DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities announces 2024 music census

The DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities will put its support behind collecting the 2024 DC Area Music Census, a citywide canvass that aims to gather demographic data on the region’s various music professionals and artists. The commission will hold a launch event on Tuesday night for this year’s census at Songbyrd Music House in Northeast D.C.

The 2024 canvass builds upon the 2019 DC Music Census, a combined effort of Georgetown University and the DC Office of Cable, Television, Film, Music and Entertainment (OCTFME), which gathered responses from over 2,500 musicians that year.

The 2024 DC Area Music Census will take place in April, with data gathered online and in-person at industry events such as music festivals and conferences. The commission is partnering with the Austin-based organization Sound Music Cities for much of the data-gathering efforts. Sound Music Cities is assisting at least 20 other towns with music censuses this year, including Baltimore, Cleveland, New Orleans and Minneapolis.

Aaron Myers, the arts commission’s executive director and a well-known jazz vocalist on the D.C. scene, told CapitalBop that this year’s effort will build on the work done in the 2019 census while aiming to be more expansive, inclusive and impactful. “One of the lessons learned from the last census is that this ecosystem is made up of more than just musicians,” Myers said. With that in mind, this year’s census will ask all members of the music economy — promoters, sound engineers, theater managers and more — to participate.

Participation is not limited to D.C. residents. Anyone within the “length and breadth of the Metro” will be eligible for inclusion, Myers said.

The team that undertook the 2019 census had been hoping to shed new light on just how vast the D.C. music scene is. “There were voices that weren’t being heard,” Anna Celenza, a professor of music at Georgetown, told CapitalBop at the time. “So if they don’t know you exist, they can’t do things that are actually best for the people.”

This year, Myers hopes that by including a broader ranger of music professionals, the new census will do even more to capture the depth and strength of the region’s music community. “Usually, people think that the main economic driver for Washington, D.C., is government services. And I really want people throughout the country to understand,” he said, “just how strong the arts are here in D.C.”

Free tickets to Tuesday evening’s launch event at Songbyrd are available via Eventbrite.

Myers said that the agency will aim to leverage the data from the census to unlock greater funding for the arts citywide, and to stake the music community’s claim to government support amidst ongoing post-pandemic revitalization efforts. Myers hopes that the data will also entice organizations across industries to move into D.C. “I’m hoping that this census will let a company in Ohio or California who is wondering if they should relocate to D.C. look at the data and say, ‘Yes we should, because there’s something here for us — not only for my employees, but for my family,'” he said.

Of course, the arts commission not only represents the interests of musicians, but those of all arts professionals in the region. Myers said that the commission plans to undertake other censuses in the coming two years, including for dance, theater and visual arts professionals. The goal, he said, is simple: “When we think of what art looks like in Washington, D.C., we can actually put some facts behind it.”



About Abram Mamet

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Abram Mamet, CapitalBop's assistant editor, is a musician and writer living in Mt. Rainier, MD. You can hear him on French horn leading a jam session every Wednesday at metrobar in NE D.C.

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