Last Night Notes From the "Seattle City of Music" Press Conference
posted by October 30 at 10:30 AMon
-Mayor Nickels kicked off the Seattle City of Music event with an "informal" (and inaudible, since he was speaking at the foot of the Paramount stage without a mic) press conference. When told by someone close enough to hear that Nickels said "nothing substantial," the ever-quotable Dave Meinert replied, "Well, he's a politician." As soon as Nickels was done, the Fleet Foxes' "White Winter Hymnal" played, crystal clear.
-The theme of the night was to "grow" Seattle as a city of music, according to Nickels, who took the stage with a mic for what I guess was the formal part of the presentation. He said Seattle is a "great place to make music" and he wants to make it a "great place to make a living making music." He then rattled off a list of non-music-related Seattle based business, and told the story about his mom dropping him off for a date at a Rolling Stones concert. He claimed, dubiously, that "Austin has nothing on Seattle."
-The 12-year plan has three fronts: music education, music venues, and music businesses. The idea is to foster all three of those things, although the specifics of how to do that were still pretty vague.
-James Keblas argued that Seattle's strength was that it's "not LA or NY," to say nothing of Austin.
-Growing the music business in Seattle seemed to hinge on growing the wider economy, a rising tide and ships and all that, which is bad news given how the actual economy is going, although the guy from the chamber of commerce lost me when he started talking about "specialty beverages." He was one of three guys in suits, including Nickels, to invoke the word "soul" (not one of them accompanied the invocation with a black power fist, sadly).
-Tom Mara from KEXP told us that the station's CD collection could more than fill two accordion-style metro busses, and that he hopes to see it fill three someday.
-Megan Jasper from Sub Pop and Josh Rosenfeld from Barsuk were the first people to acknowledge that times are actually kind of grim for the music business right now, to say nothing of the wider economic meltdown. Returning to the theme of Seattle's exceptionalism, Rosenfeld said that there isn't another city where everything comes together as it does in Seattle.
-It really is bizarre to hear that voice come out of Vince Mira's body.
-The New Faces look like the Jonas Brothers and sound like Interpol. They'll probably be huge.
-Somewhat depressingly, the goal for music education is primarily just to restore all the programs and funding to historic levels. One speakers called music education a "race and social justice issue." The Seattle Rotary wants you to donate musical instruments to them to give to schools.
-The VERA Project's Dustin Fujikawa was probably the most engaging and animated speaker of the night, and he brought up some serious issues—gentrification, health care, a living wage—that I'm not entirely sure this plan can really address.
-Things were dragging on, so we skipped the last round of speeches, about music venues.
-The goals of the plan are great, of course, and, as a parasite on the music industry, I absolutely hope that Seattle remains and improves as a City of Music. But there was not much in the way of specifics last night, and it really seems like fostering music education and music businesses is going to be challenging in a time of economic downturn. There are some cost-effective things that could be done to make Seattle more hospitable to music venues, but most of them involve reversing the clampdowns—noise ordinances, nightclub stings—that this very administration has initiated, or else things that are out of the Mayor and the City's jurisdiction, such as the WSLCB's puritanical regulations (in Austin, LA, and NY, I'm pretty sure you can drink a beer onstage). Still, there are some really good people behind this thing; I remain tentatively hopeful that some concrete good will come out of this.
-Oh, also, the official "Seattle City of Music" website that I couldn't get to load yesterday is up and running now, and while it's, again, long on goals and short on specifics, it has a more detailed list of, really, pretty inspiring goals than I was able to jot down from last night's speeches. Check it out.