Arkansas, USA   –   Research

Geography & Demographics

  • Northwest Arkansas is a metropolitan area and region in Arkansas within the Ozark Mountains 
    • Northwest Arkansas includes the county’s Bentonville, Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers 
    • The specific regions considered to be “NorthWest” Arkansas were changed in 2019
  • Total population of Arkansas: ~3,017,800 (U.S. News & World Report, 2019)
    • Arkansas is rated #49 in health care, #48 in crime, #41 in education and economy, and #43 in infrastructure out of the 50 states (U.S. News & World Report, 2019)
    • Median income: $26,315 (U.S. News & World Report, 2019)
    • College-educated: 30.8% (U.S. News & World Report, 2019)
    • 79% white (U.S. census bureau quickfacts: Arkansas, 2019)
  • Northwest Arkansas has the fastest growing population in the state, and also leads the state in economic growth (Rosa, 2020)
  • Large quality of local talent (Nwacouncil, 2021)

COVID Standings: Statistics, Reopening, Etc

  • Total cases: 397,238 as of August 5, 2021 (Arkansas department of health)
  • Total deaths: 6,5247 (Arkansas department of health)
  • 36.58% of Arkansas population is fully vaccinated (Springfield News-Leader, 2021)
  • Benton in Northwest Arkansas saw the 3rd most added cases by county on 8.5.2021 (Arkansas department of health)
  • January 2021: Arkansas department of health releases guidance on when to end isolation after a positive COVID test, when one can return to work (Hutchinson & Romero, 2021)
  • February 2021: Governor extends emergency order and mask mandates, but other directives become guidelines (slight loosening of the rules) (Kwasnik, 2021).
  • May 2021: New guidelines for both small and large events (Hutchinson & Romero, 2021)
  • August 2021: Arkansas is following the CDC guidelines of wearing masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status (Arkansas department of health)

Size of Music Sectors Overview

  • Northwest Arkansas music industry generated $389 million in annual economic output and 3,972 jobs in 2016 (Jordan, 2020).
  • The music industry has grown by 104% in NorthWest Arkansas from 2002 to 2016 (Jordan, 2020).
  • NW Ark. strength in the regions proximity to music hubs like Nashville and Tulsa (Jordan, 2020).
    • Making it a good possible performance destination for performers passing through while on tour
  • NW Ark. underdeveloped nighttime economy and tendency for music professionals to operate independently rather than with regional partners (Jordan, 2020).
  • NW Arkansas music ecosystem impact on economy: (Nwacouncil, 2021)
  • Widening popularity of music tourism (Nwacouncil, 2021).

Trends in Live & Recorded Music (Pre-COVID)

  • Regional pride in the live music ecosystem and venues based on ratings by audience respondents (Nwacouncil, 2021).
    • Very high “safety in venues” responses 
    • Also in “quality of live music venues” and “sense of community”
  • Live Fall music festivals (Music destination: Northwest arkansas, 2019)
    • Cool water music fest
    • Terra studios fall music and art festival
    • Hillberry the harvest moon festival
  • Walmart AMP in Rogers hosts national and international artists (Music destination: Northwest arkansas, 2019)
  • Live local music hosted in smaller venues (lounges, galleries, cafes) (Music destination: Northwest arkansas, 2019)

COVID Impact on Music Sector Health

    • From an artist standpoint: “Most kept going, they said, by playing with fewer band members, traveling further, livestreaming on social media and even taking odd jobs. Many said they used the slowdown to write songs and become better musicians.” (Wilson, 2021)
      • Many artists never completely stopped playing shows
      • Other ‘odd’ jobs include photography or cleaning houses
      • From a positive standpoint, creativity rose as artists were given more time to write
  • “It became a ‘scrounge-fest’ to book shows with gigs few and far between during the pandemic. Band members had to travel farther than usual and perform at smaller venues after Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson closed larger music venues in March 2020.” (Wilson, 2021)
  • Recording music (Wilson, 2021)
    • Each band member recording tracks on their own, sending to producer to be mixed
  • Live performances virtually, on Youtube and Facebook
  • “The National Independent Venue Association surveyed nearly 2,000 music professionals last summer and found 90% of independent venue owners and promoters worried about having to permanently close without federal relief.” (Wilson, 2021)
    • Reduction in venues
  • Movement outdoors (Wilson, 2021)

Frictions & Tensions

  • Night transportation in NW Ark. is not in place and therefore there is an underdeveloped night time economy (Nwacouncil, 2021).
  • Bentonville, Fayetteville, Springdale do not have regulations to protect music spaces, such as sound ordinance exempts, as of 2016 (Nwacouncil, 2021).
  • Scarce stable employment opportunities in the regional music industry: low representation of music business roles and companies (managers, agents) and music producers to support local artists (Nwacouncil, 2021).
  • Lack of structured industry training opportunities (Nwacouncil, 2021).
  • Limited dedicated spaces for musical collaborations (Nwacouncil, 2021).
  • Lack of promotional channels (Nwacouncil, 2021).
  • Lack of availability and appropriately sized venues (Nwacouncil, 2021).
  • The “local” music has a negative stigma, local audiences would rather pay to see national artists (Nwacouncil, 2021).
  • Hotel capacity could not support growth of festivals (Nwacouncil, 2021).
  • Parking availability at venues (Nwacouncil, 2021).


  • Zoning codes to regulate to the use of land, including lot sizes, building setbacks, building heights, parking, and signs (U.S. News & World Report)
  • Proper building regulations also in place, applying to the building code, electric code, gas code, mechanical code, and plumbing code (City of Fayetteville Arkansas)

Government Funding

    • Huge political will to develop the music ecosystem (Nwacouncil, 2021).
    • NorthWest Arkansas Council has plans for further growth of the music industry in Northwest Arkansas. Over the next 3 years they hope to fund: (Jordan, 2020).
      • Full time staff dedicated to the “music ecosystem” 
      • Encourage cities to support their venues, cultural planning
      • Develop the diversity of underserved areas
      • Create grants for musicians and music organizations
      • Support dedicated artist spaces
      • Attract music businesses and technology sectors
      • Expand music education
    • Event and liquor permitting in place in NW county’s (Nwacouncil, 2021).
  • Congress passed the Save Our Stages Act as part of a covid-19 relief package in December, which allows independent venues to apply for Small Business Administration grants. (Wilson, 2021)



Arkansas department of health. (2017).

City of Fayetteville Arkansas. (n.d.). Building Regulations. Municode library. 

COVID-19 map. Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. (2021, August 22). 

Google. (n.d.). Google maps.,+AR-MO/@35.7461264,-94.6102671,8z/data=!4m9!1m2!2m1!1snorthwest+arkansas+location!3m5!1s0x87c914cd8775c7c3:0xa8600ced23a0ced9!8m2!3d36.0148605!4d-94.2333355!15sChtub3J0aHdlc3QgYXJrYW5zYXMgbG9jYXRpb26SARBzdGF0aXN0aWNhbF9hcmVh. 

Hutchinson, A., & Romero, J. R. (2021, January 21). End of Isolation Guidance for Employers after Employees’ Positive COVID-19 Test. 

Jordan, M. (2020, March 23). Council has a plan for NORTHWEST ARKANSAS’ music industry. Arkansas Online. 

Kwasnik, B. (2021, February 26). Governor extends emergency order, mask mandate; other directives become guidelines. Arkansas Online. 

Merckx, K. (2021, May 20). Music and Musicians. Encyclopedia of Arkansas. 

Music destination: Northwest arkansas. Explore Northwest Arkansas. (2019, February 26). 

Nwacouncil. (2017). DIVERSITY: A Look at How Northwest Arkansas’ Population is Changing.

Nwacouncil. (2021, February 1). Council launches music ecosystem strategy and action plan. Northwest Arkansas Council. 

Nwacouncil. (2021, February 2). Northwest Arkansas adds 23 people a day. Northwest Arkansas Council.

Rosa, J. D. (2020, March 26). Northwest Arkansas continues to lead state Growth, 13TH fastest-growing U.S. metro over past decade. Talk Business & Politics. 

Springfield News-Leader. (2021, August 22). Arkansas COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker.

The New York Times. (2020, April 1). Arkansas coronavirus map and case count. The New York Times. 

U.S. census bureau quickfacts: Arkansas. (2019).

U.S. News & World Report. (2019). Where Arkansas places in the U.S. News best STATES RANKINGS. U.S. News & World Report. 

U.S. News & World Report. (n.d.). Where Arkansas places in the U.S. News best STATES RANKINGS. U.S. News & World Report. 

Wilson, E. (2021, July 25). Live performances HELPING Northwest Arkansas MUSICIANS, AUDIENCES recover from covid-19 Losses. Arkansas Online.