The Music Export Pledge

by Elizabeth Cawein

Recently my friends at Sound Diplomacy wrote an excellent document called the Global Music Export Pledge. (Click here to read a great piece in IQ that provides more context.) I was psyched to see the MEM logo included among the worldwide music export initiatives on the final pages (thanks y’all!) –

The idea behind the global pledge is that every country should commit to a music export strategy. Here are the 8 parts of the pledge — I plan to expand on each of these in some future posts:

  1. Recognize the importance of your people
  2. Understand what it means to be ‘export ready’
  3. Prepare your artists to become export ready
  4. Keep networking
  5. Develop a targeted database
  6. Provide appropriate financial support
  7. Focus on branding
  8. Encourage and assist imports

As you know by now, I believe that the music export strategy is also scale-able for a city — especially a city like Memphis whose contributions to popular music are so significant that the city’s music already has international cachet — and if I’m being totally honest, I also just love what a music export office in Memphis proclaims about the importance of our musical output. The eight parts of this pledge lay out a road map, no piece of which is impossible to navigate at a smaller level.

The magic of scaling a music export strategy for a city, I think, lies in reciprocal benefit. It doesn’t take much investment to create a meaningful opportunity for an artist that also has an impact on music tourism or talent attraction, and I believe that’s why it can work. An investment of $5,000 or $10,000 in a national or international opportunity can yield two to three times that amount in earned media value, not to mention the tourism dollars it may return. At this scale, if even a handful of people who attend an event decide to visit (or revisit) Memphis, it doesn’t take long to make back the investment in the economic impact of that person’s trip to Memphis. Done right, it’s easy to see how a dollar spent on an export strategy can equal a dollar (or more) spent in the city of Memphis.

I’m excited to see the MEM logo included with all these international export agencies, but there’s still so much work to be done. Memphis is known for firsts, for entrepreneurs and innovation, and I hope that demonstrating the efficacy of a city-level music export strategy can be another Memphis original on that list.

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