News Story

Music Policy Forum Summit Promotes Dialogue Across Industry

October 31, 2018 — Last weekend, Georgetown hosted the annual Music Policy Forum Summit, which brings together musicians, policymakers and industry stakeholders in a two-day event filled with speakers, panelists and workshops.

Anna Celenza, the Thomas E. Caestecker Professor of Music in Georgetown College and the organizer of the event, describes the Summit as a way for musicians to learn how to advocate for their medium in ways that may not be obvious.

“The Music Policy Forum Summit is a deep dive into issues that affect the music ecosystem on the local and national level,” Celenza said. “Some of these are obvious, like best practices for venues, the development of new revenue streams for musicians, the current state of the music industry, copyright issues, and new trends in music journalism. Other aspects are less obvious, such as the impact on the music of government policies concerning urban renewal, noise ordinances, public transportation, the creation of new venues, and the use of public spaces.”


The Summit hosted a wide variety of speakers, each of whom participated in a different themed segment of the event. This year’s themes were access, data, collaboration and the incremental nature of music policy.

According to Celenza, the most time-consuming part of planning the event is choosing a diverse range of perspectives for each panel discussion.

“We try to have new speakers every year,” Celenza said. “We reach out to figures in the music industry that we admire and ask them what interests them at the moment, and who they would like to ‘have a conversation with’ about it.”

In particular, the Forum’s organizers look to create a discussion among representatives of different parts of the music world.

“The Summit features musicians, venue owners, government officials, radio broadcasters, industry representatives, educators, non-profit organizations, journalists and fans,” said Celenza. “It’s rare for all these facets of the music industry to come together in the same room and share ideas. It’s like a huge think tank — two days of problem-solving and the sharing of ideas/information. For example, the announcement this year that D.C. is launching a Music Census is the direct result of the conference in 2016.”

Seamus Masterson (C’21), who attended the Forum as part of his Music Industry Seminar course left with an impression of how important it was to bring people together for a discussion.

“I was struck most by the different types of industry professionals that were there,” Masterson said. “The various perspectives allowed for in-depth conversations at the lunch break out sessions and made me realize that music policy discussions should not only take place among policymakers but all members of the industry.”


Each section of events at this year’s summit began with the phrase “The Future Is…” The slogan served as a prompt to keep the attendees thinking about what they hoped to leave the conference with.

“We’re focused on talking about solutions and moving forward. Too often, conferences about the music industry focus on complaining about what’s currently wrong with the industry,” Celenza said. “Instead of just asking what’s wrong, we’d rather ask, ‘What do we need to do next?’ What change do we hope to see in the future? And most importantly, how can we strengthen the stability of the music ecosystem for the next generation?’”

Celenza credits the event’s successful dialogue to Georgetown’s reputation for fostering socially conscious discussions.

“Speakers know this won’t be an industry-driven, for-profit event, but rather an issues-based, public policy discussion,” Celenza said. “Social justice plays a role in the conference every year. I think Georgetown’s reputation and values serves as a backdrop to the conversations.

— Darcy Palder