Sound investment: WNC’s burgeoning music industry

BANDING TOGETHER: The Asheville Symphony Orchestra is the leading presenter of classical music in WNC, and one of many groups making up the region's diverse music industry. Photo courtesy of the ASO
BANDING TOGETHER: The Asheville Symphony Orchestra is the leading presenter of classical music in WNC, and one of many groups making up the region's diverse music industry. Photo courtesy of the ASO

While the local music scene might be hard to typify, it’s easy to point to: Musicians, venues, festivals and street performers compose the visible face of a vibrant arts culture. The local music industry, however, is more difficult to quantify. There are some well-known recording studios and instrument manufacturers and the occasional high-profile guitar sale, but what else makes up the infrastructure that supports live music?

Unlike larger communities (Nashville, Memphis, Detroit, New Orleans, New York, Los Angeles) long-associated with music-as-big-business, Asheville’s music-driven economy is less obvious, largely untapped by corporate finance, and as creatively constructed as, say, the city’s tailgate markets, craft fairs and local street festivals. But while the DIY approach helps to not only keep Asheville’s music scene eclectic (and yes, weird), it also makes it hard to navigate.

“I know I’m not alone in thinking that some kind of music industry advocacy organization, similar to what Asheville Independent Restaurants is for the local restaurant scene, would be a great addition to our community,” says Liz Whalen Tallent, marketing manager at The Orange Peel. “We have such a strong music economy, and I think something like this would really help in making sure we have an organized voice to advocate for what we need, help keep the Asheville environment music-friendly and draw more business to the various music-related entities.” The group Asheville Music Professionals agrees and is organizing to address those and other ideas (read more in the following story).  Meanwhile,  local record labels and studios are garnering some major awards, and support businesses such as video production houses, publicity agencies, graphic design companies, talent promoters and artist development outfits are basing themselves in Western North Carolina — all of which means the future of local music, both as an art and an economic force, stands to be bright.

In our special Music Business issue, Xpress looks at a few of the companies leading the charge. Read the full package here.

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About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts writer and editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs.

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