Five Ways The 2020 Census May Impact The Illinois Music Community

By: Mike O’Cull

The upcoming 2020 USA census is a mammoth undertaking with far-reaching impacts for all Americans. Our Constitution requires this counting and identifying of the US population every ten years and both government and business use the demographic information collected to make a multitude of crucial decisions. Many in the music and entertainment sphere are unaware of how the results of the census will impact their lives and careers. Today, we will be discussing some of the possible ways that census data could affect the artists, musicians, and industry workers in Chicago and the entire state of Illinois.

Census data informs many aspects of American life. It determines congressional representation, where federal money is spent, and the directions taken by scores of large and small businesses. Music industry workers and other creatives often don’t see the connection this macro-level data collection has to their micro-level lives but the fact of the matter is that information collected through the census will help shape the communities they live and work in for the next decade or more. Here are five ways the results of the 2020 census could impact people throughout Illinois.

State legislatures or independent bipartisan commissions use census information to redraw electoral districts to better reflect increases or decreases in population. This determines how many representatives each state has in the House of Representatives, a crucial factor that influences life on the local and national levels. The U.S. Census Bureau gives the states accurate population counts for this reason.


Redistricting and the balance of power are topics that should matter to every citizen of Illinois, creative or not. They are big-picture issues that help assess and define the way life on our streets and sidewalks looks and feels. The implications they have to the rise or fall of individual areas can’t be overstated.

Census results play a large role in determining where federal money is spent. The government spends hundreds of billions of dollars on programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start, local mental health care, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, a.k.a. SNAP. Other critical programs and services influenced by census data include school lunch programs, fire departments, and infrastructure like roads, bridges, and public transportation. The allocation of federal funds also plays a large role in establishing which Illinois communities need new schools, clinics, and family services. As many musicians are self-employed people who spend a lot of time on Illinois roads, this funding can translate into both economic and quality-of-life conditions depending on where it goes.


As the 2020 census will be the first one conducted largely via the internet, some concerns have been raised about privacy, cybersecurity, and even disinformation campaigns. In years past, the census was always taken by the use of paper forms sent to each address in the country. Non-responders received a follow-up visit by a clipboard-laden census worker who collected their information in person. This old method was harder to subvert and corrupt. Digital data, however, is much easier to steal and manipulate, a sad fact of which we are continually reminded in the modern era.

Some area musicians aren’t as worried about census-related cybercrime as might be expected. Longtime Chicago singer, songwriter, and guitarist Phil Circle (, when asked if he had any concerns about census corruption, he said “Not off-hand, but I don’t typically worry too much about these things.” Some others worry that it could make an already-difficult industry next to impossible to make a living in if data reflects their local districts incorrectly and funding is decreased.

The 2020 census will provide large and small businesses with an immense amount of demographic data. This information will help them better understand the communities they serve in terms of growth predictions and population trends. Business owners will use this knowledge to decide where to open new performance venues, restaurants, and retail shops. This directly affects the local music scene, as these are the locations where bands and artists earn their keep, especially in the age of streaming platforms like Spotify.

Readers in the Chicago area may not realize that up to 30% of rural Illinois doesn’t have a reliable internet connection. The state will spend $400 million in the coming years to bring broadband internet to small towns and farms but first has to figure out exactly who needs it. Currently, telecommunications companies report where they offer internet service and at what speeds to the Federal Communications Commission broken down by census tract. The problem with this arrangement is that, if even one residence in a tract has service available, the entire tract is considered covered. This does not reflect the realities of rural life.

This situation makes an accurate census count of population and location extremely important to musicians and other artists who live outside of major metropolitan areas. Online communication and promotion are the main way artists and musicians find and build audiences now and having quality internet access does a lot to level the ground between those who live in population centers and those who don’t.

These are just a few of the ways that the results of the 2020 census could shape daily life in Illinois for those in the music industry. It’s vital that we know who we are as a state and a nation so that these and countless other issues can be properly addressed. Participate fully in the 2020 census and make sure the people of Illinois get every bit of the attention and support they deserve.



Mike O’Cull Biography: Professional music enthusiast, blogger, podcaster, and songwriter Mike O’Cull works with and covers the most compelling artists from around the world. He has reviewed music and musical equipment since the 1990s in print and online, hosts the Mike’s Rock and Metal Show podcast, does PR, and creates and produces his own original music. He also provides coaching, promotion, and writing services for musicians and other creatives. His writing work has appeared in countless venues over the last twenty years, including,,,,,,, and Visit him online at

Mike O’Cull