to guitar techs.

While your consultant is gathering information, your task force and city employee co-chair should continue regular (at least once a month) meetings. You will need the city co-chair to arrange meetings with all of the departments that touch music, so they’re aware of your strategy. It’s important to do this early, especially with Finance, Real Estate, Planning, as they will already have work plans for the year and you can bet they don’t include music. Ask how you can work together instead of telling them about all the work you want them to do for you. By the time you go back to council (6 months to a year, depending on the length of the music study), you should have buy-in from council, the music community, and city staff because you’ve engaged early and often.