On Reflection: Sound investment

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Curious about local bands? Download The City of Music mobile app or perk up your ears the next time you pass through Sea-Tac International Airport and you’re liable to hear the tunes of celebrated Seattle artists like Macklemore and Blue Scholars.

The app and the airport program are among the latest efforts of a 2008 initiative to promote Seattle as “The City of Music.” The goal is to help support and expand a music industry that generated more than 22,000 jobs and $2.6 billion in sales in Seattle in 2008, according to an impact study by the University of Washington. How? By supporting music education in schools and colleges, broadening opportunities for residents and visitors to listen to live music, and encouraging investment in music-related businesses.

In 2009, Seattle began offering a tax exemption on entry fees at venues that offer live music. Since then, 12 new spots started featuring live music, including The Crocodile, Hard Rock Café, The Royal Room and Barboza. Last fall, 200 teenagers participated in a City of Music Career Day at Seattle Center.

“Seattle has always had a great crop of talent, but [we have also suffered from] a lack of businesses to help these people succeed,” says Peter Barnes, CEO of Clatter & Din, a studio recording and video company.

“The climate here is dramatically different than it was,” says James Keblas, director of the Mayor’s Office of Film + Music, pointing to increased collaboration between the music and business sectors. The City of Music app, developed by Seattle-based FrontRunner, came out of a partnership with the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, which identified the music industry as a key area of focus for the chamber. The app includes links to a dozen outlets that play local music and also has listings of live music events and videos about the Seattle music scene.

Music-related startups are also flourishing, with the emergence of things like Ziibra, a new platform for sharing and selling music; Protosong, an effort by musicians to address social issues; Jet City Stream, an online station playing Seattle music exclusively; Rockstar Motel, an effort to “democratize” the music industry, and iSheetMusic, which brings sheet music to mobile devices. With big guys like Amazon, Microsoft and Rhapsody continuing to build their music businesses, Seattle might actually live up to its City of Music promise.

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