Music is a fundamental part of the Memphis story, with a rich history in rock and soul and more recently as an important origin point for Southern hip-hop creators. People come from all over the world to visit important sites such as Graceland, Stax, and Sun Studios, and thousands more drive from neighboring states each year for the Beale Street Music Festival.
But despite its significant economic impact, Memphis has not had a comprehensive approach to growing and supporting its music business beyond tourism focused on history and legacy. And because there is no organized and aligned ecosystem to support musicians and the businesses that serve them, many successful artists leave the city for places with more robust music industries. When that happens, they take their talent with them, along with their spending on everything from record pressing to merchandise.
JW’s love of Memphis music dates back to his junior high days, when he listened to Stax artists and took notice of the music businesses that thrived in the Soulsville neighborhood at the time. Later, he promoted the industry through his participation in the Memphis Music Commission and the Memphis Music Foundation. His subsequent ownership of the New Daisy – where he promoted local and national acts across genres – provided a close-up look at the opportunities and challenges in the local music business landscape. As a result of these experiences, JW became deeply committed to growing the industry and the local community of musicians and entrepreneurs that power it.
JW believes that the music industry presents a significantly untapped economic opportunity and that the Memphis Mayor can and should play an important part in convening stakeholders around a comprehensive strategy.
“The history of Memphis is music,
and it should be a critical part of our future."
- JW Gibson
Here is a partial list of JW Gibson’s strategies to support and grow the local music industry:
Work with the Chamber, Shelby County, and other stakeholders to create a strategic plan focused on making Memphis a music business city. In this initiative, it is essential that musicians and the organizations that support them be fully represented.
Identify gaps or growth opportunities in the music business ecosystem – such booking agencies, independent record labels, distributors, etc. – and develop incentives to foster them, with priority given to home-grown companies.
Connect both artists and music business organizations to local programs designed to support entrepreneurs through technical assistance and access to capital.
Collaborate with the Shelby County Mayor to make its Music Advisory Board a joint board, with expanded influence.
Appoint a music officer or point person in City Hall to drive the music industry growth strategy.
Work with state officials to explore an expansion of the Tennessee Entertainment Commission’s music incentive program to include a broader range of projects and uses.
Make Memphis a city of choice for local musicians as well as those priced out of other music cities who are looking for a new home. Potential incentives include housing assistance; access to places for them to practice, rehearse, and perform; and professional development.
Provide support to organizations that are working to retain local music talent in Memphis and promote it globally, such as Music Export Memphis and Memphis Slim House.
Engage regional stakeholders in Mississippi and Arkansas around shared music tourism and economic development goals.
Work with Shelby County and other stakeholders on existing efforts to determine the feasibility of a hip-hop museum.