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Propertyshe Podcast: Shain Shapiro

Posted on 22 April 2022

It’s one of those things that it’s included in everything, even if we don’t realise it, you know, you can’t exercise without music  Who’s watching a movie without music?  It’s, it’s, it’s everywhere. So, the more that you can understand its induced value, value that it brings to other things, the more you can understand what, what the best bet is in a community, in terms of investing in it.

Susan Freeman

Hi, I’m Susan Freeman. Welcome back to our PropertyShe podcast series brought to you by Mishcon de Reya, in association with the London Real Estate Forum, where I get to interview some of the key influencers in the world of real estate and the built environment. Today, we are focussing on music and I’m delighted to welcome Shain Shapiro. Shain is the Founder and Chairman of Sound Diplomacy, the leading global advisor on growing music and night-time economies in cities and places. He has defined a new way to think about the value of music and through it, influenced over one hundred cities and places to invest in music and culture as part of overall growth strategy. He is also the Founder and Executive Director of the not-for-profit global Center for Music Ecosystems which he launched last year. Through Sound Diplomacy, Shain has consulted in over 75 cities and countries, he delivered the first ever music presentation at a UN World Urban Forum and consulted at length with the GLA, including working on the development of London’s Night Czar and across the Mayor of London’s music policy. He is an accomplished writer, contributing to Forbes, World Economic Forum and has authored authoritative reports on the role of music in cities, tourism, the night-time economy, real estate and recovery. Shain holds a PhD from the University of London. He is currently writing a book about music ecosystems and their impact on cities and communities. So now we’re going to hear from Shain Shapiro about Sound Diplomacy and its key role in working with local and central governments and other stakeholders to promote the music economy.

So, Shain, good morning and welcome to the studio.

Shain Shapiro

Thank you for having me.

Susan Freeman

So, it doesn’t sound like a London, London accent to me so, just tell me a little bit about you, where you grew up, how long you’ve been in London.

Shain Shapiro

Yeah, I grew up in Toronto, Canada. I moved to London, well I moved to the UK in 2004. I came for university. I left for a few years and I did my Masters in the Netherlands and I lived there for a little while and then I came back to London in 2007 and I’ve been here ever since. So, there was no grand plan to move to the UK or anything like that, it was just an opportunity that I was given to do something different at a time when you know when you are like late teens and you want to do something different.

Susan Freeman

And what was the, what the something different you were doing in London in 2007?

Shain Shapiro

Well, I was, I was working as a music journalist so I, I was doing that in The Netherlands when I finished my Masters, I was working reviewing festivals and concerts and things for a couple of magazines and I was doing that in Spain, I was reviewing a festival and I had no intentions to move to London but in, when I went to a festival in Spain I met my partner, still my partner, and she lived in London so, she had a better job than I did at the time so, I felt well why not move, move to London because when I went to, in 2004 I went to Leeds, I didn’t live in London, so I lived in Leeds and I had only been to London a couple of times to visit as a tourist but yeah, I was a music journalist, I worked, put on gigs and kind of very music industry related stuff which is really where you know what I’ve always done in my life. And you know when I wanted to go out on my own, I went to my boss at the time and I said, you know, if I started this thing, would you, you know would you still work with me and he didn’t care, he just said as long as the job is done well, you can do whatever you want and so when I finished my PhD, you know I thought Sound Diplomacy was a bit funny and interesting name so Sound Diplomacy just existed but it wasn’t a, it wasn’t like a stop and start, it was just a, it just kind evolved over time.

Susan Freeman

So, tell us a little bit about Sound Diplomacy. What does it do?  Because it sounds very different from anything I’ve come across before.

Shain Shapiro

It’s very different to what we did in 2013, you know when the company was officially registered, or 2012 when I was quote unquote “doing it”. You know, we’re an economic consulting company now, we work across, you know we specialise in music but we work across culture, leisure and hospitality and really our job is to help mainly quantify but also qualify you know the economic and social value of community led investment. So, you know, for us it’s, you know we think that places are, places are worth living in, we always say it’s not only building a place to live but a place to live for and that comes through culture, that comes through congregation, it comes through community but I don’t think that we should be making decisions just because it’s the quote unquote “right thing to do” you know I’m not naïve, I think we need to come up with an economic argument as to why this is the, not only the right thing to do but the right financial thing to do. So, Sound Diplomacy’s job, as it’s evolved over time and then obviously skipping over nine years of failing upwards a lot, as we say, but, you know our job is to produce the data and the research and evidence to provide cities, governments, the real estate sector, larger private companies like venue operators and things, with the evidence they need so that they can make the right decisions in terms of how they are investing in communities. So, that manifests itself in working across large mixed use regeneration projects from kind of brown field sites in the master planning phase and detailed design phase, straight through to designing venues and facilities that are linked to music and culture, to measuring you know meanwhile activation and in some cases putting on events and you know working to create partnerships with community organisations and things like that, so, but we’ve evolved a lot over time and when I started working in real estate, which again was kind of a coincidence, we were very focussed on music, on kind of bringing music into not just a nice to have, not just something that you do on the side but something that can actually be quantifiably beneficial for you know for an investment.

Susan Freeman

Okay, so we are definitely going to be talking a little bit about you know examples of working, working in real estate and some of these, some of these projects. You have talked about failing, failing upwards but obviously you learn as you go along but the companies now, I think you now have five global offices, including one in Costa Rica? 

Shain Shapiro

Yes, yeah, we, yeah we’re, we’ve companies slash offices in the US, UK, Canada, not, no, we have a company in Canada so it’s six now and we just registered it last week; so Canada, US, UK, Spain and Germany and Costa Rica. We have staff all over the world, with Covid, you know everyone just moves wherever they move so we have a very kind of open minded policy when it comes to that, we don’t really care, it’s about the work it’s not where you are but we have I think around thirty people, maybe grow to about thirty-five depending on the project around the world and yeah, it’s one of those things that has, it’s evolved a lot and we’re very, I think we’re very proactive and reactive at the same time, if that makes sense, it’s, I, I probably have you know some sort of undiagnosed ADHD, I like moving from one thing to another a lot and I’ve always found that we have to kind of recreate our own relevance over time because now even the music stuff I think is fairly well understood, maybe not by everybody but I think that, I think there’s an understanding that music is important, even that didn’t exist in that way you know three or four years ago. So, now we’re, you know we’re looking at other, you know other things to you know to bolt onto music or to bolt onto culture as well.

Susan Freeman

So, do you think the people that you’re speaking to and I think it ranges from like governments to local authorities to property developers, do people understand what your music strategy is that you are trying to sell them?

Shain Shapiro

Um, so, that’s a, to answer the question, probably no at the beginning. I think the lesson that I’ve learned with Sound Diplomacy, especially with introducing a new product into a new sector, a sector that I knew nothing about, that I had no contacts in, I can really thank two or three people who really you know helped me at the beginning, who I’m sure you know, and so when we started, we, imagine we were kind of a hammer in search of a bunch of nails, we thought that music was a solution to everything and that everyone should just invest in music for music’s sake and that’s not true and I think we’ve evolved, learning from the people that I speak to because I have to communicate with a wide variety of clients and stakeholders that we are kind of you know a nail in search of hammers and so, Sound Diplomacy has kind of evolved and so just really just asking the client what the problem is and the problem usually is not, it doesn’t have anything to do with music, it’s how can I attract talent, how can I retain talent, how can I create a self, welcoming piece of public ground, how can we get the most tax efficient processes to attract creativity and attract creators, how do we increase tourists?  Those are the kinds of questions we get asked. Music is a solution to that, it’s not THE solution to anything but it factors in because music is something that everybody understands and something that everybody can, you know can relate to. So, what we’ve learned is that if we incorporate music into those bigger questions it produces part of the solution and part of that solution can lead to other solutions and music is also a very misunderstood output. When we look at how music literally works, how it functions, what is needed for it to function, it tends to be treated in a very kind of ad hoc and ephemeral way, most people let’s put on an event and that’s our strategy. Events begin and end. Their infrastructure that goes into producing events usually is temporary and the entire value that that music could bring to the investment, is not wholly understood because there’s a, as you are putting essentially a time stamp on it. So, we’re not obviously, events are part of it but it’s helping explain that you know there’s a lot of more nuance to this once you peel back the layers but really, you know, the, that’s what I’ve learned over a few years so, at the beginning, yeah, no one understood it. The first call that I had to a developer, I’m not going to tell you which one, but I had the, I just cold called someone, this was back in like 2016 and she didn’t understand what I was saying and she kind of hung up on me and I don’t blame her because I didn’t know what I was talking about, I called her based on a venue that they were developing and I was like I can help you and I didn’t know how I could help, I was just thinking that oh, you know, I know something about music and it’s evolved to think that there’s a you know music is a, is an incredible asset if it’s placed within a toolkit of other assets and traditionally, it’s very, it’s very ad hoc, ephemeral or facilities best. So, we don’t look at music as an ecosystem, we don’t look at music as a community asset, we look at it as a thing that you do here and I think that we are getting better at explaining that, hopefully quicker than I just explained it to you.

Susan Freeman

And you mentioned two or three people that helped you at the beginning, I mean are you, are you able to give them a namecheck?

Shain Shapiro

Oris, you know one of my favourite people, I love her to death and I think she’s one of the shining stars of the sector is Alex Notay, she gave me a chance. So, I showed up at MIPIM by myself. I was put on a panel, quite a high level panel, I don’t know how I even got on it at the time, like there were a few other kind of quite, I think Bill Hughes as well from L&G was on the panel but I don’t remember but she was on the panel and she kind of took me aside because I was, I was scared and I didn’t know what I was talking about and I was surrounded in a room of CEOs, it was like the 10 am, like first day panel at the British stand and she kind of took me under her wing at MIPIM and I had lunch with her that day, she joined the Board of Sound Diplomacy for a number of years, I you know, I love her to death and another one is Martin Evans, I don’t think I would have, who is with U+I, don’t think anything would have happened if Martin didn’t believe in us. So, Martin was our first client. I met him at a Mishcon party, randomly, at MIPIM but it was pre-MIPIM, I think it was the same MIPIM as, and I, the pre-one.

Susan Freeman

The pre-MIPIM party, yes.

Shain Shapiro

And again I had walked into a room that I was very unfamiliar with. I don’t look like, I probably look more like a property developer now than I did five years ago or six years ago and he was fantastic and he hired us to work on one of his projects and we learned a lot through that process. So, he’s definitely another one that I owe a lot to in the sector. Those two. There are others as well, quite a few, we’ve had some longstanding clients in the sector or some that kind of come and go. I did a lot of work with Legal and General, we published our report with them and that was because of an amazing woman named Rachel Dickie who I think is at Grosvenor now. She was a Head of, Head of something at L&G at the time and I, and she’s another kind of shining star like of the sector and again, these are like young, you know young women leaders, super impressive. So those three and there are many, many others as well.

Susan Freeman

No, that’s great. Well I’m glad I asked that question so, it’s great to have mentions for Alex and Martin and Rachel and also for the Mishcon de Reya pre-MIPIM party.

Shain Shapiro

Yeah, nothing would have happened for me if I didn’t go to that party and that was a really intimidating party for me at the time because it was, it was somewhere, I think maybe in your office or it was in Haymarket somewhere?

Susan Freeman

Yes. Yes, probably in Haymarket and yeah.

Shain Shapiro

Yeah and imagine a music guy kind of showing up, you know, in my early thirties, I don’t know anybody, everybody looks intimidating. I know everyone puts a front on but you know and I remember Martin grabbing me, I remember he introduced me to a few people. I’m forever indebted to him, not just for that, for you know, for just who he is as a, as a leader and a creative person.

Susan Freeman

That’s really good to know, I didn’t even know about that. So, let’s maybe look at how, I mean I know that you have, you look at how you assess the economic value of music, so it’s not just a question of thinking that you know music is life enhancing and you know helps create communities but you actually are able to look at the economic value that music brings. I mean, how do you go about assessing it?

Shain Shapiro

So, we developed a way of doing it overtime, again, so the most important thing of music or culture, of any kind you know anything human beings do to express themselves, the most important thing is to map it, so is to literally map it on a map, where everything is. There are a number of tools that you can use to do that and it’s not just a physical map, like where it literally is in a place, it’s also obviously there are digital maps of how many artists are producing music or releasing music within an area. So, we have developed a framework that brings together national statistical data that any sector would use. There are you know economic indicators for music for culture like there are for any other sector, they’re flawed but they exist and we developed our own way of mapping communities, so we’ve done a lot of mapping and that’s mapping physical premises, businesses but also mapping community organisations and we can get pretty granular to identify like where every music teacher is and where every choir is and so on. We talk to people, like anyone else so, you know to understand the music industry side of it, which is, there’s different, there’s the music industry and then what we call the music ecosystem, which is everything else. And the music industry is you know fairly straight forward in terms of how you analyse it, there are, there’s collected data that we can access but also we go in and we do stakeholder engagement and we assess individual businesses and individual artist’s incomes in communities. Obviously, aggregated and you know we don’t tell anybody and kind of everything get thrown into let’s say a hopper and I’ve a team of economists who are smarter than me and they have developed a way to identify the direct, indirect and induced economic impact of music in a community but also the percentage of music jobs, what those jobs are so, the percentage of music jobs per total jobs in a community, the growth or decline of those jobs, the growth or decline of the music sector. So, when it comes to real estate, really it’s, it’s simply understanding you know what is the highest yield use in a particular place, so you don’t want to do something that no one needs or wants, that’s pretty simple, you don’t want to do something is going to be too expensive to run so, on the other side of it, what we do is, you know I guess very similar to any cost consultant or any kind of viability assessor, so if we’re going to do something musical or incorporating music or sound or performance or whatever then we, we need to have an understanding not only how much it’s going to cost to build but also what the business model of that use is and music is a very complicated business in some regards, if you dig into it. So, so we have a team that does that as well so, what we’re doing now in a few places in the UK right now is developing plans to build music and music related infrastructure. So if you put all that together, that’s kind of how we do it but again we evolved, we’re actually in the process of a bit of a re-brand, I think our new website will come out in the next week or two and we’ve been doing a lot of work that isn’t musical lately, we just don’t tell anybody about it. We’ve been working a lot more on hotels and on other leisure and wider creative economy and culture, same kind of stuff so, we’re evolving a little bit out of music but music obviously is central to our heart and to our core but as we learn, you know music just doesn’t you know it’s, it’s one of those things that it’s included in everything, even if we don’t realise it you know, you can’t exercise without music, who’s watching a movie without music, it’s, it’s everywhere so, the more that you can understand its induced value, value that it brings to other things, the more you can understand what the best bet is in a community in terms of investing in it.

Susan Freeman

So, you’ve mentioned that in the UK you have more of a focus on real estate and that elsewhere it’s tended to be more policy and strategy. Why is that?  Is that just by virtue of who you met as you started the business?

Shain Shapiro

Yeah, I think so, it’s also based on the experience of my team. Our most experienced senior team member who has experience, he’s a chartered surveyor, he built music venues, he lives here so, just by nature of coincidence. At the same time, yeah, my network within the real estate sector and my understanding of how it works so I’ve learned a lot about how you know how the planning system works, I understand the various you know issues and challenges. I did a lot of work, so I was a consultant in the Mayor’s office, working on music policy and you learn about permitted development and Article 4 declarations and Section 106 and CIL and all that stuff that I now understand how it works and how music potentially, or culture, interacts with it. You know, the US and Canada for example, the US is actually our biggest business so we make more money there than we make anywhere else and we have for a while but it’s a completely different planning system and the players in the market are completely different, so we, we do have a number of projects in real estate in the US now, we have one big, we have one, we’re now tangentially involved with but we were very active in the beginning, that’s opening in a month. But we’re starting to get more involved so we have a couple of projects, we have a real estate project that we’re working on in Colombia, we have one that is starting in Brazil that’s a hotel development. So, it’s changing but I think as I develop this side of the business, imagine you know you get flung into an area that I had no idea about, I was nervous, I was, you have imposter syndrome and all of that so I think you pick your battles and I had Alex on my board here, for example, Alex knows everything that you need to know so, I had the counsel here and I think that there is, there are a lot of enlightened you know developers in the UK. I’m not going to say it’s easy, I’m not going to say that you know once you actually show how much something costs and what the projected yield is, that everyone agrees with that because music is a very patient investment, it's not something you do if you want to make money overnight, it’s something, it’s a longer term kind of thing but yeah it’s been certainly easier to convince people here. The US is a bit kind of Wild Westy, there’s, and it’s also down to local, every community is different so, it’s so complicated understanding how policies work. Canada’s the same, so, and then other parts of the world, we’re just kind of getting started.

Susan Freeman

Really, really interesting because you’re seeing, you really are seeing things globally. And just looking at real estate so, at what stage do you become say, you know it’s a new regeneration project, at what stage to do you become involved and how do you, how are you thinking about music and culture when you get involved?  What sort of things would you be saying to the developer, I mean is it just all about the money?

Shain Shapiro

No. A lot of it is but no. We try to get involved as early as possible. We get brought in to fix a lot of problems and there are some things, once you build a building and it sucks, it’s really hard to refit it to make it work and it’s expensive. A lot of developments that incorporate music and sound are not fit for purpose, you know, any atrium for example that’s you know that a glass atrium, lots of people like to have music in glass atriums and they are the worst for sound projection, so we try to be involved at the very, very early stages but that doesn’t always work. We tend to get involved either to do something kind of surgical so one specific thing, an economic impact or forecast of a particular piece of, a part of a scheme, so a venue within a mixed use development, sometimes quite often we get bolted onto bids and then we get a win fee so, we’re the cool kids that get thrown into the bid to try to get a larger developer to win the bid, we do that a lot, we’re in a couple of them now. But we try so, you know we try to be at the table in the master planning and detailed design meetings because a lot of decisions that are made around wayfinding, around the density of the buildings, all stuff that I’m no expert in obviously, but I you know that matters, egress matters when it comes to music venues, you need, especially if you are designing a place from scratch and simple things like aligning the needs of music and culture with kind of the wider health, safety, environmental sustainability, you know all these things make noise and create a mess and they need to be accessible in every definition of the word ‘accessible’ and all these kinds of things and sometimes it’s not considered. Not intentionally, just not considered so, and then there’s another kind of looking at the use of the space over a longer period of time, comes the night-time economy side of it. So, we try to be involved as early as possible but we don’t always get to be so, sometimes we just get hired to do a mapping of the community to help you know assess the projected viability of a particular piece of the scheme so, sometimes we just do stakeholder engagement but most of the time it’s economic related, it’s either a forecast or an impact assessment.

Susan Freeman

So, you’re working with I mean the public sector and the private sector, is there any difference in the responses you get when you’re working with a sort of government local authority or if you’re working with a developer?

Shain Shapiro

That’s a good question. Yes and no. It’s easier to get stuff done quicker with developers so long as obviously there’s planning but you know local authorities, we don’t do as much work with local authorities in the UK as we used to, I think the market has changed and we’re busy in other markets frankly but there is a renewed interest I think in culture in the UK, there’s more money going into culture now than really ever, it’s just how it’s being, how it’s going into culture is confusing but there is money. And in terms of, yeah, private developers, you know we tend to pick our battles now, if that makes sense, so we’re not, five years ago we took every job that we could, you know as we were learning and as we were building. We don’t do that anymore, we’re trying to kind of really think about how we can be involved in you know long-term impact regeneration schemes and we’re involved in a couple of those now in the UK and a couple in the US as well. But to answer the question, I think certainly private sector is more nimble but far more kind of just you know demonstrate the viability. There are still, I still do believe that you know again anything musical, anything cultural, anything night-time economy, is a risk, right, I get that and I understand that you know investing in real estate is just about managing risk and I still think that we have a long way to go to explain the risk benefit analysis of music culture, leisure, night-time economy in a way that’s a little bit more interesting that just a standard you know change shop or you know outdoor retail park or whatever. I think that’s changing because the nature of how we’re experiencing cities is changing and we, you know a lot of us aren’t going into the office anymore but, but saying that, I still do, we come across a lot of very traditionally minded investors or people who represent funds that are very traditional that see music, culture, just as a cost and a risk, not as a benefit. Whereas with local authorities, I think they see that as a benefit, culturally and economically, but they don’t have as many resources to invest in it. So, we still have a long way to go. There’s a lot of people who love music personally who say the right things but are just quite hypocritical in their analysis of the value and that’s no slight on them, that means that I have to work harder to convince them or learn how to speak their language better.

Susan Freeman

So, it would be really interesting I think to look at some specific examples and you’ve mentioned regeneration schemes, I mean is there anything that you are working on in the UK that we could you know just talk through to just you know talk about the practicalities of how you approach things and…

Shain Shapiro

Yeah, we’re working with the Earl’s Court Development Company which I think is like the largest brown field development site in at least the UK, it’s huge, and we did an economic and social impact assessment for their meanwhile activation last year, the Underbelly, the Comedy Festival. That was social impact as well as economic impact. We worked in partnership with a firm called Real Worth who were very good and we did a music heritage map for them, which is really cool, I wish I could share it but that’s Earl’s Court’s choice, it’s their IP but it’s amazing the amount of music heritage that’s in that area from like way back in the like 1860’s and we, we did a cultural asset map for them, you know which identifies all cultural uses, that includes like hotels and takeaways and everything, anything remotely cultural and we’re working with them as well on kind of cultural strategy as they think things through so, they’re an, you know they’re incredible people. Rebecca and Sarah there, Sarah’s the Creative Director and Rebecca does I think Public Affairs, they’re both very inspiring, very, very inspiring and Rob as well, the CEO, who I knew from Linley’s is also, he’s brilliant too so, I think that there’s such an incredible opportunity there, we’re honoured to be part of it, there’s a lot of people working on that. We’re working as well, we’ve been working for years on a development of a music venues in Walthamstow the owners of the site have changed three times now so it started with being owned by a supermarket chain, then it was owned by a co-housing developer, co-living developer that doesn’t exist anymore and now it’s been bought by a student housing company and it’s a site of a former music venue in Blackhorse Road and we had designed a you know a really kind of modern, fit for purpose basement music venue so, because the building that the venue is going to be built in has changed so many times, originally it was a supermarket, then it was co-living, now it’s student housing, it’s still in planning but we’re really excited about that, that’s a couple of years away obviously but it’s, it's called The Standard, which I’m sure some readers, some of the listeners, I’m sure went there in the ‘90s, it was a rock club on the corner of 1 Blackhorse Road. You know, there’s a few kind of behind the scenes things that we’re doing, we’re working on a levelling up application in the north of England and that is, I can’t say specific, but that’s about converting a department store into a cultural space so there are a lot of, there are a lot of old Woolworths and Debenhams and stuff and there are a couple of those that we’re working on kind of redesigning them into cultural hubs, it’s not just music but one of them is built around a home for a local festival and the other one is built around music and health and wellbeing. And we’re doing, we’re working on some economic impact assessment for Southampton, for their City of Culture.

Susan Freeman

So I was particularly interested in Cardiff, because it, I think it’s the first city in the UK to incorporate music urbanism into its city structure.

Shain Shapiro

Yeah, so I can explain that. So, Cardiff was the first city that commissioned to do like a proper, formal year long music strategy so, a music strategy for a city is much of the stuff that I’ve been talking about just at a city level, so it’s mapping the entire city, doing a regulatory assessment of really to understand kind of how music in all its forms and functions interacts with city government, did an economic impact assessment and the strategy that came out of that was like a music city strategy for Cardiff and we’re really proud of it, it was right before Covid – like everything – but the city has done quite a lot so they have created a Music Board and one of the things that I’m really proud of is the Music Board is a consultee on planning applications that are brought to the council that are within a certain, I think it’s a hundred metres, I’m not quite sure but within a certain geographic area of a music venue and I’m not saying that this is a panacea that solves all the problems but the dialogue that has been developed to help understand the needs and the role of music venues, rehearsal spaces and stuff in Cardiff has greatly improved, the city is also moving forward, the Arena, which is the Live Nation, Oak View Group Arena, which we supported as well and did some work for. A number of planning policy changes have been enacted so the city, the city treats music deliberately and intentionally, so lots of cities in the UK do this in different ways, so Cardiff is not an anomaly, they were just the first to kind of really and frankly invest in it, you know they spent a lot of money, not just on us, they spent a lot of money to really understand music’s role, the leader of the council, who is still the leader of the council, who is again a hugely inspiring human being, Hugh Thomas, was very, very, very supportive, you know, he was engaged in the process and I think that the thing is is that it’s not about music being special, it’s just it’s been given the same care and due diligence that any other sector would be given if a city wishes to leverage it, invest in it, maximise it. And Cardiff did that. And you know and yeah they’re still doing it. Now they had the 6 Music Festival was there, again part of the strategy attracting these large events. There is actually going to be a big kind of you know Edinburgh style festival in Cardiff, this was the plan pre-Covid, it didn’t happen obviously but part of the tragedy was kind of a festival for Wales, I’m not sure if they’re continuing with that or if that will be in a different city but that was the idea at the time, was something and I think that has morphed into attracting 6 Music Festival and really make space for the Arena and there’s a number of other initiatives that city, Cardiff Council, and the Welsh Government are doing to support music.

Susan Freeman

And I know you talk about music tourism and again, you know, that’s possibly not something that we focus enough on and that in itself you must be able to measure the economic impact of you know people coming to a town or city for music.

Shain Shapiro

Yeah, so UK Music, which is the Trade Association, they’re like the you know BPF of music, they’re, so they’re one of the only countries, I think one of two countries in the world that actually measures music tourism and they put out reports called Wish You Were Here, which you know I think is a great name, and they do it mainly through ticket receipts, that’s really how you can do it, right, and you know the post code of the person who buys a ticket so you can see where they come from and you can measure the spend from there. So they put out regional maps of the value of music tourism in each of the UK regions and music tourism mainly is about, I wrote a report for the UN for this, for the UN World Tourism Organisation, it’s on our websites, it’s called Music is the New Gastronomy, which was not my choice but they were doing a lot of work on food tourism so I’m like well let’s just piggyback off of that and there are kind three different kinds of music tourist, there’s active music tourist, people who literally come for a festival or for an event and that’s what they’re coming for, then there’s secondary music tourists who will come for a city break and then they will go to a music event alongside other things and then there’s the spontaneous music tourists, they’re those who will stop when they hear a busker playing their favourite song you know outside The Tate and have a five minutes, those moments, the moments are so important because that is what creates an emotional attachment to a place. So you can plan those moments, you can be strategic about it, and London is, you know London has a programme called Busk in London, they put pictures in strategic areas, it’s all regulated, a number of developers, Argent, are really, really good, I think Argent are excellent at a lot of things, Network Rail as well do this, there’s a company that does it for them, that strategically put pictures and manage it, manage it from a sound level, manage it from a quality level, little things like that or going into a restaurant and hearing a jazz pianist or something like that’s kind of say spontaneous music tourism. The idea with a community or with a developer is you, again like anything, you break this down into its component parts and then you understand the strategy that you need to implement to you know to make the spontaneous, not spontaneous, and to maximise as much as possible the tangential spend that comes from primary and secondary tourists so, if they’re coming to a gig or to Glastonbury or whatever, it’s packaging as much as possible so they eek out as much as they can, they take as many Ubers as possible, they you know so on and so forth and you can measure the value that is brought to the economy, that wouldn’t exist if the gig didn’t exist, so it’s, it’s something that we all take for granted, it’s like these festivals and these concerts just happen, it’s not the case and what would London be without all the concerts in Hyde Park over the summer or you know for example what would the UK, well the UK lost I think it was between 50 and 100 million just by Glastonbury not happening because Glastonbury I think is the seventh or eighth biggest town in the country when it’s running, it’s like 250,000 people including staff, it’s like it’s a, it’s a settlement and so, that’s, so if you are a landowner, you know I think Cadogan, Soho Estates, Crown Estates, you know Grosvenor, all these like large landowners, I know they all have art programmes, some have music programmes. I think art is you know public art and sculpture and stuff is way, way ahead of the game in this but you thinking about this strategically, putting a little bit of effort into it, a little bit of resource into it, you can increase the percentage that, of the people who are you know passing by your site are going to spend more money. So long as again you treat music intentionally and deliberately and you regulate it and you, you know, and you build KPIs into it and like anything else, rather than just have you know a performer over there playing you know Beetle’s covers, you can, you can do, we always say we can do better.

Susan Freeman

And you mentioned that you’ve worked with the London Mayor and been involved with the night-time economy. What have you been able to do to increase the focus on music and regulating?

Shain Shapiro

So, I haven’t worked with the GLA for a few years but from 2015 through to I think 2019 or so, I worked as a consultant within the Culture team so, in 2015, it started in 2015 where a report came out about how many music venues had closed, I helped that report, I didn’t write it, I was part of it, it was written by others. And that report kind of, the recommendations in that report were to work on the agent of change, planning within the MPPF, to support music venues, to work on licencing reform and so on, so long story short, I won a contract to the be the consultant to enact the recommendations in that report. That started the journey with the GLA over these years which included creating with a wonderful man named Paul Broadhurst who’s kind of the head of night-time economy, he works under Amy Lamé, creating the Night Tzar position with you know with the team and with Justine Simons who was the Head of Culture at the time and now the Deputy Mayor, for Culture, creating the London Music Board, creating the Night-time Commission which was created before the Night Tzar, working on music policy, we wrote another report about music venues, some economic impacts, we even created pre-Brexit and Covid a festival called Sounds Like London, which was lasted for two years and was focussed on kind of women in music and then championing diverse voices and there were a number of other things and the Mayor and so I was very, very active in all of that, I worked on the policy, there is a company called Found in Music, they do Busk in London and they did Sounds Like London and they were our partners on the delivery side. But back then there was you know from what I remember, around ten people who worked in the Culture team. Now, I think there’s probably thirty-five, maybe you know I’m guessing but there’s a lot and it shows the Mayor’s commitment to culture, which is one of the many reasons you know I’m very supportive and he, but this did start under the previous Mayor, so it’s continued on. So that’s yeah, so I worked on all of that and the work that Amy Lamé does I think is terrific. A lot of it, people don’t see and some of those things, it’s like it’s a lot of the work is really kind of you know really strategic policy work that no one really tends to see on the surface but it’s so incredibly important and you know I’m honoured that I was a part of the creation of all that.

Susan Freeman

There’s clearly a tension between London night-time economy and residents and I saw on the news this morning that a couple of the pedal cabs had been fined for playing loud music.

Shain Shapiro

Yeah, yeah, yeah. There’s a lot of emotional thinking around this, you know, there’s and a lot of misunderstanding. I think the GLA’s approach is really to look at kind of life at night right, not the night-time economy so not just entertainment, entertainment is a part of it but it’s everything you know, the biggest employers of the night are transport and healthcare, right, and I think that we all got used to a level of quiet that didn’t exist, right, a false sense of quiet so now that things are getting loud again, this is happening a lot in the US, way more in the US, every city is rewriting its, and coming across as rewriting its sound and noise ordinance and making it more restricted and more difficult and it’s a trend, you know in a few years it’ll be rewritten again to be more pro-culture or pro-entertainment and people will complain and it’s a much, to me it’s a much, much bigger problem or challenge, problem may not be the right word, and it comes down to fundamental, fundamental issues around how we refit and build our city of the future. It’s frankly our homes are poorly insulated not just for energy efficiency but also for sound and noise. A lot of the buildings that are being developed and being given planning permission are simply not fit for purpose, to be good neighbours, I would say, in that sense or to facilitate neighbourly frameworks but also there’s a sense of responsibility that comes with operating entertainment venues, be it a pedal cab or a nightclub and responsibility comes through respect and it comes through treating, you know treating people that way so, you know these businesses are employers and some people don’t see them as that, there needs to be a respect and an understanding on all sides, maybe I’m asking for too much but I think that we have so many challenges in our cities, environmentally, culturally and so on and but we have to think about what makes our cities liveable and managing you know differences of opinion and creating frameworks that you know that encourage respect to me and that takes time, that’s a long-term thing so, yeah, I’m sure more pedal cabs are going to be fined and maybe they should turn it down, maybe they should but we should also not be allowing permitted developments, so that any you know any corner shop that goes under can then be converted into bad housing.

Susan Freeman

One of the things I was wondering was whether the music economy is a generational thing or are you, do you see that you are appealing to all generations because different generations probably want different things?

Shain Shapiro

Yeah well it’s, it is, it’s, they’re completely different worlds if you look at it generationally. How people consume music now, depending on how old they are, is you know it’s like apples and oranges. I think last year or two years ago, of the top ten hits in the UK, six or seven of them were hits on TikTok first so, anyone that’s not on TikTok wouldn’t know any of these songs. At the same time, there’s been a kind of a fire sale of what we call catalogue music rights so, heritage bands, bands that you’ve heard of and you know that we’ve all listened to, my parents’ bands I guess, there are over five billion dollars, US, has been spent on acquiring these rights and I’m sure you and the listeners have seen the articles of Bob Dylan selling, Fleetwood Mac selling and so on and so forth, these rights are worth a lot of money because again every time a track is played anywhere it accrues, it triggers a payment. This has not translated into investing in kind of you know what we call future, living cultures, future heritage so, I think that there remains a disconnect where we associate who we like with what we think matters and that’s a challenge I think in music right now, in investing in it. And you know I’m like I’m not on TikTok so I don’t understand how, I understand how it works but I don’t, I’m not consuming music that way, you know, and most kids are consuming music not only that way but also in games and in the metaverse and on Roblox and other things and so, what I propose is a holistic you know understanding of music, what we call the music ecosystem which I set up a new non-profit called The Centre For Music Ecosystems which is, our objective is to create the data, research and education to help explain you know how music works and why it matters and our objective is to really propose that and explain that holistic understanding that music is so many things to so many different people that it has value across the entire generational chain and then, and then at the other end the aging and music is so valuable for healthy aging, which it’s scientifically proven but we still don’t invest in it in terms of dementia care, anxiety, working with people with learning difficulties and things like that, like music is a powerful tool, music therapy is a very powerful tool for depression and others but again it’s still ad hoc, right. The NHS does a lot but like it’s not a Government policy really to treat it seriously and then those who own senior care facilities, who are investing in senior care facilities, you know doing an impact assessment to understand the value of music to the value of your facility, i.e. how much you can charge.

Susan Freeman

I hope our new Housing Minister is listening because it’s been reported he’s heading a new group on retirement living.

Shain Shapiro

Yeah, music is so important to that, it is, you know.

Susan Freeman

So, Shain, I think you’ve recently stood down as CEO to become Chairman of Sound Diplomacy and is that because you’re, you’re focussing on the Centre for Music Ecosystems you mentioned?

Shain Shapiro

Yes, Sound Diplomacy is evolving, as I said into a, you know in some ways a more traditional economic consultancy, it’s just we focus on what we focus on and it’s being led by I think people with specialist experience to do that. I wanted to hand the reins to my team and take a step back, I think that I don’t want it to be about me, I really don’t want it to be about me and yes, I have aspirations to make a difference in other ways and I think with the Centre for Music Ecosystems, I can make a difference in a different way than what Sound Diplomacy does so, yeah, I’m, I’m part-time with Sound Diplomacy and part-time with the Centre  right now and I’m still, I’m still very much involved in Sound Diplomacy but I don’t do the day to day operations of it anymore, that’s run by far more clever and capable people than myself.

Susan Freeman

And I think you’re writing a book about music ecosystems as well? 

Shain Shapiro

I am, I’ve written a book, yeah, it’s hopefully coming out next year, it’s right now it’s called The Music Ecosystem, it’s how music impacts where we live, who we are and how we thrive, is what I called it and it’s really trying to tell the story of music’s role in our lives in ways that we don’t see so, it’s part autobiographical but it’s mainly kind of a guide to how this stuff works and why and I’m in the final kind of stage of negotiations with the publisher right now so, I hope that I’ll have a publication date for probably next autumn soon.

Susan Freeman

Very good, and you mentioned, you mentioned the metaverse so I just have to ask you, what you see the role of music in the metaverse, is this something that’s going to be important?

Shain Shapiro

Yeah, of course. You know, I think that we have to think more openly about what place means, place doesn’t actually mean physical place, it’s you know someone creating a game on Roblox is also a place and I think a third of like kids in the UK or maybe even more and have the kids in America are on Roblox, are on this, they’re on this platform so, first of is understanding what it is and how it works so, both the metaverse and also the opportunities within Web3 and the challenges within Web3, which I’m learning, I’m no expert but I’m learning. I think music has a role to play because it’s a tradable asset so, it’s something that you can buy sell, it also underpins a lot of things like games and experiences online and I think the real opportunity for the real estate sector to me is the convergence of physical and digital, it’s where in the middle, this is what I’m really focussed on is, we can’t just build a music venue that exists in real, in the physical space, we have to build something that also has a, has an adjacent or has a complementary side to it, so that the infrastructure that’s literally built and can facilitate that, right, and that’s pretty simple stuff, it’s cameras and good Wi-Fi and lighting but there’s a strategy to understand how to monetise within the metaverse so, music is like fine art, it’s you know it’s one of the big tradeable assets within NFTs. NFTs can be good if they are, if they are done in an ecologically friendly manner and done ethically, I know that’s a bit Wild West right now and there’s a lot of, there’s a lot of kind of pernicious activity there too but there’s a lot of good that can come from it. And I think music is also a really good kind of gateway to understanding this, so for those who struggle to understand it or are, because even I’m learning that like most people don’t even understand what Web3 is, you know, really what it literally is, music is a great way to help understand it and we, again, we can’t just, we are functioning both we have online and offline lives and we need our places to be built to accommodate both of them, I feel, and I really think that’s where the money is, in a place that is outfitted so that it can be, so that it has a sister community online in one way or another.

Susan Freeman

How interesting. Well, I think that is a great place to stop, Shain, so thank you so much for your time today and really, you know good luck with your new ventures and book, which I really look forward to reading.

Shain Shapiro

Thank you. Can I, can I plug the Centre?  Just for anyone who is listening, if you know, the Centre is a brand new, we’re a brand new charity working to develop a thinktank to really support explaining and educating leaders to help them use music to improve their communities, so if anyone is interested in getting involved or really wants to learn about how music can be a way to improve their communities, please get in touch because we’re new so, we’re a startup charity and we’re really learning how to, how to engage and how to develop.

Susan Freeman

That’s brilliant so, I hope lots of listeners will get in touch. Shain, thank you very much.

Shain Shapiro

Thanks.

Susan Freeman

Thank you, Shain Shapiro for a fascinating discussion on the previously neglected role of music in the economy and its huge social impact on communities. So, that’s it for now. I hope you enjoyed today’s conversation. Please join us for the next PropertyShe podcast interview coming very soon.

The Propertyshe podcast is brought to you by Mishcon de Reya in association with the London Real Estate Forum and can be found at Mishcon.com/PropertyShe along with all our interviews and programme notes. The podcasts are also available to subscribe to on your Apple podcast app and on Spotify and whatever podcast app you use. Do continue to subscribe and let us have your feedback and comments and, most importantly, suggestions for future guests and of course you can continue to follow me on Twitter @Propertyshe and on LinkedIn for a very regular commentary on all things real estate, Prop Tech, the built environment and now, music.

Shain is the Founder and Chairman of Sound Diplomacy, the leading global advisor on growing music and night time economies in cities and places.

He has defined a new way to think about the value of music and through it, influenced over 100 cities and places to invest in music and culture as part of overall growth strategy. He is also the co-founder of Music Cities Convention, the world’s largest event, bringing together the music industry with city planners, developers, policy makers and executives. He is also the Founder and Executive Director of the not-for-profit global Center for Music Ecosystems, launched in 2021.

Through Sound Diplomacy, Shain has consulted in over 75 cities and countries, in every continent bar Antarctica (and he’ll get there). He delivered the first ever music presentation at  a United Nations’ World Urban Forum and consulted at length with the GLA, including working on the development of London’s Night Czar and across the Mayor of London’s music policy. His work has influenced the UN, OECD, European Commission and he has spoken at hundreds of global conventions, including delivering a Tedx talk on music’s role in cities. He is an accomplished writer, contributing to Forbes, World Economic Forum and has authored authoritative reports on the role of music in cities, tourism, the nighttime economy, real estate and recovery.

Shain holds a PhD from the University of London.

He is currently writing a book about music ecosystems and their impact on cities and communities.

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