Looking back, looking forward

2017 was a pretty stellar year for Music Export Memphis. In this post you’ll find some of the highlights, as well as a look ahead at what’s in store for 2018.

Our first-ever Memphis Picnic at SXSW was also our first aggressive partnership with the Memphis entrepreneurial community to use music as a talent attraction tool. The event was co-hosted by StartCo and EPICenter on what’s known as ‘convergence day’ – the simultaneous final day of SXSW’s Interactive conference and the first day of its music conference. This unique placement in the week allowed us to get ahead of the noise of SXSW Music week and use The Memphis Picnic as a hub for conversations with entrepreneurs who might consider Memphis as an attractive spot to launch or grow their businesses. With the help of partner New Memphis Institute, we were able to present a full picture of Memphis as a cultural city and a fantastic place to live. Music was, of course, the centerpiece – our line-up of bands included Southern Avenue, Dead Soldiers, Marcella & Her Lovers, Chris Milam and Emi Secrest.

  • 1,200 attendees
  • 60% of attendees had never been to Memphis before
  • 100% of Picnic attendees who responded in a post-event survey said the event enhanced their perception of Memphis

Our second annual Memphis Picnic at AmericanaFest again created a holistic cultural experience for attendees of the international Americana music festival and conference in Nashville. Some of our year-one partners were back again – IndieMemphis curated Memphis music videos for our screening room and MemPops sent us with cold treats – and we expanded our offering this year with popcorn from the Rendezvous, giveaways from the Grizzlies, High Cotton beer and Old Dominick spirits. We also executed a unique retail concept, parterning with Shangri-La Records to create a pop-up, all-vinyl, all-Memphis record store on site at the event.

  • “The must-attend event” for a packed Saturday at AmericanaFest – No Depression
  • 65% of attendees were not familiar with current Memphis Americana before attending
  • 100% of Picnic attendees who responded in a post-event survey said the event enhanced their perception of Memphis

In August, we partnered with Monkey Mind Productions with funding support from the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau and Arts Council England to produce ‘From Memphis to the Mersey,’ an immersive cultural exchange designed to foster creative dialogue between Memphis and Liverpool, enhance artistic output and encourage the creation of new music through collaboration by Memphis and Liverpool artists, and enhance the profile of Memphis and Liverpool as informal ‘sister’ cities.

Two emerging artists and two mentors were selected from each city. August 3-7, the Liverpool cohort traveled to Memphis; August 25-29, the Memphis cohort traveled to Liverpool. During these four-day periods of activity in each city, the mentors and artists collaborated on new songs in historic music locations. In the end, about a dozen new songs were written over the course of two weekends spent in collaboration, and those songs were presented to audiences of music fans at culminating public-facing events in each city. The Liverpool event, held at the historic Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, attracted an audience of about 100 Liverpudlians.

Beginning in 2015, Music Export Memphis lead the process of submitting Memphis as a host city for Sound Diplomacy’s Music Cities Convention, an international convening on music cities by an organization widely regarded as the international leader on national and municipal music strategy and policy. Key local partners who we collaborated with include Visible Music College, Memphis Slim Collaboratory, Stax Museum of American Soul, Stax Music Academy, Downtown Memphis Commission, Blues Hall of Fame, Rock’n’Soul Museum, Memphis Music Hall of Fame, Edge Alley, Sweet Potato Baby, Old Dominick Distillery and more.

What’s in store for 2018


Our goal is to raise $10,000 through benefit event in first quarter of 2018 to fund the pilot year of our Ambassador program, which provides tourism training and cash support to Memphis touring artists.


Canadian Music Week // May 7-13, 2018 in Toronto
AmericanaFest // September in Nashville

We’ll also further develop plans for future city exchanges, domestically and abroad

In 2018, we also aim to begin work with partners in tourism and economic development
to understand key target markets for their work, allowing us to plan and execute
smaller, more organic pop-up Memphis music experiences in those cities to drive virality and social stickiness.


In 2017, MEM had unique opportunities to advocate for Memphis musicians, including a partnership with the Mike Curb Institute supporting student research on the music community. We’ll continue this work in 2018.

Presence at AmericanaFest UK (January), Folk Alliance International (February), SXSW (March), National Association of Music Merchants Conference (June/July), Music Cities Convention Lafayette, LA (October) to be a voice for Memphis music and seek out opportunities for Memphis artists. We’ll also actively prospect opportunities for future activations at these events.


There’s so much to be excited about – we hope you’ll stay tuned here to follow the journey and identify opportunities that might be right for your band or artists you know. If you’re interested in supporting this work, Music Export Memphis is a 501(c)3 and your donation is tax deductible. 


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