Breaking down silos and building up collaboration

by Elizabeth Cawein

“Little collaboration.”

“What could happen if music organizations partnered more?”

“Collaboration on a large scale is non-existent.”

“It’s frustrating to see people not look or think outside of their own group.”

These are just a few of the comments from members of the Memphis music community shared at last week’s happy hour event at High Cotton Brewing (co-hosted by MEM, the Mike Curb Institute for Music at Rhodes College and the Rhodes Institute for Regional Studies). They were answering the question: “Is the Memphis music community connected? Why or why not?”

I found the responses disappointing, of course, but not surprising. The criticism that our music community is full of silos and lacking collaboration is something I’ve heard¬†since I began working in the music industry in Memphis in 2010. Certainly, one of the things that would help attack this problem is a strategic approach to music and culture from our city’s public and private leadership. But since a music strategy or an office of music and culture are¬†unlikely to pop up overnight or any time soon – what can we do now to increase connectivity?

I think knowledge and awareness are the keys. I don’t believe musicians are actively avoiding resources or that organizations are actively avoiding opportunities to collaborate. In both cases, the answer must be a lack of awareness about the music ecosystem. How do we fix that? In a market the size of Memphis, it shouldn’t be an impossible hurdle to clear and to that end I’ve started a new page on the site specifically to list music-related organizations and resources in hopes of creating a comprehensive directory. As you’ll see, it’s a short list at the moment – just what I came up with off the top of my head, and focused (at least for now) on entities that provide resources, opportunities, professional development or funding for musicians or music projects. Will you comment on this post and let me know what’s missing?

Ultimately, I hope that collaboration across our music community can be more tangible and more active than just a directory of links. But at the very least, we should be able to point artists in our city to one hub of information. It won’t break down all of our silos or magically create collaboration, but fixing the knowledge gap is a key first step in the process.

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