Music Officer Position: First Step to Music City
- By Amsa Yaro
The Music Officer Position is one that more cities are embracing these days. From London, Ontario to Australia, there is a movement to take propell vibrant music economies earning the title of “Music City”. As the music business is ever evolving, strategies in place must respond to the trends. And one way to keep up with the changes is the introduction of the Music Officer.
A Music Officer, according to the “Keys to a Music City: Examining the Merits of Music Offices, Boards, and Night Mayors” a paper published by Music Canada, is one who navigates City Hall and acts as a liaison between the city and the music community. They act as an internal voice for music, oversee a music strategy and develop programming.
Their aim, whether it’s one Music Officer or a team, is to serve as an advocate and educator within City Hall’s walls. London’s Music Industry Development Officer Cory Crossman describes how his position serves as the go to source within the government for information on the local music community’s needs. He notes that he “tried to use the music officer position as a shared resource. It’s been a real advantage to have one person and a central point who is able to drill down in one area of culture.”
As the number of music office staff vary from city to city, they also serve as the middleman to other city departments on issues impacting music and coordinates partnership opportunities with other city departments. As Robin Armistead, Manager of Culture at the City of London, describes, establishing the music officer position has helped to strengthen connections into other divisions across the municipal government. “Since the Music Development Officer was put into the City Manager’s Office, it has made the City more aware that they have a Music Office and the ability to do music-related events and policymaking.”
Establishing a Music Officer creates the opportunity for the city to hire someone with valuable experience in the music sector. One with fore knowledge of the music industry seems to be a better fit in this role. However, many believe that the influence the office has is based on its level within City Hall’s hierarchy and also the location of the role. Many including Toronto City Councillor Josh Colle agree “that a more senior role could improve the position’s potential for success”. The role could positively affect the types of conversations had about the music industry with the right people within City Hall.
As a role in the municipal government often has backing with a higher degree of legitimacy, there are some limitations that could curb the effects of the Music Officer. A major limitation is funding i.e. consistent funding and sufficient funding. When a city has to make choices, infrastructure and previous programming seem to carry weight over soft services such as Music, Arts and Culture. Another is the political will. As it is a position tied to the municipal government, it has to have some backing of politicians, city influencers as well as those that call the city their home.
But as London’s first Music Development Officer is relatively new in City Hall, music policy-making has brought significant achievements such as the London Music Office website, a music census, Music Career Day, sound permits for patios and other music related businesses. Armistead attributes a large portion of its success to the efforts of Crossman, whose music industry experience prepared him for his new role at City Hall.
With the ability to bring experience and innovation to how the city can capitalise on the music economy, the Music Officer Position is a strong start to the foundation that will support the ever evolving music industry of London, Ontario.