Music’s role in the public good: Colorado Music Strategy

Music’s role in the public good: Colorado Music Strategy

“Music as a business” is a unique concept. Our culture often romanticizes the view of the struggling artist. A creative may struggle their entire life, chasing their passions, never quite making ends meet. A successful musician is a bit of a fallacy in our society. A movement is born to provide proactive solutions and change the industry standards.


That movement is The Colorado Music Strategy. The Bohemian Foundation and The Colorado Creative Industries are spearheading the plan. Fundamentally, this is an economic plan that infuses over $200,000 through music as a business development. Creatively, this empowers the music industry with resources such as funding opportunities, networking with national industry partners, music licensing, music for film and TV, and thought sharing opportunities with like-minded businesses and industry leaders.


The Bohemian Foundation contributed $75,000 to the strategy. Colorado Creative Industry matched that grant with equal funds. Also, there is a separate award called the Music Event Fund that is available for live performances throughout the Front Range. Gov. John Hickenlooper appointed Shawn King of Devotchka as the official Music Ambassador who will link other communities who are seeking the Colorado Sound in film, commercials, and other lucrative opportunities.

The Music District’s Jesse Elliott, who is a lifetime accomplished musician and Bohemian’s Bryce Merrill, lifetime musician and an arts research and cultural policy scholar, dreamed up this partnership after years of devoting their lives to the cause and worked aggressively to make it come to fruition. This concept is rooted in education for the musician but encompasses a mentorship-like role to help music as a business be profitable.



Music District is a separate entity created by Bohemian Foundation with a different mission that aligns with the strategy; The Music District will be the defacto home to the strategy. The Music District will be the “practical laboratory,”

Jesse Elliott, Director, states:

“ The strategy has even more physical and geographical locations, but it will be the central heart.”

 According to The Colorado Creative Industries:

“Colorado’s music industry currently, contributes 16,300 music-based jobs to the state’s economy and generates $1.8 billion in annual revenue. The state’s music economy has outperformed the nation as a whole, and job growth in live music has grown by 70 percent in the past five years. Colorado is a global destination for music festivals, and our musicians play to fans just about everywhere in the world.”


This plan can disrupt at the local level to strengthen musicians, at the state level to boost the economy, and the national level to build bridges to the Colorado Sound. The Strategy acts as a model for other states seeking ways to boost their economy.

Although the interest seems quite economical on the outside, the root of the strategy is:

What is music’s role in the public good?

 National Strategies exist around Music Cities; this envelopes states, cities, and foundations that focus on industry and community. 

Who else is doing this? Austin, Seattle, Tennessee, Australia and Canada to name a few.

The Colorado Strategy does have foundational components that mirror some of these models. What makes Co Music strategy unique?  Its ability to connect philanthropy, government, nonprofit and for profit, parties all at the same table.

The Colorado Strategy has a very broad approach that is:

What does music do that is for the vast good of humanity?


The Music Ecosystem Colorado is building captures the idea of a “music city”, amplified.

The transformative nature of the strategy is thinking beyond just disrupting the music model but rather a holistic approach to building an “ecosystem” that:

  • Supports the creative with resources
  • Lifts the creative up through mentorship
  • Enriches Economic development
  • Embodies social good
  • Creates social change 
  • Induces a better quality of life


A few things are at the heart of it as Elliott says,

“ To make it possible for musicians to make a living, to make it possible for small businesses related to music,  for non-profits related to music, all to make a living. On the other end of it, to then make it possible for those things to do a bigger and greater public good because they can make a living. A lot of the conversation is, What can entities government or industry do for musicians and music business? Then the follow-up is, what can musicians and music business do for the larger public good?”

 The strategy takes a deep look at how communities are symbiotic with the end goals that maybe don’t have anything to do with music. The outcomes support people who work in Colorado to be able to sustain a living as middle-class workers, in addition to reaching anyone connected to the music industry.



Merrill explains his goal as:

“The big picture for me is general health and well-being and sustainability of the state. Music for me is my little path. I have been playing music for 26 years, married to a musician, I am always hesitant to let music be too precious. It is critical, it is vital, this is absolutely about music, but it is in servicing a bigger picture.”


Fort Collins comes in as one of the best places to live for Tech, Families, Cycling, and Craft Beer. Although the strategy will live here, the reach will be statewide, national and international. Changing the personas of an artist and helping educate people how creatives enrich society can put Fort Collins on a mutual interest list one day.

Teaching youth that creative careers are an option. Allowing the community to see just how much they have touched my music every day and the power of its reach goes beyond just something on the radio.

This plan will give music a sector of the community that is lucrative, enriching for the soul and has a cyclical effect for the nation. Music is an art. Music is a feeling. Now Music can be a business. Music can be a career. Music can change the world and the communities people live, play and work in.




If you want to learn more about what other states are doing, the American for the Arts has a state-by-state guide.







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