Nurturing Nashville’s Creative Class

It’s taken for granted, especially when we as a community start believing what the “experts” are saying about us. Nashville is the “it” city, or Nashville is becoming “a mecca for creatives.”

At the heart of this surge – or resurgence as some natives would attest – of Nashville’s stature as a place to live and do business, is our creative class. This class has many faces. The media has defined the class of late as more business entrepreneurial, those who use technology to drive innovation in health care and other industries. More recently, there’s even been some attention drawn to technology entrepreneurs who would drive innovation in music development and distribution. But technology without content is nothing.

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The largest element of our creative class is – and has always been – those who fundamentally, in the most elementary sense of the word, “create” the music. Songwriters, musicians, engineers, producers, cartage professionals, and others who more often than not work in the shadows of our local music scene. We see an occasional headline about successes or tragedies of music celebs, but little attention is given to these countless other music artisans who go about their business struggling each day to make ends meet in a local economy that seems to put less and less value on their art.

The “creation” of the music through the art of “story telling” is what’s made us. The lower Broad honky-tonks, large venues or events that drive tourism offer but a small showcase of an end result. The true creators tend to operate in obscurity out of the sight and minds of tourists, as well as many of our local business and government leaders.

No one is at fault for this unintended circumstance. The music artisans are often too busy scratching a living to network or advocate for their craft. And our leaders face daily challenges of staying competitive for investment, as well as job retention and growth in today’s ever expanding global marketplace.

But having spent the past two years immersed among many of these artisans, I have come to appreciate how vital their existence is to helping fuel our local economic engine.

In a prior life I served as deputy commissioner of economic development for the state of Tennessee, and witnessed first-hand how our creative class of music artisans can be a draw for international corporations that seek to find the right stimulating environment for their employees.

Yet, as we look ahead to 2015, we must ask ourselves what more we should be doing to support these artisans. Where are the incentives to “create” the music that makes us? What kinds of investments are we will to make as a society to nurture this class so that can sustain their craft? We have local educational institutions churning out waves of new artisans, but they quickly discover after they leave the cocoon of campus life that there exists little or no support system for sustainable success.

I’m not advocating a single silver bullet government or private sector answer. The challenge demands the strength and wisdom of our entire community, and calls for the same kind of big thinking and dialogue given to those efforts made on behalf of other local industries.

Nashville is blessed with a host of music artisans who would welcome a seat at the table alongside those in business and government who have the proven ability to turn challenge into opportunity. This sector of the creative class are hungry for help, and willing to continue to do what they do here in Nashville if the community will heed their cry.

Who’s game?



Mike Kopp is a partner/manager with the All Good Factory and president of the Music Industry Coalition. He is also an advisor and friend of FoxFuel Creative.

What 2015 Holds For Marketing

2015 is the year of collaboration. Marketing has gone digital for over a decade now and big brands are giving away the research, the tactics, and the means to buy media. Cheap and easy access means clients are demanding more of their agencies. To stay relevant, we have to adapt and collaborate.

Adapt: Depth Over Breadth

Ten years ago, agencies were clammering to beef up their shop, building multiple divisions under one roof. The result is an entity that is self-reliant, driven by agency profit, and is now falling short. We’ve seen a shift in client focus as they seek quality and innovation. More and more, decisions are based on what’s best for the work rather than what’s best for the bottom line.

A change in focus means a change in demand. Marketers hold more value in their ability to provide the best version of one thing than they would in providing the acceptable version of everything. What does that mean for marketers? Know what you’re good at, own it, and don’t be afraid to be transparent about the rest.

Collaborate: One Stop, Many Shops

Clients may only want the best, but they still want the best of everything. In Nashville, the call for quality has resulted in several different hyperfocused companies who are excellent at what they do. But while they’re providing the quality shop by shop, the separation requires extra effort from the client to juggle the various pieces for their brand.

There is an alternative to the circus act: collaboration.

If we–the creative agencies, tech companies, digital strategists, hyperfocused creators–can work together to combine forces and create truly innovative and pristine products, we can present our clients with perfectly packaged solutions that win for everyone.

FoxFuel and the Nashville Network

Here at FoxFuel, we have developed a habit (one that we’ll continue) of partnering with brilliant people in Nashville who have cornered the market in their area of expertise.

This habit has developed into a valuable skill set. Networking, brainstorming, and creating with other rising innovative talents in our city serves our clients better than building our own internal war chest of capabilities. While we never want to take credit for the genius behind the companies that we partner with, we do pride ourselves on the ability to meet and vet other passionate companies that can improve the ideas and concepts that we seek to deliver for clients.

We build relationships with these partners and maintain transparency with our clients. We won’t hide our collaborations; on the contrary, we want to make sure that our clients know we have the best of the best contributing to their brand.

We do all of this because the secret in the sauce for great marketing is literally the brain between our ears. This is greatness that fuels greatness in others, ignites innovation, and refuses to be extinguished.

To further demonstrate the growing relational culture of Nashville’s marketing world, we’ve invited a few great minds to speak to what they see for their industry in 2015. We didn’t ask for their secret to success or the 12 tips for content marketing; we asked them to speak to what they’re passionate about and its place in a changing industry.


Colton Mulligan is the Chief Executive Officer at FoxFuel Creative, where he drives strategy, partnerships and collaboration on behalf of their clients.