On a normal Friday night, music fills the streets in and around downtown McKinney. A band might be playing at TUPPS Brewery or on The Sanctuary stage. Country artists line up to sing in front of the American flag onstage at Hank’s Texas Grill. On Main Street, independent singer/songwriters play rounds at Cadillac Pizza Pub, or The Celt, and lone musicians shine at Filtered coffee shop.
For two months, the square has been silent. But at Tuesday’s McKinney city council meeting, the mayor and council members announced that McKinney has received their official designation as a music-friendly city.
The good news is a long time coming.
McKinney Mayor George Fuller himself is a musician and a member of the Maylee Thomas Band and his wife is a singer. Getting a music friendly designation for the city was a particular passion project of his.
“McKinney has an unbelievably deep music scene,” he says.
Fuller points out that a wide community of clubs, venues, and restaurants promote live music in McKinney. World class musicians like Andy Timmons from the Andy Timmons Band (ATB) live within city limits.
“We always have had a great emphasis on music and bands,” Fuller says. “It’s part of our culture.”
The designation comes out of the Texas Music Office, a state office dedicated to the support of local musicians. It works within the governor’s office, and is solely dedicated to developing a connected group of friendly music cities. Texas is the only state to have a specific office for this purpose.
Every two years, the Texas Music Office conducts an economic impact study. Combined, music business and music education directly account for just under 97,000 permanent jobs, $4.1 billion in annual earnings, and just over $9.6 billion in annual economic activity. It also generates approximately $390 million in tax revenue.
With the help of Beth Shumate at the McKinney Convention and Visitor Bureau, McKinney applied to be known as a “music friendly city,” to raise its profile and give credence to their local musicians. On average, it usually takes a year and a half to get certified. Even during a pandemic, McKinney was certified in under a year.
Chip Adams, from the Texas Music Office, called with the news at Tuesday’s city council meeting, saying that he wished he could be there celebrating the accomplishment. “Consider this a raincheck,” he told council members. “I’m very proud of the importance the city of McKinney has placed on musicians.”
The struggle to make a living as a full time musician has always been problematic, and like Dallas’ and Fort Worth’s music scenes, McKinney’s vibrant community has been affected by COVID-19. The situation is dire enough that Fuller has also been part of the creation of the “McKinney Musician Relief Fund,” which was established in April to support local musicians during the global pandemic.
Fuller hosted an online concert series over a few weekends in April, where musicians of all kinds performed, including Maddie Davis, a local singer who competed on The Voice. After the concert series, around 20 full-time musicians in McKinney received grants.
McKinney’s new distinction as a music friendly city is a glimmer of hope in a very dark time. “It was all hands on deck,” Fuller says. “We did this for musicians, for venues, for Main Street.”