Vibrant music scenes an important draw for citiesby Chris Roberts, Minnesota Public Radio
Minneapolis — Much has been made about the importance of attracting what's been called the 'creative class' to a city.
In the Twin Cities, civic boosters and recruiters boast of good jobs, great parks, and a lively arts community. But they tend to leave out what some say is the number one draw for new college grads and young professionals -- a vibrant local music scene.
When she was a student at Colorado College, Christine Petrich never thought she'd wind up living in the Twin Cities.
But when the Deer River, Minnesota, native transferred to the University of Minnesota for her final semester, the Minneapolis music scene won her heart. Petrich was able to feed her music obsession and build a community at the same time.
"You meet people that you have something very strong in common with," she said. "So I went to shows, I would meet other people who liked the same kind of music, we'd find out we had other things in common and we'd become friends."
Petrich, 34, is now a public health specialist at the University of Minnesota. She said the local music scene helped keep her here, even though she had at least one strong opportunity to leave.
"In this case I was offered a job in Denver, which is a wonderful city; not a great music scene," she said.
According to retired 'U' arts economist Ann Markesun, the best way to build a local economy is to lure young, single, college-educated people from the hinterlands to live here. And Markesun believes what draws them more than anything else is a rich cultural scene, with great music at its core.
When she says 'hinterlands' she means greater Minnesota, the Dakotas, Wisconsin and Iowa. In that department, Markesun said the Twin Cities competes very well, even with a metropolis like Chicago.
"Bottom line is we are a tremendous net attractor of young people for whom music is a very big part of their own personal practice, or what they want as a place to live," Markesun said.
To back up her claim, Markesun analyzed data from the 2000 Census and her own surveys. She found that between 1995 and 2000, there was a 15-percent increase in the net migration to the Twin Cities of 16 to 24-year-old self-identified artists.
To Markesun, that's an extraordinary number. She thinks the pattern is very similar for other people of that age group.
"You can see it driving around the cities and you can see it in the rental market," she said. "I think if we wanted to do a study we could find other metrics that would show us the extent of this."
Bryan Harmelink, 27, said music was the number one underlying reason why he ended up in the Twin Cities."
Harmelink is an avid indie music lover and internet radio station operator who pays the bills working for a local insurance company.
Harmelink is a UW River Falls grad who chose Minneapolis/St. Paul over L.A., Chicago and New York, not just because of the quality of Twin Cities music, but it's impact on his wallet.
"You can go to a show seven days a week in the Twin Cities," he said. "And unless you're going overboard on drinks you can spend less than $50 for the week, which is awesome."
For Harmalink, the Twin Cities scene also bested those three bigger areas in terms of proximity to music. He said, in those cities, clubs are so spread out you have reserve a lot of travel time to get there.
"And in Minneapolis and St. Paul, I may have to travel five miles," Hermalink laughed.
Given the appeal strong music scenes have for young 20-somethings starting careers, Ann Markesun is dumbfounded by the scant attention Twin Cities public officials pay to it. She said, in other cities, it's a much bigger deal.
"The city of Seattle has an office of music and film and has commissioned two studies on the impact of music on their city," she said. "They really give it credit, they give it visibility, they help solve problems."
Markesun said even if you sought out Minneapolis online, you would never know it was home to an abundant music scene.
"The city of Minneapolis doesn't have anything on its Web site," she said. "If you're lucky, you'll get to meet Minneapolis, and that just has the high end theater on it, and maybe the M.I.A. Where are all the music things?"
Markesun said a city has to serve up its strengths to make young people want to move here, which is not a strong point of either Minneapolis or St. Paul.
- All Things Considered, 07/03/2009, 5:24 p.m.