“Streamlined emotions, stories told in crisp rhythms, clean patches of melody, and neatly resolved rhymes and images.” This is how Margo Jefferson of the New York Times describes the pioneered sounds of Tin Pan Alley. What first started as a partnership between businessmen and artists quickly became a new market for entertainment and ideas. The music business has come a long way since Tin Pan Alley. It started on a street in New York City, and now, it is global and versatile. The broad reach of the music business has allowed growing cities like Sacramento to take advantage of the momentum, fostering their own community of artists and creatives, in effect strengthening the pride and promise of the cities youth. Over the past ten years, Sacramento has pivoted from a suburbia cowtown to a growing city embracing entertainment, investment, and community involvement in the music and arts scene like never before.
The first impact that comes to mind is the Sacramento Kings. For years, the community dealt with uncertainty as to whether the team would stay in Sacramento. Fans were disillusioned by disappointing seasons and threats to move to Seattle, Las Vegas, or Anaheim, but remained loyal to one of the few sources of entertainment in the city. Grassroots movements and a diligent mayor in Kevin Johnson secured the team’s future by negotiating the construction of Golden 1 Center in downtown Sacramento. What does a basketball team have to do with the emergence of art in this city? Almost everything.
During the years fighting to keep the team, communities strengthened by finding common ground in their pride for the Kings. The best way to convince people to stay is to convince them you’re having a great time. Keep in mind, Sacramento already had in place a skeleton of an art community with Second Saturdays and the popular Crocker Art Museum. The building of the Golden 1 Center emphasized the effort to bring entertainment, commerce, and live shows. It was a visible effort to improve the city of Sacramento as a whole.
Usually overshadowed by Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego, Sacramento had the highest population growth in 2018, “gaining more than 7,000 residents and adding over 2,350 new housing units, most in midtown and downtown area” (Tony Bizjak, The Sacramento Bee). This is due in part by the Silicon Valley migration. Tech companies are moving further north as the real estate prices in the Bay Area continue to reach record-setting median levels.4 As more companies migrate to Sacramento, the city becomes more appealing for students and young adults looking for opportunities at affordable living costs. Even the new owner of the Kings, Vivek Ranadive, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, comes from a minority owner position with the Golden State Warriors. When a city has a positive future, the communities have a positive outlook on available opportunities. They are more inclined to pursue their goals within the city rather than feel the need to relocate to more opportunities in bigger cities like Los Angeles or San Francisco.
Arco Arena was an old shoebox of a venue located 25 minutes outside of downtown Sacramento. The city often struggled to attract big-name entertainers, and the lack of adequate hotel accommodations left Sacramento out of all-star weekend discussions. The new arena hit the ground running with an inaugural performance from Paul McCartney and the venue has gone on to host Ariana Grande, Chance The Rapper, Kendrick Lamar, and Bruno Mars. Sacramento has even been considered to host the NBA All-Star Game in 2022. In addition to the arena, the city has made efforts to welcome the artistic community. The Warehouse Artist Lofts (WAL) were built to house, support, and promote aspiring artists in one collective community. In March 2018, Sacramento hosted their first annual Sol Blume festival featuring artists Jhene Aiko, GoldLink, and Northern California native Rexx Life Raj. Even some Kings players themselves have embraced the artistic movement.
Embracing local upcoming artists is important to maintain momentum for the city. In the same way that E-405 and his hyphy movement constituents put the Bay Area in the spotlight, hip-hop artists like Rexx Life Raj, Mozzy, and OMB Peezy have brought industry recognition to the city, shifting the stigma from a city to be forgotten, to a city to be claimed. And it could not be better timing. The city of Sacramento has positioned itself as a boomtown, with the growing population fueling excitement and involvement in creative communities. More talented artists are embracing Sacramento roots through music, art, photography, fitness, podcasts, and public speaking.6 The city of Sacramento is quickly living up to its title as the capital of one of the most beautiful and economically powerful states.
With that said, it will be important to keep an eye on Sacramento and the musicians coming out of the area. As the city establishes a better sense of pride and foundation of identity, more and more artists will embrace the city. This is the root of where music thrives. When local artists emphasize their hometowns, it creates a driving force of confidence, encouraging surrounding cities to follow. Sacramento has promised to follow suit with San Francisco and Atlanta in the coming years. Local artists are the emerging art form in Sacramento in 2019. Upcoming artists like South Sacramento native LUMP should continue to collaborate and approach music with confidence. It is easy to fall victim to the stigmas of a small-market city. However, if the Sacramento Kings can find a way to jump into the spotlight, so can young musicians, especially when you have the whole city behind you.
Contributed by Hassan Romieh a writer from The Clive Davis Institute x Billboard MUSIC INDUSTRY ESSENTIALS program