Music To Our Ears

Music To Our Ears

Region tunes in on what musicians want


As a region grows and develops, it stands that the culture and artistic infrastructure tend to grow and develop along with it. This year saw some major strides to “do it right” as far as the music ecosystem is concerned — with local, regional and international entities converging on Northwest Arkansas to continue working toward a sustainable support system for a community, moving ever closer to becoming a full-fledged worldwide music destination.


In September, London-based organization Sound Diplomacy was invited to the Natural State by the Northwest Arkansas Council with support from the Walton Family Foundation. The company has worked in 40 different countries to develop long-term, self-sufficient music strategies, maximizing the potential of these communities. Through 10 roundtable discussions, interviews and a public forum hosted at George’s Majestic Lounge in Fayetteville, Sound Diplomacy has been researching the make-up, assets, needs and economic impact of Northwest Arkansas’ music scene. To further that research, the next step in the company’s process is the launch of an online survey to gain even more input from others. The survey is open to the public through Jan. 16 and is available in English and Spanish.

Using the information learned from their research and the survey, the team at Sound Diplomacy will develop recommendations for the council — “literal, doable actions that make a difference,” explains Lucas Knoflach, senior project manager with the company. “Currently, a lack of local music industry and support structures is creating a barrier for musicians to develop further within the region. This, for example, is one of the areas we are looking closely at.”

The survey is available at

For The Writers

In 2017, Austin-based music collaborative House of Songs expanded to the Ozarks with a permanent Bentonville location. In the Bentonville house’s second year, the program continued pursuing its mission of building cross-cultural relationships through cooperative artist residencies with musicians and writers from all over the world. One local artist tangibly benefited from that collaborative spirit as a Danish artist staying at the House invited Ashtyn Barbaree to perform a few shows across the pond — which turned into a full tour across Denmark, Sweden and Germany. Barbaree will undoubtedly share her experience representing Northwest Arkansas internationally, and new cultural appreciations, with her home community, including during the new House of Songs Songwriters Showcase she will host at Stage Eighteen in Fayetteville every third Monday of the month. HoS also hosts a songwriters showcase the first Saturday of the month at Bike Rack Brewery in Bentonville. The program’s new nonprofit status, also granted this year, further validates and supports the mutually beneficial work HoS is doing.

April saw more international relationships being formed and songwriting placed in the spotlight with the second year of the Power of Music Festival. Songwriters and music industry executives descended on Bentonville to share knowledge and contribute to the music economy through a large industry conference, performances and education. “We knew that we could build an economic driver with this festival, and make it into something that would bring people to visit Northwest Arkansas,” shares organizer Betsy Brumley. “By using the relationships we’ve built, introducing these folks to other people and letting them start to work together, we can build a really unique music scene here.”

For The Musicians

Of all the entities working to incubate a robust music economy for Northwest Arkansas, a brewery might be the most unexpected. Nevertheless, from the beginning Bike Rack Brewery in Bentonville was meant to be an experience-based place, co-founder Jeff Charlson explains. Thus, the Brew Room Sessions were born, elevating musicians from background noise to, literally, center stage. In response to learning that local artists need the chance to create high-quality content — which they often can’t afford — Charlson and Bike Rack took their support one step further this year and partnered with Neil Greenhaw at Haxton Road Studios to create an album featuring nine Arkansas artists. The album was released on vinyl in November and, uniquely, the artists all own the rights to their own songs. The hope is by giving artists the tools they need that this collaboration could be the ticket for some of them to successfully take the next step to something bigger — just like participating band Brother Moses, which has already moved to New York City to take their work to the next level.

“There’s this burgeoning community of art and music growing up,” Charlson says, “and you’re starting to see Northwest Arkansas build all this, and we’re playing a part in it.”



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About It

Sound Diplomacy —

House of Songs —

Power of Music —

Bike Rack music —

Categories: Music