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Alabama Music Cities - The Shoals & Huntsville: How to put a music city on the map?


Alabama Music Cities - The Shoals & Huntsville: How to put a music city on the map? - A special from Export The Sound & Music Cities Events

Export The Sound & Music Cities Events present:

Alabama Music Cities - The Shoals & Huntsville

How to put a music city on the map - by leveraging its musical history, or making one


Just a few weeks after the Huntsville Music Cities Convention, Export The Sound in partnership with Music Cities Events presents a special series of podcast episodes titled:


“Alabama Music Cities - The Shoals & Huntsville: How to put a city on the map - by leveraging its musical history, or making one”


You can listen to the episodes at the following links:

In these episodes, host Ben Ma travels to the 2023 Huntsville Music Cities Convention to discover the stories that will help us understand the contrasting paths of Muscle Shoals and Huntsville into becoming music cities.


On one side we have Huntsville, AKA The Rocket City, host of NASA, the Army's Redstone arsenal, a new FBI operational headquarters, and the industrial center of Alabama. An up and coming boomtown with an administration trying to build it into a music city.


On the other hand you have Muscle Shoals, a small town across the valley which in the 60’s became an unexpected music export hub that produced some of the biggest global hit records of artists such as Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Percy Sledge, Bob Seger, the Rolling Stones, Wilson Pickett, George Michael, Paul Simon.


Through these two episodes Ben will have conversations with policy makers and music advocates who have been part of the path of both cities to understand questions such as: What puts a music city on the map? Can you build culture into a city? How can these music cities in Northern Alabama compete with Nashville or Birmingham?


The special also includes an interview with Nashville’s Councilwoman Joy Styles, who gives insights into her career path from being an artist to becoming the politician in charge of creating Nashville’s Entertainment Commission, as well as some takeaways on that city’s struggle to keep a thriving local music scene.


Guest experts featured in the special:

  • Norbert Putnam, original FAME Studios bassist

  • Sandra Burroughs, Executive Director of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame

  • Bob Wray, Shoals/Nashville session bassist

  • Joy Styles, Nashville city councilwoman

  • Shawn Patrick, longtime Northern Alabama musician and consultant on current Huntsville music efforts

  • Speech excerpts from Tommy Battle, mayor of Huntsville, and Matt Mandrella, music officer of Huntsville, on Huntsville’s plan to become a music city

Alabama Music Cities - The Shoals & Huntsville: How to put a music city on the map? - A special from Export The Sound & Music Cities Events

Alabama Music Cities - The Shoals & Huntsville: How to put a music city on the map? - A special from Export The Sound & Music Cities Events

If you're also interested in finding out what puts a music city on the map, then join us for our next event, the Cape Breton Island Music Tourism Convention, 29-31 May, 2024.


Although widely known for its beautiful scenery, Cape Breton Island is one of the most exciting music destinations of the world. A place where fiddles, Celtic melodies and Mi'kmaq beats harmonize, celebrating a cultural tapestry as vibrant as the island itself.


Across 3 days of activities, 250 delegates will gather to learn, network and experience the best practices related to music tourism from all around the globe. Click here tto learn more.


About Ben Ma & Export The Sound:


Export The Sound is a podcast exploring how the industry moves music across borders, as told by the teams behind some of the most successful cross-cultural musicians.

In its first season it produced shows that hosted an exciting lineup of guests and topics such as:

  • Eric de Fontenay, founder of Beijing-based promotion company MusicDish, on promoting Chinese Rock & Roll.

  • Shain Shapiro, Executive Director of the Centre for Music Ecosystems, on how music can transform a place’s economy, tourism and quality of life.

  • Foza Fawehinmi, a Lagos based music lawyer and business executive, on West African artist development, music law and promotion strategy

The show is founded and hosted by Ben Ma, a cross-cultural music researcher, software engineer, A.I. practitioner, DJ, harmonica blower.


In the past years Ben joined Schwarzman Scholars in 2021-22 to study U.S.-China popular music exchange at Tsinghua University in Beijing. After a year-long stint working as a software development engineer at Amazon Alexa, he joined music tech startup Rivet as their first full-stack software engineer, developing a fan engagement platform to guide and empower independent music artists in building their fan communities.

Alabama Music Cities - The Shoals & Huntsville: How to put a music city on the map? - A special from Export The Sound & Music Cities Events

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