Year of Chicago Music

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 Year of Chicago Music (performer playing the guitar)

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In support of Chicago’s thriving music industry, Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events designated 2020 and 2021 as the “Year of Chicago Music.” This citywide focus on music was one of the first of its kind in the U.S. The City of Chicago and its partners, including a steering committee and twelve working groups, worked with the local music industry to launch a marketing campaign for Chicago music; provide additional financial grants for musicians and music projects; encourage dialog around inclusion and equity; and call on civic, philanthropic, arts and business leaders to support the music industry. Accomplishments include:

  • Placed a spotlight on Chicago’s music landscape – one of the most influential and dynamic musical sectors on the globe – highlighting its legacy, expanding its audience, and strengthening the sector as we celebrated the Year of Chicago Music and provided the local music community with over $5M in direct support


  • Engaged over 200 individuals and more than 150 music organizations in planning for the 2020/2021 Year of Chicago Music


  • Developed New Music Brand in partnership with Choose Chicago and marketing agency FCB, positioning Chicago as one of the greatest world music capitals


  • Choose Chicago launched a regional/national marketing campaign for the Year of Chicago Music, including advertising and promoting Chicago In Tune in both regional and national markets that exceeded expectations


  • Wrestled with issues of race, equity, and inclusion, addressed issues of access, and created opportunities for underserved communities in the music landscape


  • Dramatically upped our efforts and cultural resources became a key component of our work during the YOCM as we looked to support and assist the community with much needed additional funds:
    • Awarded 14 musicians Esteemed Artist Awards
    • Over 120 musicians received over $488,000 in IAP grants
    • Over $570,000 was awarded to 17 organizations for sector building project grants
    • CityArts awarded close to $500,000 to over 60 music organizations
    • Launched the Performing Arts Venue Relief Program which awarded over $1.2M to 97 organizations
    • Launched a Professional Development grant program that supported 4 music-related events during Chicago In Tune
    • The Neighborhood Access Program will support music projects that are by neighborhood residents, for neighborhood residents
    • The Arts for Illinois Relief Fund supported Chicago-based music organizations and musicians through grants for a total distribution of almost $1M


  • Launched the Chicago Band Roster, a design book of over 200 singers, songwriters, DJs, solo artists and ensemble musicians based in Chicago across a variety of genres as a resource for private and community-based producers who are looking to book local talent


  • Chicago Presents awarded over $700,000 in both direct support and hiring of musicians from the newly created Band Roster to support 52 independently produced neighborhood events across the city


  • Pushed our programming out into the neighborhoods with a series of neighborhood cultural investments that included a nine-part “House City” series in the neighborhoods that helped create the music genre; a week of “Taste of Chicago To-Go” pop-up food and music events for the public — plus 25+ community meals; Latinx and World Music celebrations; and Neighborhood Blues programs and neighborhood partner events including the Blues Community Concerts, Music Lives Here Record Row Series and the Bronzeville Blues


  • Partnered with Lollapalooza to bring the local music scene to the iconic festival presenting 10 local acts, including BandWidth Chicago, produced by Juan and Only events, as part of the “Music in the Key of Chicago” set on the Bud Light Stage


  • In support of Chicago’s musicians, DCASE’s signature legacy concerts in Millennium Park (House, Gospel, Blues and Jazz) featured 100% local talent


  • Partnered with Urban Gateways to produce YOCM programming and Teen Arts Leadership Summit series and Chicago Arts Partnership in Education to present the Youth Music Exchange Program


  • Partnered with Art on theMART to commission 3 new, powerful projections featuring unique artist and musician collaborations in celebration of the Year of Chicago Music


  • Partnered with CIVL on CIVLization, a virtual concert series in 2020, and on the CIVL Summer Concert as part of the Millennium Park Music Series in 2021


  • Presented Chicago In Tune, a new citywide festival celebrating Chicago’s diverse and legendary music scene and the 2021 Year of Chicago Music. This month of music brought together iconic neighborhood venues, presenting organizations and musicians from across the city to celebrate all music genres and forms — with 575+ free and ticketed shows at more than 55 venues