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caption: Musician at Bumbershoot, 1974
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Musician at Bumbershoot, 1974

Where has Seattle's music scene gone?

In the heyday of the grunge movement 25 years ago, Seattle was the epicenter of the popular music world.

Bands like Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Nirvana had legions of fans around the globe.

Now, aspiring musicians and artists of any kind can barely afford to stay in a city where the burgeoning tech industry has attracted a more affluent class of workers and driven up real estate prices to historic levels.

Seattle’s Office of Arts and Culture has heard an earful from artists who are leaving town for more affordable housing, studio and rehearsal spaces.

Meanwhile, music lovers have rallied to save the Showbox, a longtime performance venue threatened by redevelopment, while at the same time mourning the loss of other mainstay venues like Tula’s Jazz Club.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and other city officials believe the best way to keep the city’s cultural scene vibrant is to focus on the next generation.

They want to prepare for the changes they believe will come with the advent of widespread 5G mobile internet technology and what they call the “network economy.”

According to Bobby Lee, who directs Seattle’s Office of Economic Development, 5G will enable more automation of jobs currently performed by human beings.

But Lee believes creative endeavors aren’t yet replaceable by robots or artificial intelligence, so the city needs to focus on preparing the next workforce to tackle jobs in the creative sector, including technology, graphic design, writing and more.

It sounds like a solid plan, but critics say it does nothing to tackle the cultural community’s immediate concerns: how to preserve and sustain the musicians and other independent artists who want to call Seattle home.

Listen to the episode by clicking the play button above or on your favorite podcast app. SoundQs is a weekly podcast where our KUOW reporters tackle questions submitted by our listeners.

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