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VOL. 35 | NO. 22 | Friday, June 3, 2011

Concentration of talent gives rise to city’s reputation for diversity

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The thesis of Nashville as the “Silicon Vallley of music” gained traction earlier this year when Richard Florida, senior editor at The Atlantic and director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto, gave his take on the Grammy Awards.

“Over the past several decades, Nashville transformed itself from a rather narrow country music outpost in the 1960s and 1970s into a major center for commercial music,” Florida wrote in The Atlantic. “By the mid-2000s, only New York and Los Angeles housed more musicians. Nashville's rise is even more impressive when you look at its ratio of musicians to total population. In 1970, Nashville wasn't even one of the top five regions by this measure. By 2004, it was the national leader, with nearly four times the U.S. average. Today, it is home to over 180 recording studios, 130 music publishers, 100 live music clubs, and 80 record labels.

“While Nashville lacks the diversity of genres found in LA and NY, according to an analysis of MySpace data conducted by my colleague Dan Silver, it has large concentrations of commercial genres beyond country, spanning Christian, pop, rock and punk--so much so, that over the past decade or so Nashville has begun to suck in talent from the rest of the country and the world. Australian Keith Urban first moved there in 1992; he moved back with Nicole Kidman in 2005. They were shortly joined by the legendary rocker Jack White, who relocated to Nashville from Detroit and established his new multipurpose headquarters, Third Man Productions, where he produced country veteran Loretta Lynn`s "Van Lear Rose," Wanda Jackson`s "The Party Ain't Over" emerging acts like the Smoke Fairies and the Black Belles; and his own records with the Dead Weather and Raconteurs, as well as remastering and re-releasing his albums with the White Stripes. The ongoing evolution of Nashville has made it into something of a Silicon Valley of the music business, combining the best institutions, the best infrastructure, and the best talent.”

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