Music Neighborhoods

Will Downtown's Street Speakers Switch to Local Music?

Mike Paulus, photos by Eric Christenson |

Stare at this image long enough and you can almost hear the light jazz.
Stare at this image long enough and you can almost hear the light jazz.

It's an idea we've all had (and re-had) over and over (and over) for at least a decade: The speakers lining downtown Eau Claire's Barstow Street should play local music. Well, it looks like Downtown Eau Claire Inc. is be getting serious about swapping its muzak for original tunes from local bands.

Today DECI announced, "Downtown Eau Claire Inc. has partnered with the South Barstow Business Improvement District, Paul Brandt, and Audio Architects, Inc. to look into bringing local music downtown."

The current music programming (periodically switched for special events, but mostly set to hazy light jazz) is rarely praised. Over the years, we've published multiple articles about the mysterious origins of the jazzy notes trickling from the city's lamppost-mounted speakers, which were upgraded during the Barstow Street reconstruction of 2013. 

But basically, there's a digital radio box in a closet in a downtown business. 

Local musician and Eau Claire Music School teacher Paul Brandt has volunteered his time to spearhead this project. The South Barstow BID owns and controls the downtown system and Audio Architects, Inc. provides technical expertise. The Local Store is providing a huge catalog of digital tracks, already assembled from the shop's collection of local CDs and vinyl.

The project is in its very early stages. Brandt tells us his first step is contacting local musicians for approval. 

Keep in mind that no one playlist of any kind of music will please all of downtown's residents, business owners, and patrons, but we do hope this new initiative results in an even better downtown experience.