State Agencies Unite for Launch of Northeast Tennessee Music Initiative - The Birthplace of Country Music
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State Agencies Unite for Launch of Northeast Tennessee Music Initiative

A group photo of Northeast Tennessee Music Initiative partners.

Northeast Tennessee (April 4, 2024) – In a landmark collaboration, the Tennessee Entertainment Commission (TEC), Tennessee Department of Tourist Development (TDTD), Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development (TNDECD), and the East Tennessee State University Research Corporation have joined forces to announce a new, community-led music initiative designed to bring musicians, venues, music industry professionals and music nonprofits in Northeast Tennessee together to gain a better understanding of the needs of the music ecosystem in the region. The announcement was made during a press conference at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum on Thursday. Central to the initiative is the Northeast Tennessee Music Census, slated to launch in May of this year. Details for the census will be announced soon, but local partners are currently being invited to participate in the outreach efforts.

Starting now, the Initiative is opening a call for community engagement partners to help conduct an extensive survey of the Northeast Tennessee music and live entertainment ecosystem. The initiative invites civic organizations, media, public sector, companies, music educators, and arts organizations across the region to become a community partner and help spread the word about the upcoming music census. Those interested in becoming a community partner may do so by signing up today at

Northeast Tennessee Music Initiative geographical coverage map. Includes Hancock, Hawkins, Greene, Washington, Unicoi, Sullivan, Carter, and Johnson Counties.

“Tennessee’s thriving music and entertainment industry supports more than 61,000 jobs statewide and contributes $6.4 billion to our annual GDP,” said TNDECD Commissioner Stuart C. McWhorter. “It’s an honor to take part in announcing the Northeast Tennessee Music Initiative alongside our partners at TDTD, ETSU and TEC, and through this collaboration, we have a unique opportunity to grow and strengthen the music ecosystem across the Tri-Cities and replicate these efforts statewide to spur additional economic growth and tourism.”

The agencies will work in partnership with Sound Music Cities on a Northeast Tennessee Music Census, a pivotal component of the initiative designed to engage individuals from all facets of the Northeast Tennessee music scene, providing leaders and policy makers with potential solutions that will help uplift the music community and give each individual a voice. The objective is to garner comprehensive insights that will inform strategies to bolster the music ecosystem, identifying its strengths, challenges, and opportunities for growth.

Northeast Tennessee Music Census Graphic

The Northeast Tennessee Music Initiative serves as a model for supporting communities across the state in their efforts to cultivate dynamic music communities, thereby enhancing their cultural appeal and economic diversity. The census will survey eight counties in the Northeast Tennessee Music Initiative region including Hancock, Hawkins, Greene, Washington, Unicoi, Carter, Johnson and Sullivan, as well as Bristol City.

“The Northeast Tennessee Music Initiative embodies the spirit of innovation and collaboration that defines Tennessee’s thriving music scene,” explains Commissioner Mark Ezell, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. He continues, “By nurturing our state’s vibrant ecosystem of talent, venues, and cultural experiences, this initiative supports Tennesseans and solidifies our position as a global music destination. As we harness the power of music to tell our state’s story, we attract investment in our state and create powerful memories that resonate with visitors for years to come.”

The power of music extends beyond its entertainment value, acting as a keystone for economic development. It creates a variety of job and business opportunities, invigorates local tourism through music events like festivals and concerts, and influences sectors like fashion, film, and advertising with its cultural reach.

Bob Raines, Executive Director of Tennessee Entertainment Commission, shares: “The Northeast Tennessee Music Initiative serves as a beacon of unity, bringing together members of the entertainment industry and local communities in a harmonious symphony of collaboration. Through its inclusive approach, this initiative not only strengthens bonds within our state but also extends its reach to the entertainment industry nationally and internationally. By showcasing the diverse talents and cultural treasures of Northeast Tennessee, we pave the way for meaningful connections and collaborations that transcend geographical boundaries. Together, let’s build bridges of creativity and camaraderie that resonate far and wide.”

The Northeast Tennessee Music Initiative is spearheaded by ETSU’s Research Corporation in collaboration with the Birthplace of Country MusicNortheast Tennessee Tourism AssociationSync SpaceLaunch Tennessee and the Dobyns-Bennett High School Bands. It is supported by funding from TEC and TNDECD with Sound Music Cities providing administrative support for the census.

“We are filled with immense pride and gratitude that Northeast Tennessee was chosen for this initiative,” said Leah Ross, Executive Director of Advancement for the Birthplace of Country Music. “This initiative not only recognizes the value of our region’s rich music culture, but also reaffirms our commitment to fostering a vibrant and supportive environment for artists, industry professionals, and music lovers alike.”

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