I was fortunate enough to join the Indy Chamber on its annual Leadership Exchange (LEX) trip to Nashville, Tennessee, a week ago. The LEX trip takes anywhere from 40 – 100 delegates from Indianapolis to another city to study things they’re doing well that might work for Indy. Last year the group went to Cologne, Germany. This year it was Music City.
I hadn’t been to Nashville as an adult. The last time I was there was with my parents for a family vacation in middle school. So seeing it as an adult, it was all new to me. We stayed downtown and quickly learned that it wasn’t a neighborhood -- all tourists stay downtown. So while you’re getting a glimpse into the energy of Nashville, you aren’t getting a feel for the people. Because of that, I traveled out a bit and got lost somewhere near Vanderbilt and a very old pancake shop. I hopped in a taxi and rode through a few more areas, and one thing ran true everywhere in Nashville -- downtown or on Belcourt Avenue -- the importance and pride in the city has for its art and culture. The arts permeated through everything there. It was different than Chicago though. It was all about the music. Literally everywhere you went, there was live music or something playing overhead.
When you walk downtown, you can hear drums and bass guitar and country singers. Even blocks away and in the daytime. I knew “Music City” was its brand, but I didn’t realize how they took it so literally. It’s not just what’s important to them or what they love, it’s what they do and it’s why visitors come. That’s a lesson we could learn in Indy. What’s our “thing”? Is it sports, still? Is it arts and culture now? And if so, in what form?
A lot of us went out our last night there. It was a Tuesday night right on Broadway downtown. So many other people were out, big bands stopped in the city to play, and it was like a Friday night in Indy. And if you walked a few blocks down, you still heard music but coming out of traffic boxes at stop lights. There were speakers installed into utility and traffic boxes and wrapped in vinyl artwork. And in retail shops and boutiques -- the music wasn’t background noise. It was something you would sing along to. It was louder than what you’re likely used to. And when you called a local phone number and was on hold; there was no beep. There wasn’t silence. There was music.
I really enjoyed how they took their brand, the story of Nashville really, and ran with it. They made it who they are, and I love that it’s the arts that make them. Even if you aren’t a fan of country music, you have to appreciate the vibrancy the music creates for their city.
I’m so proud of Indy Chamber for organizing such a unique experience for Hoosiers to be immersed into another city, similar in some ways and very different in others. What a great way to see live what Indy is doing well and where there are opportunities for edits. What an invaluable experience and a great chance to get into country music.
So again, I pose this question: What is OUR thing? What do you think Indy is about or should be? What should our brand be? I’m interested to hear your feedback.