A Sonic Desert?

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Has Detroit become a sonic desert?

Musical expression has been a long-standing pivot point for debates about Detroit’s successes and failures. Though the Detroit area has a wide range of cultural expressions for which it is associated—including art, design, architecture, literature, and, critically, industrial productionmusic has been the dominant site for articulating exactly how Detroit does or does not harmonize with the American Dream.

In that spirit, we must listen honestly to our City’s musicians, their struggles, and their neighborhoods. We have been doing that for going on six years now. This is what we have observed:

The foreclosure crisis and bankruptcy affected all Detroit residents including musicians who are traditionally freelance, non-unionized workers with no pensions, no employment supported health insurance, and gigs heavily dependent on the economic success of their fellow citizens

Live neighborhood music venues—from the New Olympia to the Blue Bird (pictured above)—have closed since the Great Recession. They have not been replaced.

Even new or recent venues—from Motor City Wine to the UFO Factory—struggle against the pressures of gentrification and barriers to entry created by policy.

Detroit’s schools, one of the traditional incubators of Detroit talent, are in disarray. Music education is no longer a priority for the many but instead a privilege for the few.

Quite simply, if not already, Detroit is on the verge of becoming a musical desert.

Detroit Sound Conservancy believes that the best way to preserve Detroit’s musical history is to keep making it. There are consequences to inaction. Detroit will need a plan to avert this sonic apocalypse.

In 2018, we plan to make the case that Detroit Sound Conservancy is the go-to organization set to partner with others to articulate and execute a plan. We plan to do this throughout our programming in 2018 but especially in our annual conference, our fifth, later this year. For more information, including sponsorship opportunities, please contact our director via email at director@detroitsound.org or call at 313-444-8242

Updated 13 February 2018

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