When looking at Birmingham, there are several sites of heritage that could be the base for a push for increased tourism activity. Birmingham has countless legacy acts that grew and developed within the city: Black Sabbath, Duran Duran, Judas Priest, Electric Light Orchestra, Ocean Colour Scene and many more. With generic heritage involving the creation of heavy metal – with Black Sabbath’s guitarist suffering an industrial accident that forced him to change the way he played and tuned his guitar, creating the low, drop D tuning metal has become known for – there is a fairly obvious area to look at for heritage.
However, I feel the more recent Birmingham music scenes have more to offer; specifically B-Town. Beginning around 2011/12, B-Town is based around the indie music scene in Digbeth, Birmingham’s cultural quarter. The scene is said to have ‘arrived’ with a Christmas show in 2012 that featured several of the biggest bands of the scene. The biggest bands in the scene included Swim Deep, Peace, God Damn, Superfood, JAWS and many more. The scene is characterised both textually and culturally by a nonchalant style, as well as a tight-knit community and a fundamentally ‘brummie’ scene according to journalistic discourses.
The tourism strategy would revolve around highlighting this scene as an elite scene outside of London – the ‘main opposition’ as it were. The scene’s strong ties with Birmingham project connotations of creativity, innovation and popularity onto both the city and Digbeth more specifically. Whilst it is a very recent scene that may not fall under heritage guidelines, several of the bigger bands have signed major label deals and effectively ‘defected’ to London. This not only adds to the discourse of going against London, it also highlights the current scene by drawing on its past heritage without ignoring the present – which is perfect for attracting tourists. The strategy will call for a large increase in press and city support for the gigs and creative enterprises currently operating out of the scene and area. Venues in particular should be heralded as exclusive – only bands and artists of a certain quality can play to live up to the B-Town name, or at least need to be presented as such. Essentially, I want to take what makes Glastonbury so popular (the heritage the festival has from previous year’s iterations) and apply it to Birmingham and B-Town.
The branding of this strategy would revolve around the name B-Town. Similar to Madchester, it is catchy, incepted in a perceived ‘natural’ way (an analysis of the surrounding journalistic discourses would suggest otherwise) and conveys the Birmingham association whilst standing out from the city as its own entity and brand.
The target audience would primarily be fans of both the scene and indie music more generally. The target audience would become more clearly defined as the tourism strategy is implemented and grown. The aim would be to attract people to the area (which has a strong aesthetic style) and hopefully get them to stay for a B-Town-based show.
In terms of funding, very little would be initially required as the strategy begins. Money would be needed for the press/marketing push and the branding design primarily – promoters, bands and other scene professionals would continue to operate as they are, just receive a lot more attention and perhaps be involved in helping create the narrative of B-Town previously mentioned via press interviews etc. Obvious areas for funding would be the city council due to the benefits this strategy holds for Birmingham with such little initial investment. Birmingham City University also has a strong interest in the local music scenes – perhaps monetary funding could be given in exchange for data from companies and professionals within the scene?