A new census will gather data about the Lawrence area’s music industry for the first time

photo by: City of Lawrence screenshot

Members of Lawrence's Parks and Recreation Advisory Board listen to a presentation from Porter Arneill, the Parks and Recreation Department's assistant director for arts and culture, during the board's meeting on Monday, Feb. 12, 2024.

For the first time, a census will capture data about Lawrence’s local music scene with eyes toward gathering measurable information about people who do music-related work to provide them with better support.

Starting in March, people working in the local music industry will be able to participate in the Lawrence Music Census, which will be administered by music census provider Sound Music Cities in conjunction with the Lawrence Music Alliance, the City of Lawrence, eXplore Lawrence and other partners including live entertainment venues like the Granada and the Bottleneck.

The city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board learned more about the survey at its monthly meeting earlier this week from Porter Arneill, Lawrence Parks and Recreation’s assistant director for arts and culture. Arneill said numerous cities are currently looking at music as part of their “ecosystem,” and the census recognizes that the City of Lawrence often has a focus on visual arts that doesn’t necessarily extend to music.

“It’s pretty straightforward — the purpose is to gain a better understanding of Lawrence, Kansas’ music community,” Arneill told the board. “This is the first time we’ve done any sort of data collection at this level for policy development.”

At the moment, Arneill said the survey team is focusing on spreading the word ahead of a March 1 launch. From there, the census will run through March 22 or could be extended if there’s a desire to collect more responses. The results of the survey will be released publicly in May, Arneill said, assuming data collection has wrapped up by the end of next month.

The survey will ask questions about demographics, occupation types and perspectives on diversity, equity and belonging, Arneill said. Anyone 18 or older in the Lawrence and Douglas County area involved in the music industry, regardless of compensation or job type, will be eligible to participate in the survey. There will also be an option for respondents to provide information if they are involved in multiple different music-related roles.

Participation eligibility doesn’t extend only to people involved with live music, either, but also to areas like recorded music, theater and radio. Even people who simply call themselves musicians are eligible to take the survey, Arneill said.

“That’s really key — you don’t have to be making money as a musician to contribute to this census; it’s really that broad in that sense,” Arneill said. “… If you feel like you’re in the music industry in some way, shape or form, as a musician or as somebody helping with tech and that kind of thing, we want to hear from you.”

Regionally speaking, Arneill said the survey will mainly focus on the city and county. But people who work or perform in Lawrence from neighboring communities like Topeka and Kansas City — and even touring musicians who have visited the city for performances — can also participate.

For now, the goal once the census is complete isn’t clear. Arneill said it’s a research effort to get a glimpse at what’s going on in the region’s music community, and also determine the community’s needs.

Arneill did provide some examples of how the census data might be used, such as if it identifies a need for a grant program or professional development opportunities for musicians. A website for the census also broadly notes that the data will be used to “develop policy solutions and approaches.”

“We know that we’re a music town, but what does that mean?” Arneill said. “Who’s represented in that, who’s active in that, all of those questions that we really just don’t have (answers to). I’m sure we can all take guesses at it, but it’s good to do something like this to get a really clear picture of what’s going on.”


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