There was a great article at NPR.org about the goings on in Omaha, Nebraska.
As many of you know Omaha has been a rising star in the tech/start up scene over the last few years. Big Omaha, a yearly event that this limited to about 600 people and attracts some of the best and brightest tech stars as speakers and attendees. I haven't gone but many friends have and they all rave about the experience. But back to this NPR article.
The gist of this article can be summed up in this excerpt:
"While I was there, I met several architects and web designers who all said they moved back to Omaha, at least in part, because of this club (Indie Rock club The Slowdown) and the movie theater (Film Streams) next door."
I know my buddy Rebecca Ryan from Next Generation Consulting wouldn't be too surprised. This is what she, and others like Richard Florida, have been preaching for years. "Cool" cities attract and retain top talent. What makes a city cool? There is nothing, that I can think of, cooler than Indie Rock. I'm talking Pitchfork.com stuff here. If you have a city that has venues where Pitchfork bands regularly play then you basically have the foundation for a cool city.
Here in Indy we have seen a local promotion company start to actively fill that void - MOKBPresents.com. This is an offshoot of MyOldKentuckyBlog.com, which is actually very much an Indiana blog but started by Kentucky native Craig "Dodge" Lile (who coincidentally works for Raidious a web content company here in Indy) when he moved to Indy in the early 2000s. Running the blog and a Sirius radio show lead naturally to booking shows. MOKB Presents brings a wide diversity of mostly Indie Rock acts to Indy. About 50 shows a year. I don't think you can find any entity that is changing Indy's national brand (at least for 20 somethings) as much as MOKB. Think of all the bands that come play Indy and then go tell everyone else about what a great experience, hopefully, they had here. Think of all the fans that see Indianapolis show up again and again on tour schedules, YouTube videos, etc. Word is getting out. Indie's coolness increases with every MOKB show. There are others doing great work in this area but I'm singling MOKB out since they are the clear leaders. How many of you reading this article know about MOKB? Did you go to a show this year? Chances are they were the promoters.
At the same time we are seeing a huge boom in the tech scene here. Monthly Verge meetings fill up almost immediately. Start Up Weekends are becoming regular, very successful events. New tech companies are popping up everywhere like mushrooms. Develop Indy and Tech Point are noticing and doing what they can, often behind the scenes, to help create the right conditions.
Many of these tech startups are populated with 20 something kids that have grown up on Indie Rock. MGMT, Sufjan Stevens, My Morning Jacket, Wilco, Arcade Fire, etc. These tech "kids" love music almost as much as code.
So you have a bunch of fans on one side that want to go to shows (local and national acts) and on the other side you have bands (local and national) that need tech help and fans. When you start to bring these two scenes you have some amazing synergies. This is what Omaha is witnessing and it is an affordable, effective tactic that Indianapolis should pursue as well.
How do we do this?
We need venues and we need audiences. Mostly audiences. Tech companies need to consider sponsoring bands, helping them with their tech and marketing needs. If Exact Target, for instance, wants to attract and retain top talent then they why not send out of state prospects a mix of local music? Why not sponsor a showcase at the Vogue? There are endless creative ways to cross-pollinate and collaborate between the tech and music scenes. So let's tear down the wall and start making it happen. Connecting the Indie Rock and Tech scenes will create new jobs and grow our economy.