We've said it before and we'll say it again: when it comes to innovation, we should all be singing the praises of cities.
Although it’s obvious enough upon reflection, we sometimes forget that the concentration of humanity in urban (and suburban) environments is what drives productivity, progress, and prosperity. As Harvard economist Edward Glaeser likes to point out, “Cities are our greatest invention.” Why? Because “the strength that comes from human collaboration is the central truth behind civilization’s success.”
It’s no coincidence that great art comes from cities, where artists of every variety have congregated to work off of each other’s talents. In the world of pop music, for example, nearly all the great talent developed in a few major metropolitan areas, such as NY, LA, London, Detroit, Nashville, etc.—where dense concentrations of performers, recording studios, night clubs, and fans were located. Many of the great musical artists weren’t born in or near major cities, but that’s where they headed to perform, record, and hang out with other artists.
In the business world, the lion’s share of hi-tech innovation has grown out of a few metropolitan areas like Silicon Valley (extending into San Francisco), Silicon Alley (NY), Seattle, Boston/Cambridge, Austin, Tel Aviv, Munich, Stockholm, Seoul, etc.—where blockbuster firms and future blockbuster firms have taken root. The best & brightest techie minds seem to find their way to these communities where top talent has accumulated.
So how did a handful of cities come up with so much creative talent to begin with, whether in the arts or hi-tech?
One answer: that’s where the employment opportunities were. NY, LA, London, etc. could put musicians to work. Silicon Valley, Silicon Alley, etc. could put engineers to work.
But wasn’t there creative talent in those places to begin with? Which came first: the employers or the talent pool?
Hard to prove, but many make the case that it starts with the talent, the people, the brains. Says Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, “Economic development is really the result of creating a city where people want to live. It’s the attraction of human capital…People no longer chase jobs. Jobs chase people.”
Once it gets going, of course, a positive feedback loop ensues. Edward Glaeser says, “These cities create a virtuous cycle in which employers are attracted by the large pool of potential employees and workers are drawn by the abundance of potential employers.”
Urban theorist Richard Florida, in a series of books from The Rise of the Creative Class to The Great Reset, argues that a community of creative talent is where it all begins and that cultural creativity precedes technological creativity.
If so, that makes a great case for making sure your community has a creative, rollicking rock scene,
Florida found from focus groups with students about to graduate from college that “lifestyle frequently trumps employment” in their choosing where to locate. They sought “interesting music venues, neighborhood art galleries, performance spaces and theaters.” Cornett adds, “If your city’s being populated by highly educated twenty-somethings with choices, you’re probably going to succeed.”
For this reason—as mentioned in an earlier post—Florida has counseled city leaders that “finding ways to help support a local music scene can be just as important as investing in hi-tech business and far more effective than building a downtown mall.”
If rock & roll were on NASDAQ, you'd want to buy and hold.