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Can Detroit reap the benefits of its music heritage?

pete-rock

Cyburbian
Messages
1,550
Points
24
About a year ago I started a thread called "What If for Cities" that suggested that Detroit could've used its Motown history and musical heritage to become something like a Nashville for R&B and hip-hop.

Now, it appears that Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is really looking into how to capitalize on Detroit's second-largest export, music.

The good thing about the music industry is that people can do well without necessarily having a lot formal training or education, and plenty of jobs can be generated as singers, dancers, choreographers, producers, musicians, sound engineers, video producers, music execs, etc.

Can this be the boost Detroit needs?
 

Gedunker

Moderating
Staff member
Moderator
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11,549
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42
pete-rock I think it's certainly worth a "go". Anybody with half a brain connects Motown with Detroit, so the music heritage is definitely something that would have a built-in "hook" as they say. But as for the newer musical styles, I have to admit that I'm pretty well out of touch, so it's relevance to Detroit is less immediate to me.
 

DetroitPlanner

Cyburbian Emeritus
Messages
6,241
Points
27
Detroit Music

While detroit is certainly no Nashville when it comes to the recording industry, it is no slouch when it comes to performers or venues. One of the bigger pushes these days come from the Detroit Public Schools (DPS). Now the DPS has had its own radiostation for years now (separate from our NPR affiliates). Students learn this business.

The DPS is currently constructing a new high school that will be attached to our newly enlarged Symphony Hall/Max Fisher Center (Home of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra). The radio station is moving there and they hope to get the Public Television station to move there as well. This creates a synergy (I hate that word) between the young and old, established and non-established.

Detroit is still home to several recording studios, even though Motown has long left. As I mentioned we have great venues including the Opera House, sheds (outdoor facilities), old movie theatres, and Wayne State is home to the only graduate program in theatre management in the county (Wayne State has two theatres itself). Combine this with all the smaller venues including Jeff Daniel's purple rose theatre iin the suburbs and you can already have a career in entertainment/music in this town and never have to leave. The Hip Hop summit repackages this and sells it to the kids as a way they can get into management. This is a good alternative for those who do not want to go to college and learn engineering, manufacturing, and computer skills (what 99 percent of Detroit jobs need).

It is relavant to the kids attending it. Hopefully it will open their eyes to other options as well that they never thought of.
 

metroboi

Cyburbian
Messages
49
Points
2
Possibly it could, but the music industry itself is suffering from declining sales, over commercialization, and the stiffling of real talent for the likes of Brittney Spears, etc. So Detroit's ability to latch onto this business as Nashville did decades ago, is probably a lost opportunity at this point. They should have done this 20 years ago.
 

simulcra

Member
Messages
127
Points
6
Personally, I think Chicago is becoming the nashville for hip-hop.

this isn't overtly linked to the topic at hand, but I was in detroit for the past weekend attending the Detroit Electronic Music Festival (aka movement).

i was kind of saddened by detroit, because it seemed like it could be such a great city if people lived there and cared enough to let it become so abandoned (i stayed in a friend's relative's loft in downtown).

nevertheless, after attending the fest, it struck me at what musical heritage detroit really did have and how it could actually have potential to refuel the city. i mean, >1.3 million people attended Movement... that's alot of people surging into downtown detroit (specifically hart plaza), and a lot of publicity for detroit.
 
Messages
101
Points
6
pete-rock said:
About a year ago I started a thread called "What If for Cities" that suggested that Detroit could've used its Motown history and musical heritage to become something like a Nashville for R&B and hip-hop.

Now, it appears that Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is really looking into how to capitalize on Detroit's second-largest export, music.

The good thing about the music industry is that people can do well without necessarily having a lot formal training or education, and plenty of jobs can be generated as singers, dancers, choreographers, producers, musicians, sound engineers, video producers, music execs, etc.

Can this be the boost Detroit needs?

I have a set of initial reactions to this, although they really should be taken with a grain of salt, since my knowledge of the details of Detroit's situation is very superficial.

First, while I think high profile and glittery cultural stuff is necessary for world class status for a city, I don't think it provides much of a basis for regeneration. It's an unstable business, with a tiny pinnacle and a huge and shifting base. It also carries with it a sizable underclass, which an already stable urban area can carry
successfully, so the question would be "Does the city of Detroit have a sufficiently stable system of well fuctioning neighborhoods to encourage the growth of an industry which carries a well known set of downsides".

Further, when a city has a highly publicized population drop, with the attendant instability that brings to neighborhoods, a top priority would be creating a situation at the core where there are a number of contiguous neighborhoods where both residents and outsiders feel safe walking at night. Detroit, like most cities, probably already has somewhat of a focus on this. If there are already populous and safe neighborhoods toward the center of the city, then a focus on building the music industry and taking advantage of the Motown history may be realistic.

To summarize my skepticism, if efforts to strengthen the neighborhood fabric are having some success, a push to highlight and expand a well known asset of the city could be a good thing. If the core is continuing to empty out, the effort might be misplaced, and jobs creation might better be carried out by attempting to attract more stable industries to the core.

That being said, Motown music is a fantastic legacy, and the history should be preserved and if possible expanded. The question is how much effort to put into it as a regenerative tool.
 
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boo

Messages
20
Points
2
while i think it is a great idea for detroit to celebrate its musical heritage, i for one feels the city needs to move forward and decide what it is going to be now or 10 years from now. sure the motown days were great, as were the days where the city was the king of manufacturing, but those days are long gone and now you are left with a population that always looks back to the good old days without ever putting any thought as to what lies ahead. that is why announcements such as wayne state's alternative energy campus are so refreshing (yet hardly exciting)- they suggest ways that detroit can move beyond its manufacturing/automotive/r&b roots into a vibrant attractive city in this decade.

to get back on topic, i am pleased with the movement festival (demf) even if it has started to turn off the electronic music fanatics that has originally embraced it. this is a music festival that celebrates the music of now and does suggest ways that detroit can capitalize on a form of expression that few other cities can lay claim to. if detroit were to open up a motown museum and have a motown festival i think there is definitely room for that here but to bet the liveliness of your city on the assumption that a bunch of people will come out and have their second honeymoon celebrating the music of their youth is dangerous. the problem with a lot of the great non-motown detroit music is that it is non-commercial- these bands develop an intense cult following elsewhere and often play to very small crowds in the city proper. it is impossible to capitalize on such a situation here in detroit; a true detroit music festival staged at an international level representing current detroit talent would be better located in places like london where such a cult following exists.
 

New2daGame

Member
Messages
18
Points
1
Solipsa said:
Personally, I think Chicago is becoming the nashville for hip-hop.

this isn't overtly linked to the topic at hand, but I was in detroit for the past weekend attending the Detroit Electronic Music Festival (aka movement).

i was kind of saddened by detroit, because it seemed like it could be such a great city if people lived there and cared enough to let it become so abandoned (i stayed in a friend's relative's loft in downtown).

nevertheless, after attending the fest, it struck me at what musical heritage detroit really did have and how it could actually have potential to refuel the city. i mean, >1.3 million people attended Movement... that's alot of people surging into downtown detroit (specifically hart plaza), and a lot of publicity for detroit.

Chicago? I would say it's Atlanta.

I think that Detroit could definately tap into it's musical heritage. Detroit is still HUGE with the Gospel Music industry. It's prominence in the Hip Hop and R&B Music industry can be revived. All it takes is one major label to decide to base its operations in the city. Look what happenned in Atlanta after LaFace decidede to locate there. (They've now moved to LA, but they established Atlanta as a major player in the music industry, and now that industry is booming in that city.) I think Detroit should see if it can woo Motown to moving back home. That would be the kind of statement it would need to make to return to national prominence in the R&B and Hip Hop world.
 
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