Our third Sound Off event drew one of the biggest crowds yet. The Art Gallery of Hamilton’s Design Annex, tucked right in the vibrant downtown heart of the city, provided the perfect backdrop for our forum and played host to a cross-section of artists, managers, promoters, administrators, publicists, and general music enthusiasts alike.

Hamilton already has plenty of initiatives to be proud of: those in attendance kicked off the discussion by pointing out the city’s strengths, including the regular art crawls that have rapidly heightened the profile of Hamilton’s arts and culture scene. Such events have also helped foster a great sense of spirit and cooperation, as people from different demographics and backgrounds often come together to work on such initiatives. Audience members lauded those who show up often to support the artistic community, and remarked on the solid number of venues in the area, too.

General challenges echoed those brought up by participants in Guelph and Ottawa previously: namely, the changing nature of the music industry as a business. As new media eclipses older technologies, are bands better off going digital in music production? Or is is still worth making CDs and pressing vinyl? And will listeners pay good money for that music? The reality that most audiences want free concerts and cheap music was noted, along with the idea that convincing listeners that music is a marketable commodity is crucial in the industry of today.

This conversation quickly turned to local challenges facing Hamiltonians. Most frequently mentioned? The city’s proximity to Toronto, and the perception that Hamilton is too often working in the shadow of the provincial capital. Similar to forums in other cities, the issue of connecting with audiences was also raised, as was the need for more resources and access to those broader audiences. Some preliminary solutions were floated, including using web resources to bring more people together, or even digital tourist kiosks to expose visitors to more events.

Support from the municipality was also brought up, along with an announcement about a new initiative the city is working on to build a strategy around new music development. Several success stories were shared about educational efforts in the community, as were more ideas surrounding how students can continue learning about careers in the industry by partnering with existing labels and other small businesses.

Many thanks to all from the Hamilton community who came out to the event and shared their perspectives. We look forward to hearing more of your thoughts on our online survey, coming soon — and for those in our remaining cities, we’re making our way over to you! Next up: London and Peterborough.

Sound Off! – Ontario is funded in part by the Ontario Media Development Corporation (OMDC), with additional support from Ryerson University. Without them, this project would not be possible.

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We’d also like to thank the fine folks over at TicketBreak for their support of MusicOntario and our year-round activities.

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Also thanks to our travel partner VIA Rail.

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Click here to learn more about Sound Off! – Ontario, including upcoming dates in other cities across the province.

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