Music in Madison means money for city, businesses
Chris Langkamp is pretty happy that Madison is a pretty music-centric area.
“We do other stuff for businesses and stuff like that, but generally, I would say at least 75 percent of what we do is all from the local bands,” Langkamp said.
Langkamp started in the music business playing bass. Then he started his own label, Crustacean Records.
Now you can find him in a warehouse on Park Street, keeping his lost art alive.
“Music was like an event, you know, and I still carry that with me. And everything that we do and the posters, I just, I want them to be awesome, you know,” Langkamp said. “Because that’s what I’m all about.”
With a passion for print, Langkamp and his team at Sooper Dooper spend their time setting type like they did in the decades before computers. He gets as excited about 19th century wooden letters as he does about a solid bass line.
“I’m a huge fan of an awesome show poster!” Langkamp said.
The Sooper Dooper crew rolls posters by hand, puts together letter layouts by hand, and assembles CD cases by hand. It’s that kind of commitment that keeps them afloat in a shrinking market of Facebook invites and MP3s.
“I love stopping by the kiosks on State Street and just looking at all of the different band fliers and different artists’ take on the promotional piece,” Langkamp said.
On and off stage, Langkamp isn’t the only one who has noticed and appreciated the growing music scene in Madison. If theater marquees are any sign of success, the city has seen more shows than ever come to town.
Karin Wolf is the arts administrator for the city of Madison, and she said while State Street is still significant in the music scene, grassroots efforts are pushing music east of the Capitol.
“We have a lot of little initiatives like that where we’re not only trying to support the musician, but we’re trying to support the community through music, and then we’re trying to create a national buzz about what we have to offer through the music industry,” Wolf said.
Wolf said those initiatives include events like Make Music Madison and Band Swap. Wolf also pointed out the city’s desire to make it more viable to be a career performer, particularly by making sure musicians get a living wage for their art.
“We just have the right conditions to make this happen here, so I’m confident that it’s just going to continue to rise,” Wolf said.
Wolf said studies have shown that social opportunities are one of the top considerations for people looking to move to a city and stay there for the long haul.
Beyond the benefit for venues and performers, Madison Business Development Specialist Ruth Rolich has also seen housing development in part thanks to music. She credits the vibrant arts scene in town for some of that growth and retention.
“I think the way that we’re seeing it economically is by just the housing boom that’s happening right now down East Washington Avenue and near campus of people who really want to be downtown and live downtown. So I think that’s just a direct result of the culture,” Rolich said.
Rolich said part of what makes Madison attractive to young, creative entrepreneurs and innovative companies is the vibrant entertainment scene, which musicians are fueling.
“What they’re doing is helping us become a competitive city internationally for the kinds of jobs and companies that we want to locate in Madison,” Rolich said.
There is no economic study that has looked at the exact impact music has in Madison, but Langkamp has certainly seen the benefit.
“As the scene grows and people become more interested in bands and go out to see bands more, you know, the more bands that are playing shows, the more handbills and posters those bands need,” Langkamp said.
Langkamp started Sooper Dooper 14 years ago with one employee. He’s now up to six. He said most of the people he hires are music-minded as well, keeping his profits in the community.
“All of the money that comes in from musicians that supports us generally goes right back out into the music scene, and it kind of just rolls,” Langkamp said.
Whether printing or playing, Langkamp said this is a great place to be in business.
“I do do what I enjoy,” Langkamp said.