The business of making Huntsville a music city

single-meta-cal April 15, 2018

Huntsville’s music and cultural scene has been enjoying a modest surge in recent years with new performers taking to the stage in old buildings, bars, churches, restaurants and strip malls. Its growth, however, may best be described as fragmented, something the City wants to change.

“To attract and retain the best and brightest workforce, Huntsville needs a dynamic music and cultural scene,” said Shane Davis, Director of Urban Development for the City of Huntsville. “This is more than an amenity – it’s part of our BIG Picture planning, economic and workforce development.”

We’re convinced there’s a growing market here for the music industry.”

While Huntsville is making strides in its music offerings, Davis isn’t content to leave it to happenstance. He believes the city is perfectly positioned to capitalize on a popular route for top musicians that are hitting the circuit from Memphis to Nashville and Atlanta.

“We should be attracting A-List talent and investing in local musicians,” says Davis, who believes he has a found a path to make it happen.

Council votes to support music audit

At the April 12 City Council meeting, Davis received approval to hire Sound Diplomacy, a London-based music consultant, to provide a market study on Huntsville’s music landscape. The company will research what’s available in the area – from talent to recording studios and performance space – and examine municipal codes, ordinances, zoning, and overall business practices to see if Huntsville is “music friendly.”

The market study will help Huntsville determine if it can grow an industry with what it has, or if the City is far behind competitors and needs to make significant changes.

The findings will help craft a strategy to leverage the assets already here – such as the Von Braun Center, Lowe Mill, and Butler Green at Campus No. 805 – and to develop new opportunities like music festivals and options for Mid City, Ditto Landing, and beyond.

Let’s make music

“All of this started when we began looking at a new amphitheater,” says Davis. “We quickly discovered a wealth of talent working in the Huntsville area and that led to discussions with recording studios and musicians.”

A brief dive into the local music scene runs the gamut. There are recording studios like the successful hip-hop rap Slow Motion Soundz (see NPR What Makes a Music Scene: Hip Hop in Huntsville, Ala.) and a network of songwriters and performers (check out Listen Local Huntsville).

Lowe Mill is nurturing a music colony featuring cigar box guitar makers, concerts, and  Tangled Strings Studios. Huntsville has produced opera stars at the Metropolitan Opera, supports the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra, Community Chorus, Twickenham Fest, Ars Nova, and powerhouse music programs and musical theater at Oakwood, A & M, UAH and others.

“We’re convinced there’s a growing market here for the music industry,” said Davis.

Joining the Music Triangle

Sound Diplomacy sees the potential, too, and is looking one step further.  The company has been meeting with music industry leaders in the Muscle Shoals/Florence area, and they’re eyeing the possibility of folding the Highway 72 corridor into the Memphis-Nashville-Atlanta music triangle.

“We want a growth strategy for the business side of the industry to create another start-up sector for millennials, but we also want to create more cultural opportunities to enjoy music in the community,” said Davis.

“Our goal is to create a music identity for Huntsville that supports a high quality of life and contributes to a vibrant urban scene.”

The music study and recommendations are expected to take about 14 months.