Des Moines Hears Des Music

Fritz Junker, a former talent buyer for Des Moines, Iowa’s Hoyt Sherman Place Theater, has been trying to vitalize the city’s music scene and recently got some support from its City Council.

For about a year, Junker has been in charge of the Greater Des Moines Music Coalition, a non-profit organization modeled after Texas’ Austin Music Commission.

“There were a lot of people doing great things to build the music community, but there wasn’t any organization; there wasn’t any common agenda,” Junker told Pollstar. “At that point, I stepped in and formed [the organization].”

Now, the City Council is expected to approve a seven-member commission July 18th that will play an advisory role to the council and the music community. There have been about 20 applications including Junker, a local promoter, musicians and radio execs. Mayor Preston Daniels and the City Council will choose the appointees.

Junker hopes the commission will help build entertainment and cultural districts and will reevaluate the city’s open container laws, which could pave the way for a downtown open-air festival. The commission could also sift through outdated city codes for better sound ordinances and music zoning.

“I’d like to give a key to the city to Slipknot, who’s sort of our hometown heroes who deserve to be recognized for their achievement,” Junker said.

The former talent buyer has been working full-time organizing the coalition. He figured the time was ripe, now that the Iowa Events Center has opened and a couple of other new venues have sprung up.

The coalition has been working with its Austin counterpart, which has been credited with helping the city build revenue as a music town. In that Texas city, visitors hear local music as soon as they walk off the plane, and even the City Council meetings begin with recorded songs.

A recent impact study credited local music with generating $616 million in economic activity, 11,200 jobs and more than $11 million in tax revenue for Austin.

The commission, coalition and Des Moines’ Chamber of Commerce are planning to launch a two-day summer festival in 2006, Junker said.

Joe Reinartz