Northwest Arkansas’ music ecosystem produces a $389 million economic output and is responsible for 3,972 jobs in the region, according to new research from the Northwest Arkansas Council. The Council commissioned the study to understand the economic impact of Northwest Arkansas’ music industry and how it can help drive the region’s economy and improve livability.
Cultural planning experts from the global consulting firm Sound Diplomacy spent 15 months in 2018 and 2019 analyzing Northwest Arkansas’ music ecosystem. The firm conducted more than 500 interviews with the region’s community and music industry leaders. The analysis also included an assessment of policies, venues, spaces, organizations and relationships to understand the music industry’s economic significance and develop a holistic music ecosystem strategy and action plan for Northwest Arkansas.
The new regional arts service organization, created in August 2019 with support from the Walton Family Foundation, will lead the implementation of Sound Diplomacy’s music report recommendations alongside a task force of regional music stakeholders.
“Music is one of the most accessible and engaging art forms around the world,” said Allyson Esposito, executive director of the regional arts service organization. “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 made several recommendations to elevate the region’s music ecosystem. Key opportunities that the Council and arts organization will address over the next three years include:
Establishing a full-time staff dedicated to the development of music ecosystem and the implementation of Sound Diplomacy’s recommendations;
Activating cities, through cultural planning, to strategically support music with municipal resources and new and existing venues;
Developing platforms for the region’s diverse, culturally rich communities that have been less institutionally supported;
Creating grants, residencies, exchanges, workshops and more for musicians to make and record new music, tour and develop business and marketing skills;
Supporting the creation of dedicated artist-centric spaces, and possibly a centralized “music hub,” for musicians and businesses to research, experiment and test;
Nurturing, growing, and attracting music businesses and music-related technology and multimedia sectors to support local artists; and
Building partnerships with K-12 schools, arts education organizations, Northwest Arkansas Community College and the University of Arkansas to create intentional pipelines of local skills and creativity.
“Sound Diplomacy’s report demonstrates the music industry’s important role in the Northwest Arkansas Council’s economic development strategy,” said Nelson Peacock, president and CEO of the Northwest Arkansas Council. “A vibrant music economy contributes to economic growth, workforce development, artistic education and tourism.”