Why is Geography Still Limiting The Music & Tech Industries?

A few days ago, I stumbled across this Ars Technica article that revealed Soundcloud was closing their offices in San Francisco and London & firing 173 employees or 40% of its staff. Sad news to hear as Soundcloud has been the primary means for many rising independent recording artists to showcase and share their recent work for at least a couple of years now. Its sad obviously because 173 people have lost their primary means of income but also because we know this is means the company is in real danger (as if many of us didn’t already know this for quite some time now).

The days may very well be numbered for Soundcloud, which I hope isn’t the case, but as I was checking the comments on the article, I read a reader’s input that helped me realize something I’ve actually pondered on for quite sometime. They asked, “…why would you have offices in the two most expensive cities in the world to have an office in? I doubt that the employees they need have such super specialist skills thus require them to have presence in those cities.” After I read the comment a light bulb went off, which reminded me of my own sentiments about the city I currently reside in & the lack of resources available to us as artists.

I live in the Live Music Capital of the World, Austin, Tx. I’ve been here for nearly 14 years. It has almost everything I could ever want in a city with the exception of an oceanside beach or view of the mountains. While I know its far from perfect, I can tell you that moving here a year and a half after high school was the best decision I ever made. I come from a small town in west Texas called Midland, its about 130 miles south of Lubbock which is where Texas Tech University is located. While I don’t have to explain to you why I transitioned from a small town to this epicenter of entertainment I’m now in, even being here with so much to offer for opportunities and entertainment has still come with its own set of limitations.

We may be considered the “live music capital” because of our extensive number of music venues and festivals every other weekend, but like most cities that aren’t “major music markets” it has zero presence for major labels or publishing companies, and to my knowledge not much to offer for marketing/distribution or manufacturing for merchandising. Sure there’s local operations scattered about here and there but all in all this is far from NY, LA, Atlanta, Chicago, or even Nashville. Hell, Dallas and Houston have far better resources for recording artists looking to expand their branding and increase their presence with industry professionals. Basically, this city is a hub to mold your creative talents on the live stage before you move on to more opportunities in one of the aforementioned cities listed above. This has been an issue since before I arrived here and was something I’ve continuously dealt with as I’ve struggled to “make it” as a recording artist/songwriter myself.

Over the years Austin has grown in size to become a worldwide attraction for everything entertainment related, be it the famous live music scene, multitude of college bars, festivals such as SXSW or ACL, assorted tech conferences and even a small Hollywood presence. However if you’re an aspiring entertainer, no matter how much we grow, once again, your chances of success are higher by relocating to one of the major music markets like LA, NY or Atlanta. I’ve had peers in the music scene already relocate to every city I just mentioned as they realized how limited they were confining themselves to a market that is as unforgiving as the traffic. And as I sit and think about all I’ve learned in my time here, I can’t help but ask, why are we still letting geography limit our opportunities as creatives? Its 2017, surely its past time for major companies such as Spotify, Apple Music, Soundcloud and others to expand their operations to locations that are less of a strain economically, whether it be on them or their employees.

Its no secret how expensive it is to live in one of America’s coveted metropolises like New York, LA, or San Francisco. Its what prevents so many people from relocating just as much as its the primary reason people return back home after their search for superstardom comes to a close along with a slew of reality checks. Who the hell wants to pay $2400 a month to live in a 400 sq ft box just for the chance to “meet the right person” and “make the right connections?” Every year there’s thousands of new artists that realize they don’t wanna pursue the traditional 9-5 career, so they decide its in their best interest to head “out west” or try their hand at making it in “the greatest city in the world.” Over time that number has had to have increased exponentially making it tougher to succeed amidst the over-saturation of talent that exists in those select cities. Surely executives as Sony or Universal have realized that by now. Of course, I’m sure even if they have realized it, maybe they just don’t care or maybe there’s far more occurring behind the scenes of these billion dollar entertainment conglomerates than we’re led to believe. Either way, the industry is changing, therefore it only makes sense that the surrounding environments change as well.

As the music industry has transformed in the past 10 years through the advancement of the digital age, it has all but merged with the tech industry to offer creators alternative methods to help their products reach current and potential consumers. Sprint and Tidal recently conjoined their efforts to release Jay Z’s 4:44 album to new and current subscribers and supposedly Spotify is currently working on a new product to rival the domination of smart devices like iPhones and Androids in the music player market. With these continuous changes in both industries don’t we need new corporate offices and manufacturing plants to accompany this shift in the tides? Can’t these locations be placed in cities like Austin, Dallas, Kansas City, Minnesota, Cleveland, or even Charlotte? What’s stopping such companies from looking into taking their operations elsewhere? There’s so much to gain from restructuring old business models to incorporate fresh ideas and employee opportunities.

These are all questions I’ve asked myself for years. It wasn’t until now that I realized we’re embarking on an entirely new way of doing business as creators and entrepreneurs. We shouldn’t be limited to archaic business models and limited geographic reach. Advancements in communication along with high-speed internet freed us from such restrains and restrictions. There should be no “major music markets.” Fans and talent exists everywhere. Its high time we saw this and did something about it, to ensure the future for a new music industry that has artists and fans in the driver seat for where it goes next.

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