What if Hewlett and Packard had Started a Band Instead?…

Phtot: Andi Harman
Photo: Andi Harman

I never tire of reading about the birth and development of both Silicon Valley and successful music scenes like Seattle’s grunge explosion, Austin’s progressive country movement, and the free jazz that filled lofts of New York City decades ago. It wasn’t until I woke up one morning in a van on a side street in Chicago that I realized how similar one is to the other. I had just started a doctoral program in urban planning and public policy while also playing in a band in Denton, Texas. My participation in Denton’s music scene – and the larger national network of scenes it is a part of – allowed me to examine directly how a music scene operates. An earlier result of this participatory experience was my master’s thesis, and later journal article, concerning Saddle Creek Records and “Slowdown,” a $10.2 million dollar urban redevelopment project in Omaha, Nebraska. For my dissertation, I wanted to continue my immersion as a scene participant in order to examine a subject that is largely overlooked – how music scenes catalyze economic and community development for cities.

On that particular July day in Chicago, it was already uncomfortably warm at 9AM and while walking across the street to the Walgreens to take a “shower,” I thought to myself, is this any different than my friend’s sister who used to sleep underneath her desk every night in Silicon Valley while she helped launched a start-up? Are music scenes like Silicon Valley’s economic cluster with bands as firms operating in a milieu of innovation that includes venue owners, audio engineers, graphic designers, filmmakers, promoters, and others cooperating and competing? I asked myself… What if Hewlett and Packard had started a band instead?

I dedicated the next few years to researching and writing my dissertation, What if Hewlett and Packard had Started a Band Instead?… Denton, Texas’ Music Scene as Economic Cluster and its Broader Implications for the City’s Economy. By framing Denton’s music scene in Michael Porter’s economic cluster theory, which is commonly used to explain why Silicon Valley has a regional advantage in productivity, innovation, and new business formation, I was able to better understand the dynamics of music scenes as economic agents. This work allowed me to further demonstrate what I first learned with my research in Omaha – that music scenes have many positive externalities for their host cities, and if fostered correctly with policy, can benefit both participant and city. In the coming months, I’ll post more about my findings. Until then, here’s a link to my research concerning Omaha and information about the garage where Hewlett and Packard launched a company.




The globalization of local, or, the localization of global

In a recent post, we discussed the research challenges of defining our subjects of interest. In seeking the answer, we have experienced a variety of related definitional challenges.  When thinking about the relation of makers to their local economies, we were presented with the challenges of thinking about what “local” means.  How do we bound our notion of local?

Continue reading

Seeing the Invisible

As we have been preparing our new research objectives, we have been immediately confronted by a handful of research dilemmas.  What is an artisan or a maker, exactly, and where do we find them?  What limitations do we impose on our research by creating boundaries around the artisans we include?  Who gets excluded, and at what cost?

Continue reading

New Directions in Research

Hello (again)! After some time off, the Artisan Economy Initiative has forged a new path in our research on Portland’s artisan economy.  AEI has teamed up with the Portland Made Collective to begin to investigate the relationship between the artisan economy and the larger economic “ecosystem” here in Portland.  We are interested in interrogating the (in)visibility of the artisan economy within the broader understanding of economy.

Continue reading

Karoke as art

Karoke as art?   Dan Kois,  senior editor at Slate and a contributing writer to New Yorker magazine consider this in How Good Does Karaoke Have to Be to Qualify as Art?.   Is this just another paean to Portland. Yes, but something more, and along the way he does capture why Portland is a special place for artisans.

Portland isn’t just the capital of karaoke, I was realizing. The Japanese influence, the small-business climate and the abundance of bands don’t really matter. Portland is the capital of America’s small ponds. It’s a city devoted to chasing that feeling — the feeling of doing something you love, just for a moment, and being recognized for it, no matter how obscure or unnecessary or ludicrous it might seem to the straight world. It is the capital of taking frivolity seriously, of being silly as if it’s your job.


My New York State on Mind: Part Two the Mast Brothers

Note: This is a second post from Darren Hoad, Senior Lecturer, Edge Hill University, UK.  Check out his beautifulbizz blog

My Trip to New York was intended as research but there was a point where work and pleasure became indistinguishable. As a consumer of chocolate, my visit to Mast Brothers Chocolatiers in Williamsburg in New York was a long anticipated indulgence (for research purposes you understand). I had used the case of the Mast Brothers during teaching sessions in the UK, examining the nature of consumption, production, localism, arts and craftsmanship. I have to admit to being a lover of chocolate. I tend to eat most types, most brands, milk or dark, it doesn’t matter. I consume but don’t think too much about where it comes from and how it is made. I eat chocolate therefore I am. However, industrially produced and mass manufactured chocolate is changing. The chocolate doesn’t taste as nice as it once did, and the bars are getting smaller! Continue reading

Insourcing not just a trend

Surprisingly, the economic turnaround of the US economy has been led by manufacturing. Its a complicated story that includes the resurgence of innovative companies that develop small run, highly engineered products that require more skilled artisan-like workers.  A second part of the growth of manufacturing has been around insourcing.  No longer considered a trend, large companies like GE are placing big bets on US manufacturing facilities.  Why? Again the story is complicated but one explanation is to protect intellectual property from knockoffs developed by outsourcing firms. Another is the changing role of labor. In advanced manufacturing, the walls between production and design are being broken down (in ways similar to what I described in Brew to Bikes:Portland’s Artisan Economy) For more on insourcing, check out two recent media stories, NPR’s Not Just Patriotic, US Manufacturing May be Smart  and the Atlantic Magazine’s The Insourcing Boom.