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The Best Music City of the World? Unpacking the policy actions São Paulo is taking to consolidate itself as a Music City

The Best Music City of the World?

"It's like public policy, but thought in terms of the main music genres of the city"

There are many cities around the world that are investing in their music ecosystem to bring social, cultural and economic development to their community. Some of them include famous music hubs such as London or San Francisco, who have a long history of offices and task forces dedicated to preserving a healthy night life. Others are places like Huntsville in Alabama, U.S.A., that use it to improve quality of life so they can attract talent to the city, or Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, whose efforts are mainly focused on diversifying the economy. And you also have places like Mexico City in which investment into the music ecosystem is mainly taking place in the form of public concerts that aim at positioning the city as a world class music destination.

However, according to the 2023 Music Cities Awards, the best global music city is São Paulo, one of the biggest cultural hubs in Brazil, a country known for a rich musical heritage that includes artists such as Carmen Miranda, Caetano Veloso and Anitta, and music phenomena such as Samba, Tropicalia and Baile Funk.

Earning such an award turns São Paulo into a benchmark on how a city could address music policy in order to be considered one of the best ones in the world. That's why we decided to take a quick dive into the policy vision that they shared with us through their application to the Music Cities Awards and unpack its main elements, so other cities can learn and get inspired from it.

Sao Paulo, Brazil, Best Music City

Main theme: public policy thought in terms of the main music genres of the city

What stands out most about São Paulo's music policy vision is that it is conceptualized around the main music genres that define the identity of the city. According to its planning document "São Paulo - Territorio Musical", the city is using Samba, Rock, Hip Hop, Funk and Classical music as tools to democratize and decentralize culture, while raising the international profile of the city.

  • Samba: the city is using Samba schools to bring live music to public spaces and to build stronger community networks.

  • Rock: the city is leveraging its heritage to raise awareness about São Paulo's thriving music scene in order to attract international festivals and visitors.

  • Hip Hop: the city is using the genre's ability to give people in the periphery and in low income neighborhoods a voice to include their main concerns into the public policy cycle.

  • Funk: the city is working on demystifying and de-criminalizing Funk, a cultural manifestation that empowers members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

  • Classical music: the city is taking orchestras outside of traditional venues to promote music democratization.

A larger scale public policy vision focused on decentralizing culture

Sao Paulo's music vision derives from a mix of large scale public policy documents that include the Target Plan (2021-2024), the Pluriannual Plan 2022-2025 and the Municipal Agenda 2030. According to São Paulo's municipality, the main them across all of these planning documents is the decentralization of culture.

In oder to do so, the initiatives deployed across those documents focus on raising the value of culture coming from the periphery, promoting the relationship between schools and cultural movements to guarantee a regular supply of cultural activities for students and to develop international cooperation to raise the profile of the city as a cultural hub. Also, it's worth mentioning that the Municipal Agenda 2030 planning document is aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

To take a deeper look into the list of the initiatives included in these documents (which include opening of several cultural spaces for the youth, running public consultations, developing music education programs and more we invite you to download the any of the following resources:

Sao Paulo Public Policy

Did you enjoyed unpacking São Paulo's music policy? Do you also live in a city that is using music to promote social, cultural and economic development in its community? Then make sure to apply to the 2024 Music Cities Awards the contest.

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