Innovating Music Podcast
Listen to innovators, change agents, entrepreneurs, creators, and researchers who all are making big leaps, nudging change, creating differently, or watching what is happening from a unique POV. Dr. Gigi Johnson from the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music explores with our guests how tech is transforming how we create, collaborate, and create communities around music in a connected age — in our home towns and in communities across the globe.
Kwende Kefentse, both DJ Memetic and Music Lead for the City of Ottawa, and our host dig into the urban terrain, urban fabric, and politics of the city and music. He speaks deeply about urban terrain, urban fabric, and music, with the lens of “urban morphology” from his architecture studies in London and work with the city. He talks about topics as wide-ranging as the origins of hip hop in the South Bronx, trends in music cities where industry and community connect, distribution of music assets in neighborhoods, the music industry as intermediator, city metabolisms for music, missing dynamic models, and the role of media in a city. He brings the conversation back to his work with TIMEKODE, one of Canada’s most established independent dance parties, and the documentary in progress about its community impact.
Photo: Rémi Thériault
Guest: Kwende Kefentse, Cultural Industries Development Officer and Music Lead, City of Ottawa; DJ Memetic; Host and Creative Director, TIMEKODE
Kwende Kefentse is the Cultural Industries Development Officer and Music Lead for the City of Ottawa. His work at the intersection of culture, space, public policy and the economy has been featured in outlets like CityLab, Spacing Magazine and Monocle Radio to name a few. Prior to completing a Masters of Research from UCL’s Bartlett School of Architecture in Space Syntax Architecture and Cities (2017 – 2018), focussed on the spatial configuration of music industry value chains, Kwende played a leading role developing the council-approved Renewed Action Plan for Arts, Heritage, and Culture (2013 – 2018). Following from that, he led the development of the Ottawa Music Industry Coalition – a not-for-profit organization focussed on industry development, and the Ottawa Music Strategy (2018 – 2020) – a council-approved strategy for investing in, and developing the music industry. He now works on day-to-day implementation of the strategy while developing other cultural industry initiatives. Kwende serves on the boards of the Carleton University Art Gallery and FACTOR (Diversity and Inclusion observer) respectively. He is also the locally and internationally renowned producer and performer DJ Memetic, and the host + creative director of TIMEKODE, one of Canada’s most established independent dance parties. Over nearly 15 years of monthly events TIMEKODE has become a beacon of progressive pluralism in Ottawa. His solo + TIMEKODE original productions and remixes have received critical acclaim from international outlets like Vice Thump, Radio Nov and Wax Poetics.
- Twitter @kwendeismemetic
- City of Ottawa
- Ottawa Music Industry Coalition
- Space Syntax: Architecture and Cities @ UCL’s Bartlett School of Architecture
- TIMEKODE: http://timekode.com / http://timekode.tv
- Richard Florida – Rise of the Creative Class (on Amazon)
- Creative Index
- Music Policy Forum website and Facebook
- Santa Fe Institute
- Urban Morphology
- NOW Institute
Transcripts with the help of AI from Descript.com
Gigi Johnson: As with most guests on this Innovating Music podcast, they are multitalented multipotentialities. Kwende Kefentse is a civic and government leader, DJ and dance party host. He has the wonderful job of being the Cultural Industries Development Officer and Music Lead for the City of Ottawa, as well as went from UCL in London at the Bartlett school of architecture.
Ended up studying space, syntax, architecture, and cities for two years, but you can also find him on the boards of Carleton University Art Gallery and FACTOR, as well as locally and internationally as DJ Memetic and the hosting creative director of TIMEKODE, an independent dance party in Canada. So, for 15 years, he has been a key party in the dance scene and for a long period of time, he’s been a key brain and what’s happening with space and cities.
This will be an interesting conversation. It will get into the weeds. I promise you. It will come out at the other end talking about being a DJ. Enjoy this podcast, and if you need to figure out what we’re talking about at times, we’ll put notes in the show notes. Thanks so much.
Gigi Johnson: [00:02:42] You’re sitting where? Right now…
Kwende Kefentse: [00:02:40] Right now, I’m sitting, in a neighborhood called the Golden Triangle in a city called Ottawa, which is the capital of Canada. it is about five hours east of Toronto and about two hours west of Montreal…
Gigi Johnson: Assuming driving…
Kwende Kefentse: Along a highway. Assuming driving. That’s what I’m talking about. Driving along a highway along the highway called the four-oh- one
Gigi Johnson: Ok. Oh, it’s interesting how we have all these references, right? As to what city we’re in and where we are and what the distance is. I’m in Los Angeles and we talk on time, not distance, or you just talked on time as well. So that’s kind of an interesting connection there. So, you ended up then looking at the issues of music in a city because you are a musician?
Kwende Kefentse: [00:03:35] Yeah, that’s correct. And also, because I’ve always been fascinated with cities. You know, I grew up in the greater Toronto area, just outside of Toronto, starting in Toronto, but ended up doing a lot of my school and stuff just outside of Toronto in a city called Mississauga.
And I always had a lot of interaction with Toronto because that was where… that was sort of like the epicenter of music culture. For me, I was like deep into hip hop culture. I was born in ‘82 and so, I came up around the same time that hip hop was emerging as a more popular form of music.
But I was…I got attached to it when it was still underground as well through my cousins in New York City. And, ended up, yeah, becoming really engaged with the music, just being attached to radio shows. And because at the time you couldn’t hear hip hop, just like on the radio, there were certain radio shows that you have to tune into at particular times.
They were two-hour blocks or one-hour blocks, and the DJ’s would then promote shows and talk about all the various sorts of activities that were going on in the community as it related to hip hop. They would talk about the record shops and you know, they would start, you know, what I would later learn what I would later appreciate as…
You know, these DJs were essentially doing informatic work in terms of taking sort of the…creating a layer of information between me and the activities of this culture. So, you know, I would always go downtown to these spots and I would, you know, go down there and I would meet people. I would buy records.
I would, you know, I was into music in the early nineties. That was, you know, that was part of the, that was part of the thing. And, and at the same time, you know, I …collecting records and CDs and other kinds of physical music. I would also, you know, like to explore the city, take days where I would just ride the subway, ride streetcars.
Me and my friend used to do this thing called GTA week where we would buy these passes, which were Greater Toronto Area transit passes before these transit systems were integrated. there was a pass that you could buy that would get you on all these various transit systems around the GTA, and we would spend a week just riding, just around having random encounters going into places that we’d never been.
Just moving around these transit systems and interacting with the city in a sort of free kind of way and free radical kind of way. This really sort of tuned my interest in the relationship between culture and cities because ultimately, we were always, having some sort of cultural experience going to a film or a play, a something, a concert, a whatever.
And these. you know, and having really dynamic interactions with people and places. And so, you know, these experiences coming together sort of started cultivating my interest in if this could be an actual field of study.
Gigi Johnson: [00:06:22] Now last week we had Jesse Elliott on, who used to work for Richard Florida and…
Kwende Kefentse: [00:06:35] That’s correct.
Gigi Johnson: [00:06:36] That was one of the… also running into Richard Florida’s organization was one of your entry points into this question.
Kwende Kefentse: [00:06:43] Yeah. Like it was one of my entry points into the more formalized, asking into the broader world of thinking about this question and researching this question. You know, I met Richard when I was a journalist, for a new, local arts and culture newspaper.
There’s a period of time where, you know, the work I was doing, I was mainly deejaying, which is, you know, a practice that I’ve been doing for a long time. You know, I was playing around on other people’s turntables since the 90s. And, then, I sort of going out and gigging and sort of making a living, doing that since the early 2000s.
I was for a period of time deejaying and just writing for the newspaper here in Ottawa after I came here to go to school…
Gigi Johnson: And you were studying…?
Kwende Kefentse: …and I was doing a program called the Call to the Humanities, actually. So, it was a program. It’s a four-year interdisciplinary program that focuses on a sort of a classic liberal arts education.
So, in the first year, we did a seminar called myth and symbol, which focused on primary texts, primary religious texts, the Bible, the Rig Veda, the Quran, Dao de Ching, all these kinds of things. the second year was ancient philosophy. The third year was literature and fine arts.
And the fourth year was political philosophy and political science.
Gigi Johnson: [00:07:53] That explains a little bit of your framing too.
Kwende Kefentse: [00:07:57] Yeah, for sure. I came there to do that program. It was the specialized little program at Carleton University. That was what sort of brought me to Ottawa and sort of started introducing me into this community.
I had a sort of circuitous journey. In what was supposed to be my last year, I developed this idea about the relationship between, morphological change and cultural emergence.
Gigi Johnson: [00:08:18] Ok. Stop, stop, stop – what is that?
Kwende Kefentse: [00:08:15] It’s the idea that changing… the morphology deals with the shape of nature, the shape of movement networks or the shape of networks in general.
When we talk about urban morphology, what we’re talking about is sort of the shape of the movement network. I guess another way to think about it, just the study of urban form, but in many ways, the way you can think about it are sort of like the physical characteristics of a city are built up through the movement network of the city …predicates all of the other components of it. So, when we talk about morphology, we’re talking about how all these different parts come together.
Gigi Johnson: [00:09:00] It’s interesting. There is a place called the NOW Institute out here that’s doing similarly but from the framing of architecture.
Kwende Kefentse: [00:09:03] Yeah. This is, this is architectureal, all of these concepts.
My idea came from just researching the history of hip-hop culture for my fourth-year seminar. I was thinking about wanting to do something about the culture that I was actively participating in creating. And thinking about the way that it emerged, you know, preceding the emergence of hip hop culture, there was this radical shift in the physical environment in terms of the South Bronx. And that hip hop emerged out of this radically different, morphological, environment. Another way to put it is that if you look at the area where hip hop emerged, and then you’d go back sort of 30 years — if you look at it in 1972 or ‘73 when it emerged, and then you’d go back 30 years and you look at it then, they look like radically different pieces of urban terrain and urban fabric. There were a range of programs that came out of the national housing act, the title one, title two, title three, etc. that red lined areas of cities and, created funds for city administrators like Robert Moses to do things. They created the cross Bronx expressway, which opened up all kinds of new pathways and new morphological, scenarios, I guess, in that in that part of New York. One of those areas was the place where hip hop emerged. And you know, I started thinking a lot about the relationship between, this change that preceded the building of the places where hip hop started, and the idea that a new culture came out of a new form of space.
Gigi Johnson: [00:10:28] So you were finishing college with that inspiration, deejaying and trying to put puzzle pieces together here.
Kwende Kefentse: [00:10:42] Exactly. And that was where I ran into Richard Florida.
Gigi Johnson: [00:10:46] So Richard Florida, for folks who have not listened to the prior podcast episode, followed the links from it, or have gone down that rabbit hole, can you give a snapshot on Richard Florida’s work?
Kwende Kefentse: [00:10:57] It’s most famous sort of iteration is, the notion of Creative Class. And it’s using, you know, data to quantify in some way, tolerance, I guess.
Gigi Johnson: [00:11:11] Oh, that’s an interesting framing of it
Kwende Kefentse: [00:11:12] That’s the way he actually frames it in his work. He uses different characteristics as a proxy for tolerance.
Gigi Johnson: [00:11:20] Richard Florida’s work is an interesting pivot point for quite a few people. I know that it has been used by some people as an excuse to invest in and grow creative spaces in a community. And then. there has been reflection on the fact of what hath we wrought, that we’ve now created creative incentives in a community that in some cases have been seen as the accelerant to price creative people out of their communities.
there’s kind of a life cycle of what is creative. And then there also seems to be a bit of an interweaving of creativity and tech companies as to what is creating what might be tech innovation and what might be creating creativity. So it’s sort of an interesting lens because you and I have talked a lot about sort of creative and music cities and what happens in them.
And a lot of people point back at Richard’s work and his work is in connection with his work, has catalyzed a lot of things, but there actually is not a vast amount of causal research.
Kwende Kefentse: [00:12:33] No.
Gigi Johnson: [00:12:34] In looking at, you know, how do we, how do we plant seeds in this community now that will grow the type of community we would like to have in the future, especially when it comes to creativity and, migration and things like that.
Kwende Kefentse: [00:12:51] no, exactly. And I mean, the whole notion of this Creativity Index and the idea that you can instrumentalize sort of measuring where creative people will go as an indicator of how they will cluster. I guess that was part of what he was offering to cities is that like we can use these metrics in terms of his creativity index, gay index, Bohemian index — these kinds of ideas that it’s the human capital that’s inherent in these places that is actually going to create the prosperity that we’re looking for.
The idea that human capital is at the core of prosperity is a good concept, but it’s challenging the way that it’s been sold to, and adopted by cities.
Gigi Johnson: So you yourself have stepped into a leadership role in this for Ottawa.
Kwende Kefentse: Yeah. I guess for a little while after I started writing, I used to write on the Creative Class Exchange blog. So I used to write quite a bit, just sort of tossing around these ideas in different kinds of ways, and through doing that and writing for the newspaper, and, you know, deejaying, I guess as well. I connected up and ended up starting to work for the city of Ottawa doing work as a cultural industry development officer. So I do a lot of work, strategic thinking about culture, developing long range strategies, and then also developing particular industry sectors in particular music.
Gigi Johnson: [00:14:16] Are there are a lot of people doing that in other cities?
Kwende Kefentse: [00:14:21] In Canada, there’s quite a few. There’s quite a few in Canada– I would say there’s about five or six. Maybe six or seven others who are doing this kind of work. And throughout the States it’s becoming more of a thing, you know, in terms of people who are focusing, I mean, I’ll, you know, to be fair in some of these other cities, a lot of them have specifically music officers.
cultural industries is sort of a broader umbrella, there are definitely departments who focus on that kind of thing and other cities in Canada, and I’ve, and I’ve seen it in the U S as well.
Gigi Johnson: [00:14:53] So what has the past decade wrought for you?
Kwende Kefentse: [00:14:57] In addition to sort of having to deal with the real politic of launching a broad cultural strategy for a city, and then, within that launching a music strategy for a specific sector of the city. Then I went back to school and re-educated or upgraded my education in a different kind of way. I moved to the UK and went to the Bartlett School of Architecture to do a masters in space, syntax, architecture, and cities. And then I came back and, and now here we are. So that was pretty much the 10 years…in a nutshell.
Gigi Johnson: [00:15:34] So, from the beginning to the end of the 10 years that you’ve been on this journey, how has the understanding of music cities changed?
Kwende Kefentse: [00:15:42] it’s an illustrative term I think that there is still a little bit of fuzziness there, as it relates to not just the application of it in practice, but actually the promise of it. And what understanding the way that music engages with cities can actually tell us.
I think that it’s, as a result of, in some ways, a kind of myopic focus on just the music part of the music.
Gigi Johnson: [00:16:13] Or the economic part of it, maybe?
Kwende Kefentse: [00:16:15] Well, yeah, exactly. The economic part, and not sort of considering, you know, the, what the economic part is…is predicated by…
Gigi Johnson: [00:16:23] The formal versus the informal as well
Kwende Kefentse: In some ways as well.
Yeah. I mean, I think that there’s a predilection to think about things in terms of, I guess.
Gigi Johnson: I would say, or I would suggest, a company- focused frame? So that the entities you’re looking at and measuring in many cases are a venue or an artist or an economic size or…
Kwende Kefentse: [00:16:57] By having such a strong company focus, what you miss is the idea that all of these companies are undergirded by a use of space.
And I think that there’s a utility to having actually more of a spatial focus, particularly when you’re dealing within the city context. I mean, when you’re talking about the music industry in America, that’s one thing because you’re, obviously, you’re talking about sort of like a big number in terms of an economic output.
When you’re talking about the way that it actually functions mechanically, in a city, it’s quite a different thing. Because there are limited amount, you know, in every city, when we think about, you know, how does music work in a particular city — the way it works is that there are spaces where it happens and there are a limited number of spaces.
Gigi Johnson: [00:17:40] Or there’s formal and informal spaces.
I mean, one thing is that we’re definitely seeing in LA and other cities is that there is a re-breaking of the concept of a venue. And the music space.
Kwende Kefentse: [00:17:55] Well, even beyond the stage of the value chain where you’re at a venue… you know, if you think about how, again, going back to, the notion of how music functions in a community, let’s think about how does a song get created anywhere? You know what I’m saying? It’s like first somebody has to learn how to play music. There has to be somewhere where somebody learns how to do it and whether it’s at their house or they get lessons somewhere in their community. Maybe they learn how to play a song on the internet.
Gigi Johnson: [00:18:26] Yep. Or an ensemble, they wander in and get kind of mentored and coached into, whatever it is…
Kwende Kefentse: [00:18:34] …whatever it is they learn. And then at some point, they have to produce this song. And then again, you can do this at home. You know what I mean? Like, it’s not to say that these kinds of domestic spaces aren’t part of the industry because more and more they are.
But then there’s a part of it where you have to take it out of your house to somewhere to perform. And this is where you get…
Gigi Johnson: [00:18:56] Unless you are Billy Eilish and Phineas who did all this stuff initially in their home, in their bedroom.
Kwende Kefentse: [00:19:01] But I think what’s fascinating is that even if they did, there came a point where they had to get out of their bedroom.
And that’s the point where the industry and the community connect. And it happens somewhere in an urban system. And where it is in an urban system is relevant because I think that what we see or what my research was about when I when I went to UCL, was about the distribution pattern of music industry assets as value chain categories and enable
Gigi Johnson: [00:19:33] value chain?
I spent a lot of time with 20-year old trying to explain what a value chain is and why people don’t see it.
They see that somebody created a song and somehow it ends up on my Spotify account. And the fact that there’s pieces of that value chain that get it into funded aggregation, distribution, and all that stuff… that each take a piece of an economic puzzle.
Kwende Kefentse: [00:19:58] Yeah, I mean, this is, this is, this is the thing is that like any product doesn’t matter.
Like it starts in a raw state, and the part of the role of the value chain is to add value to that concept, to the point where it’s prepared, where it’s ready for mass consumption –
Gigi Johnson: …and available. Ready and available. And discovered.
Kwende Kefentse: So that means that there’s a stage of creation. There’s a stage of production, but then there’s a stage of intermediation, which is critical as well because that’s the part where the industry comes in and the industry are the . . . That’s where the intermediation happens, where it’s like, okay, now you need, now you have a manager, now you have an agent.
Now you have somebody who’s connected to the broader structures of the music industry who can then get this thing into the point of distribution and consumption, whether that means live consumption through shows or obviously consumption through listening on streaming apps or consuming physical media.
Gigi Johnson: [00:20:55] And it’s interesting local… I’ve talked to a lot of people in quote unquote, the industry. That’s part of what I do. And for many of them, there’s a chronic belief now that the industry is global and local doesn’t mean as much, but local is where a lot of the parts of the value chain still happen.
Kwende Kefentse: [00:21:08] That’s what I’m saying., as global as it is, it still has to happen in a number of local places for it to matter., if you look at artists, why do they tour. Because the whole idea is that you can’t create that experience with an audience unless you’re actually there or unless you give them something that they can actually engage with.
And that’s part of, what the value of the show is. And the idea that these places, these venues these sites of intermediation, these studios, these schools where people learn music that the connection between all of those sites is what the music industry is in terms of the part of it that creates value.
But then there’s another part of it which is broadly extractive of value. And that’s –that other lens that we were talking about previously comes in when we think about the music industry.
Gigi Johnson: [00:21:59] Extractive meaning that…?
Kwende Kefentse: [00:22:02] It means that a lot of this value, again, is created at the level of these local networks.
People learn how to be musicians where they live, but then there’s a point at which they enter the music industry. At that point, all of that value that was created at that level…. I wouldn’t call it purely extractive because it’s not, they’re adding a lot of value, to the picture as well.
But at the same time, it’s predicated on all of the stuff that was happening at this local level. So
Gigi Johnson: [00:22:28] Part of it, there’s more and more levels or almost new business striations of support, distribution, management, community, discovery…that in many ways also are embedded in the local environment.
Kwende Kefentse: [00:22:44] Yeah, this is why thinking in a different way about the way that the local environment cultivates or the way the relationship between the structure of the local environment and the structure of the industry matters.
Gigi Johnson: [00:22:58] And it’s interesting because in some of the conversations that we’ve been part of with other people — in various convenings — is that cities are beginning to look at this and say, wait, what the heck is going on?
And how do we stay robust in an era where we’ve got both growth in global music, but selective growth….and then we’ve got people who are growing up in our communities who are creative. How do we make this a place they want to stay and where they can thrive? And so that’s where all these music city studies have seemingly come up with people doing a single benchmark in many cases to sort of see what does this sort of spatial and economic and human thing… And it’s interesting because I’m seeing a lot of snapshots, but not a lot of …interventions?
Kwende Kefentse: [00:23:55] Or dynamic models…that allow you to actually sort of characterize the health of the system. And I think that that’s something that is broadly within the context of these conversations… is kind of missing, is the idea that you know, when we think about a music city, materially, what does that mean?
You know, does that mean that there are a hundred venues? Does that mean that there are 30 music schools or is there a ratio relative to sort of people and spaces, where it’s happening? Does it mean that people are just consuming? It doesn’t mean that people are just consuming lots of music.
Like some of these things haven’t been…. I think, not only have they not been clarified, but I think that the idea that each community based on the kind number and configuration of assets that it has, will have a different metabolism for music.
Gigi Johnson: I love that.
Kwende Kefentse: …hasn’t really been like explored fully.
Gigi Johnson: [00:24:53] Well, it’s barely been looked at in terms of just supply and demand.
Kwende Kefentse: That’s what I’m saying.
Gigi Johnson: But, but that’s still a static snapshot that you’re commenting really about. Where’s the heat and friction and, and what’s kind of the moving dynamic modeling. So what I’ve seen on a fair number of these studies that have been now done is a single snapshot looking at legal venues, possibly illegal venues, possibly schools and informal institutions. Possibly categorizing artists by jobs and job type, possibly capturing a few other job types
No demand side of the equation. No understanding of what the people in that city, how they actually are consuming music.
Kwende Kefentse: [00:25:48] Yeah, and I mean, for me, I mean, my research, it was based in a different kind of way.
So I mean, firstly, it was based on using a theory and method called space syntax. And you know, it was space syntax. What it allows you to do is to quantify network relationships and urban networks based on a couple of metrics. One being integration and the other one being choice. And so integration has to do with connectivity between one segment of the street network and every other segment of the street network.
And then choice has to do with the critical paths through the street network, which connect, which are, or I guess the path through the street that work, that are most central at a range of different scales. So if you had to go from one point in the street network to any other point in the street network, which are the paths that are used most often,
Gigi Johnson: [00:26:40] …and how is that measured?
Kwende Kefentse: [00:26:41] It’s measured in terms of, again, these metrics called integration and choice. And a good way to think about it, I guess it’s what it’s measuring is the hierarchy of these streets.
Gigi Johnson: [00:26:54] Are you measuring it by some clicking mechanism, phone movement…?
Kwende Kefentse: [00:26:59] Pardon me? What do you mean?
Gigi Johnson: [00:27:03] Conceptually versus actually getting the data.
Kwende Kefentse: [00:27:06] Right? So the data is, the data is actually derived straight from a street map, and so was derived straight from what does what’s called the road center line map. And you know what it’s measuring. Again, it’s taking each segment and then it’s taking the road center line map and it’s breaking it up into segments.
And it’s taking each segment and measuring its proximity to every other segment in the network, in a program called Depth Map. And then what it produces is essentially a visualization. Behind that visualization are a range of values and those values relate to the relationship between each segment and every other segment.
Gigi Johnson: [00:27:44] So you’re trying to see sort of the closest paths or the deepest closest paths
Kwende Kefentse: [00:27:49] Yeah. Keep in mind that you don’t do this at just one scale. You do this at a range of different scales. So what you can look at is sort of what does that measure in terms of integration?
And that again, that’s sort of most connected to every other segment….within a 200 meter radius, within a 400 meter radius within a 10 kilometer radius, within a 20 kilometer radius…
Gigi Johnson: [00:28:13] So you’re kind of looking at streets… I tend to look at streets as a reflection of the growth of this city, of having to create the network underneath of where we are moving into.
But this is almost looking at the opposite, looking at streets as the influencers of how we actually collaborate and connect.
Kwende Kefentse: [00:28:32] Absolutely. What we’re able to demonstrate through observation techniques and through some statistical processes is that the configuration of the street network is a strong determiner of social activity.
And it makes sense, like when you’re thinking about going somewhere. So you’re thinking about going from your house to the corner store to do some micro economic activity. You know the way you conceive your path determines a whole range of interactions that you’re going to have.
Gigi Johnson: [00:28:59] At the same time, though, isn’t this assuming that you’re leaving your house?
I’m curious mostly right now, again, the supply versus demand side of this thing, as to a lot of looking at cities are saying symptomatically, we see venues closing. We hear artists commenting, complaining or leaving in the fact that there’s not an economic way to be thriving in the city that they’re in.
And at the same time though, when we look at things like how the physical spaces are influencing what’s going on, and gentrification, which is such a large concept. But if it is that an in a city that people aren’t getting out of their homes other than to go to major shows, and that, you know, if we see symptomatically that a significant percentage of space in your average restaurant now is being reconfigured for food packaging for delivery.
We see numbers going down in terms of tickets sold for at least motion pictures in the United States….
You know, are these all symptoms that are also things in music so that we have these physical spaces in these street configurations and these things, assuming that we do physical movement to go somewhere…and leave our home…but we may not be.
Frequently, at events where someone says — and I just saw this actually in Forbes this past week — music business, live performance is doing fine. It’s up X percent. But then they’re looking at Pollstar and they’re getting from that one big picture view that people are, you know, that.
The top end concerts are getting more people going to them, or at least more revenue going to them, but we’re not looking under the hood at all as to saying, in my city, we have this infrastructure but people aren’t leaving their home to actually go to the concert.
Kwende Kefentse: [00:30:49] Well, this is the point that I was making… this circles back to it, I think to a point that I wanted to make in terms of the way that not only we think about… sort of the rationale of the way that the street network relates to the society and the sort of space/society relationship, but also the way we think about these assets with respect to the music industry.
And so part of the way that I was looking at these different stages of the value chain, I was doing different kinds of classification… of particularly of the consumption stage because when it looked like when I was thinking about consumption, I was looking at spaces where you could consume music in terms of buying it.
So record shops and other kinds of music, retail and also instrument retail, et cetera., and then also performance spaces. But I was classifying them in terms of the way that they were booked. So I was looking at Local, regional and national international bookings. And what you recognize is that there is a relationship between spatial centrality and the scale of venue that these things are… in terms of where the national and international places are situated, the pattern of distribution of those national and international spaces, and the pattern of distribution of the places that deal with local and regional talent.
Gigi Johnson: [00:32:03] Interesting. Okay. So if someone wanted to see this type of work or get their fingers into it, how would they do so?
Kwende Kefentse: [00:32:12] That’s a very good question. I mean, I need to present this research in a more fulsome kind of way, and I haven’t quite yet. I do have a range of visualizations and my dissertation was very sort of map and starts heavy, and so…
Gigi Johnson: [00:32:23] One can imagine that from our conversation so far…
Kwende Kefentse: [00:32:26] Yeah, for sure. You’re encouraging me that I do need to think some time to present these ideas, and it’s something that I’m actively in the process of doing. But I mean, there is other work about space syntax, which you can check out, not specifically with this relationship to music, but other kinds of social phenomena.
Gigi Johnson: [00:32:42] In the notes for this podcast.
Kwende Kefentse: [00:32:44] Yeah, yeah, for sure.
Gigi Johnson: [00:32:45] I’m trying to look from this really great but detailed lens into the practical questions. And let me take that to you in Ottawa, right? So you’re in Ottawa and you have a professional position both as a DJ creator, co-creator, but you also are trying to be encouraging decision making in the city and a community that is actually supportive for creators.
How do you both take this lens and do things with it, but also what are the things you would recommend maybe with other cities who are trying to figure out, okay, so we see some pieces of this, but what do we actually do?
Kwende Kefentse: [00:33:27] Yeah, and I mean, you know, these are things that I struggle with as well because I work inside a large organization and, you know, to be frank,
where my unit is, isn’t positioned the best within that organization.
And so you’re dealing with sort of like structural power issues as well as just the basics of just trying to engage people with an idea — when there are a range of competing ideas always around. That’s just the nature of city hall.
Gigi Johnson: [00:33:54] And not just city hall. The city hall is sitting in the midst of a bunch of nonprofit and for profit organizations also with their own lenses.
And city hall then rotates as to its…
Kwende Kefentse: [00:34:06] Who leads and all of this kind of thing. Maybe that’s why I haven’t actually done a formal presentation of my research because I’ve been occupied with this whole, navigating organizations component of things. And it definitely is a larger component of this than I would have liked.
Gigi Johnson: [00:34:23] So let me put a different lens on this, on top of it. So let’s say you are a 25-old creator. And you are now trying to figure out where you could go to grow.
Kwende Kefentse: [00:34:39] Yeah.
Gigi Johnson: [00:34:40] Are you having any information other than, Oh, I should be in Los Angeles or New York or Berlin, what I’m seeing is that it’s hard enough for a city to have any kind of grasp on this.
But you know, where would be the, you know, if I had an industrial company, there would be maybe data and incentive systems and things that in cities, in terms of competing for the next generation of creatives, how does it create, if you know anything about, wait, there’s a great program in, and again, we’ve just had Jesse on from Fort Collins who’s trying to do that and there’s other cities that are intentionally doing it.
Yeah. What’s available for your regular person?
Kwende Kefentse: [00:35:21] I mean, and certainly we…there are these policy documents, things like these music strategies, things like economic impact statements about sort of the industry. And we’re fortunate to have an organization in our community, like the Ottawa Music Industry Coalition, who works with the industry and with the city to help put these kinds of signals out there, such that people can understand that you know, this is a place that’s taking music seriously.
And, I think this is part of the challenge. Many cities are going to develop policies that will signal that. But in terms of how they’re able to create those realities and actually follow through with those policies…
Gigi Johnson: [00:35:59] …and measure them. So we did this policy intervention and then we don’t do a second study, or we’ve done this great baseline that we didn’t know what we had.
Kwende Kefentse: [00:36:11] And in some cases, there are other things going on. Sometimes you do a good piece of work and then you’re not allowed to report on it for whatever reason.
Gigi Johnson: [00:36:18] Or It’s edited.
Kwende Kefentse: [00:36:20] The research side of it, I think is critical because things have to be grounded in data.
And I think that not in data, but in, in information, in wisdom, to be honest. I think that there were more advanced methods for that. But then even beyond that navigating the dynamics of these larger organizations is a big component of making these things actually work.
Gigi Johnson: [00:36:39] And so the other opportunity, which I know you’re involved with, Music Policy Forum, is trying to do some comparative work, right? So you’ve done work there. There’s lots of work done now and in Austin and Toronto, and now DC and lots of cities to kind of get co-inspired.
Kwende Kefentse: [00:37:00] And I think tha0,t again, going back to sort of research methods, I think that this is where some of the syntactic stuff can really come in handy, connecting to the broader idea of thinking about the industry in a more metabolic kind of way.
Because, you know, when we’re comparing cities, it can be challenging, definitely in terms of size, scale, assets, et cetera. But one thing that we can do, particularly through the syntactic method, breaks cities down as physical objects based on the connectivity of the various places in the city.
So if the city is broken up into neighborhoods, you can look at the relative connectivity of one neighborhood to all the rest of the neighborhoods in the city, and the city as a whole. And then you can start looking at where the music industry assets are. Are they in the top decile of connected places?
Are they in the bottom decile of connected places?
Gigi Johnson: [00:37:54] Or is it… it could be encouraging for a real estate developer to take a look at, wow, there’s nothing here and there should be. Why is it? Is there some history there?
Kwende Kefentse: [00:38:03] Exactly. And then, you can start connecting a little bit, like you said, sort of like the social to the spatial, and start understanding a little bit more about what might be going on in terms of the more dynamic picture.
Gigi Johnson: [00:38:13] Or to see erosion and try to figure if there’s something symptomatically that can be changed.
Kwende Kefentse: [00:38:20] Yeah, absolutely.
Gigi Johnson: [00:38:23] And part of it, I do come back to the fact though that we are. We broadly, we industry, we non-public we… I shouldn’t say publicly because I do know there’s organizations who know the demand side well and they’re keeping, of course, that is their secret sauce to understand what actually is happening with, whether it’s ticket sales in the community and not non ticket sales.
You can scrape social media numbers, but….
Kwende Kefentse: [00:38:49] Yeah. And part of the way, I tend to, look at some of this stuff, is to think about the industry as a kind of emergent system. And, you know, the system has to have some sort of network structure terminal units and energy.
And when I think about what the proxy for energy is, when we think about…
Gigi Johnson: [00:39:07] Ok, you’re going to have to stop again. Terminal units and energy and emergent systems… if someone wants to know more about this space, where do they go?
Kwende Kefentse: [00:39:16] I would go to the Santa Fe Institute. Yeah, that’s probably the best place to sort of get a backgrounder on some of these concepts.
Gigi Johnson: [00:39:26] ….which is under the realm of complex,
Kwende Kefentse: [00:39:28] …complexity science. Yeah. Yeah.
Gigi Johnson: [00:39:31] Complexity. I never even ran into it until…I was trying to talk about some of this at an industry event this past week, and someone looked at me and goes, “This sounds very doctoral.” And I’m going, “Yes.” I never heard of it, much of any of this stuff, until I went and got my doctorate of looking at complexity science.
So that’s a whole other rabbit hole. We’ll have that in the show notes.
Kwende Kefentse: [00:39:53] Yeah. And so, when we are thinking about these types of spaces that support music. And this is part of why, again, why I’m interested in looking at it from this perspective. If these places, if we can index sort of Centrality to or connect, or correlate centrality to land values and understand the relationship between centrality, land values, and what people are paying for rent… Ultimately, if this place can continue to exist month by month, they must be doing enough business to exist.
Gigi Johnson: [00:40:27] It could be a hobby or it could be funded…
Kwende Kefentse: [00:40:28] Oh yes.
I’m not suggesting that it’s robust, but what I’m suggesting is that whatever activity is happening there, it’s enough to keep this place rented as a place that’s doing music or…. you know, operational as a place that’s doing music. And you know, those places are the critical places in these communities.
Gigi Johnson: [00:40:49] So let me…
Kwende Kefentse: [00:40:49] …whether it’s a studio or a venue or, you know, an office, where a label is, is housed or whatever it is.
Gigi Johnson: [00:40:57] Some of it, the metabolic nexuses, are changing. And so I run into so many small companies who are doing amazing things, not geographically dependent, but living here in LA, working here in LA… that are these new collaboration points that aren’t being tracked or measured either.
So that’s part of my area of fascination is we spend a lot of time in a lot of these city-based work looking at the end points. And not the new combination points, whether it’s new collaborative spaces on the creation side, which are growing. We’re finding like crazy sort of migrating performance spaces.
Make me think of progressive dinners where you’re kind of moving from place to place, which doesn’t show up in any kind of maps and models, but all sorts of new layers of companies and people.
I was just at Digital Entertainment World last week and we were talking in one of the panels about how there’s whole new kind of levels of ecosystems that I tend to think of, like a bizarre layer cake that combines the new technology tools with new layers of people that are working with all this stuff that are also, could be in almost any community, but are tending to gather where there is a gathering of artists.
Kwende Kefentse: [00:42:20] Exactly. And that’s like, again, that goes back to the whole idea of geographical proximity. It’s like there is still the phenomenon of people, of smart people wanting to be around smart people. Or people who are active in an activity wanting to be around others who are active in that activity. That has not disappeared. And, the way it functions in cities is that they find spaces that have a reasonable geographical proximity to either the actors or some other resource that’s connected to doing that thing.
Gigi Johnson: [00:42:51] And yet, can cities catalyze that?
So this is where I’ve gotten a conversation with several cities about . . . we’ve got venues and new venues. We’ve got creators, performers, multimedia artists. We’re missing that integrating layer that is willing to be — other than somebody’s friend — who’s willing to then be helping create the other layers of the cake.
And that seems to be an interesting question because those folks are coming to LA. Maybe not as much New York anymore.
And so, the intervening layers can be a result or in also in a lot of studies not being measured.
Kwende Kefentse: [00:43:37] Yeah, no, I agree. And I think it’s sort of like looking at those patterns, both as, as of land use as a foundation, but you have to build other layers on top of that to really get a more dynamic view of the picture.
And so I think that, you know, once you start, once you’re able to understand sort of where all of these. Again, sort of looking at the terminal units of the system in terms of either distribution, consumption, intermediation, creation, you know et cetera. Then from there, you can start building other layers on top of it.
And now, we talked a little bit about the idea of dynamism, and that is the challenging part. And that’s where some of these urban informatics or smart cities…whatever you want to call it. And some of it is not necessary, as you mentioned, there are ways to scrape, you know, Facebook and other kinds of ways to get sort of some dynamic information into the system.
But I think that’s the other part of it. It’s like you have to build the model and then you have to try and bring dynamic information into the system so that you can then calibrate it, you know, based off of that.
Gigi Johnson: [00:44:42] So if anybody wants to fund an Internet of Things project that is looking at all this… This is some of the actual conversations I’ve been in recently is …what’s the business model for actually gathering the data for this or the economic model or the human support model…
Kwende Kefentse: [00:44:57] I think that part of the model, and I think part of the model connects to media.
This is just an insight that I’ve had based on what’s happening in the city that I live in. One of the things that’s been challenging for our local media ecosystem or our local media, you know..
Gigi Johnson: The reporting side of it?
Kwende Kefentse: Yeah. Not just the reporting side of it, but sort of the role, that this information and Informatic layer plays in connecting audience to content…whether it’s live content, recorded content, what have you. The need for that network that’s not your personal network. That’s actually a professional network that’s jobt is to connect people to content.
That piece…you know…and this is sort of sort of where, I won’t say I reject your idea about people leaving their house less, but I will say…
Gigi Johnson: [00:45:48] …I would say differently…but we just don’t know…
Kwende Kefentse: [00:45:50] Right. But what I would say is that many of the media outlets I’ve talked to in my city, their challenge is that they can’t keep up with event calendars.
It’s that their stuff, so much stuff going on that they end up spending all of their time sort of trying to track the stuff that’s going on …because that’s where people go when they go to these websites, these local blogs, these sort of a sort of improvised new sources. Some of them not improvised, some of them are actually quite professional and exceptional, but one of their most hit pages is event listings.
What we’re seeing is that people want to find events. They want to know where to go. And this is where it comes back to trying to understand better the terminal units and where are the places that they’re going in the network, and how are they all connected
Gigi Johnson: [00:46:36] … and is even the visibility an element of structural friction, bias. I mean, if you look at a lot of event listings, they tend to be dominant cultural event listings.
Kwende Kefentse: [00:46:54] No doubt. This is part of why you need to go…I think it’s important to go deeper into scenes and understand a lot better how these localized scenes of emergent creative activity are actually spatializing.
Gigi Johnson: [00:47:09] You and I are very nerded out in this entire podcast and very…It’s great! I think that is the interesting thing, to bring this full circle from the beginning of our conversation, when you were early on talking about emergent hip hop in the South Bronx….people really having emergent culture forming.
And that kind of comes full circle back to the Richard Florida work.
Kwende Kefentse: [00:47:34] But what was fascinating about that is that there was spatial isolation, but then there was also spatial connectivity to Midtown where all the music business was.
And it was the connection between sort of like this spatially isolated place in the North of New York and Midtown, where all of the clubs and the music industry offices were, that led to the globalization of the culture.
Gigi Johnson: [00:47:57] We could continue this conversation for a while. We are at the end of our conversation threads, so let me add a closing question and then see what you’d like to add to it . . . which is the, we’re now in 2020 having this conversation.
You’ve been in this conversation for at least 10 years. There’s been, I don’t know, I think I’ve got a grid at MusicinLA..org about all the different studies I’ve been able to capture and gather that have been done.
Where do you think we’ll be in five years in looking at these issues?
Kwende Kefentse: [00:48:36] I hope we’ll be at the point where we’re able to approach it in a way that allows us to observe, the deeper patterns that cut across multiple industries.
I think ultimately what we’re going to see is that music in cities is an indicator itself. And the way in which music communities and culture emerges in cities is a broader indicator of the health of these cities. And, you know, that, but being able to quantify that, and being able to deal with it as a physical and statistical phenomena, I think will be really critical for being able to articulate and advocate for why these types of spaces are really important.
Gigi Johnson: [00:49:20] Anything we haven’t mentioned that you’d like to talk about before we close?
Kwende Kefentse: [00:49:25] I’ve been deejaying for 15 years now with my partner DJ Zattar. We do something called TIMEKODE. That’s T, I, M, E, K, O, D, E, timecode with a K, and it is my musical practice, party rockin. And we’ve been at it for a long time and we’re pretty good at it. And currently, we’re working on a documentary about the history of this party and the relationship between the growth of the party and the growth of the city that we’re in.
Gigi Johnson: [00:49:54] Cool. How can someone get ahold of you if they’re interested in this work . . . and your work?
Kwende Kefentse: [00:49:59] If they’re interested in getting down on some party rock and type stuff, they can go to time code dot com or look us up on YouTube, T. I. M. E. K. O. D. E.
If they’re interested in talking a little bit more about spatial network analytics. And emergent systems and modeling music industries, they can hit me up on maybe Twitter. What am I on? I’m trying to remember. @KwendeisMemetic on Twitter. Man, that’s actually really complicated.
Gigi Johnson: [00:50:32] K W E N D E?
Kwende Kefentse: [00:50:35] I, S and mimetic, M. E. M. E. T. I. C. That’s my, that’s… I go by MEMETIC as a DJ. So my DJ moniker is DJ MEMETIC. K W E N D E I S MEMETIC.
Holler at me, on Twitter or email first name. Dot. Last name at Gmail.
Gigi Johnson: [00:50:58] And where would you, what them to reach out if they’re interested overall in music cities. Is there another way that they can get engaged? More progress?
Kwende Kefentse: [00:51:06] Yeah. I would say check out Music Policy Forum, which is a group that I’m a part of which brings together some Canadian and US perspectives on this.
And, we’re rolling out our 2020 work plan imminently, which includes sort of a research partnership, which I’m going to be really involved with. And so I would say check out Music Policy Forum.
Gigi Johnson: [00:51:25] Music policy forum.org.
Kwende Kefentse: [00:51:34] Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And so shout out to my American colleagues who hae been doing a lot of great work on this.
Gigi Johnson: [00:51:40] I think you can be found also on Facebook for Music Policy Forum and other great places.
Kwende Kefentse: [00:51:46] Absolutely. Yeah. We’re on, we’re on Facebook. We’re on the Twitter. We’re out there. We’re out there.
Gigi Johnson: [00:51:53] Great. Thank you very much for joining me. I appreciate the work and the insights and I’m looking forward to other people joining us down this rabbit hole.
Kwende Kefentse: [00:52:04] Well, thank you., thanks for reaching out and, it was a really fun conversation, right. It’s rare that I get to geek out this heart.
Gigi Johnson: Good. Excellent.