We think this brand has the qualities and vibe we’re all looking for. First and foremost, it’s inclusive of all musical genres, our music diversity. It’s participatory too – by which we mean it’s a brand that every member of the Hamilton music community can embrace and use. It also attests to the importance that music is to our local economy, our culture and heritage, and our day-to-day lives. But this brand also requires principles and values that will support our four goals. It cannot simply be a logo on the wall or in the window. The concept of fair music trade – how we treat and respect both local and visiting musicians in Hamilton – is part of the current discussion to establish the brand’s core values.

It’s also a bold brand in the sense that it demands we take musicians, music organizations and music businesses more seriously – and take our city more seriously too. Hamilton has some of the finest musicians, musical organizations, festivals and music events that you’ll find anywhere in Canada. What we’ve lacked in the past is an awareness of how great our music scene is – and the confidence to promote it with vigour. By adopting the “City of Music” brand, we are making a statement to ourselves and to the rest of the world that Hamilton is a great place to write, produce, record, perform and enjoy live music.

Developing the brand

The development of the Hamilton City of Music brand was informed by a public consultation process that took place in June and July of 2016, and included interviews with some 20 individuals from the music community as well as a public meeting open to the entire music community. The brand development also took into consideration the Hamilton Music Strategy and backgrounder documents which summarize the four goals, the driving principles, general characteristics, and dozens of unique characteristics and values of Hamilton’s music community that were identified by the Music Strategy Task Force in 2012.

Interviewees included members of the Hamilton Music Strategy Implementation Team — includes musicians, concert promoters, event organizers, Musicians’ Guild members and live music venue operators, msuic business owners. We also conducted interviews by phone, email and in‐person with nearly two dozen other Hamilton music community stakeholders, including:

  • Singers, songwriters and musicians representing a wide range of musical genres
  • The directors of two Hamilton musical societies
  • Organizers and directors of jazz bands, orchestras and two community choirs
  • An iconic radio personality of CFNY/Y108 fame and the program director of McMaster University’s CFMU-FM 93.3 radio
  • Festival organizers and concert promoters
  • A Hamilton record label executive
  • Music educators and the director of an organization that provides instruments and music lessons to school children
  • The director of the Hamilton Conservatory for the Arts
  • A music store owner and a record retailer

By adopting the “City of Music” Brand, we are making a statement to ourselves and to the rest of the world that Hamilton is a great place to write, produce, record, and perform and enjoy live music!

Public Meeting

In August 2016, we organized a public meeting to gather input from those we weren’t able to interview personally. Using social media, email and our project website, we reached out to more than 13,000 people. Through that process we generated awareness and sparked conversations with hundreds of local musicians and music fans (on Facebook alone, we received more than 13,000 views, 144 likes, 106 interested/going, 188 shares, 554 post clicks). Not bad at all. We also assembled an opt‐in email list of more than 125 people who want to be kept informed as this music initiative moves forward. The meeting itself was attended by 40 people who braved a spectacular thunderstorm to come out and share their views. We briefed them on the project and gathered valuable feedback during our interactive poster session.

Earlier that same week we met with a group of club, bar and café owners from across the city who are working to create a “live music venue operators alliance” to promote the cause of live music in Hamilton. Their response to the branding project was very positive and their ideas helped to inform this brand identity.

Hamilton City of Music

A key goal of the project was to develop a brand that highlights the elements that help define Hamilton as a city of music. We looked at a number of other “music cities” around the world to learn how they position themselves. Some, like Toronto and Austin Texas, are larger communities with global brands. Others, like Glasgow, Melbourne and Seattle, are cities of similar size to Hamilton. We looked at Nashville too, which is similar in size to Hamilton, but with a much more highly developed music industry of global reputation.

This review helped us to understand where Hamilton fits in, in relation to other cities that are actively promoting their music scenes. Where Nashville is able to bill itself as “Nashville Music City” and the “Songwriting Capital of the World,” other cities are more modest in their brand positioning, and we think Hamilton should be too. We decided that “City of Music” is a tagline we can use with much credibility to describe our vibrant and eclectic music scene.

Why a City of Music Brand?

Branding Hamilton a city of music can help to generate awareness, mobilize the music community and focus the marketing. Currently, individual music events are promoted by their organizers: venue operators, concert promoters and musicians themselves. In creating this city of music brand, we want it to be used to help promote all of Hamilton’s music scene, and build a music‐friendly reputation for the city.

Can music be an economic driver for Hamilton? In many respects, it already is and it is substantial. But it receives little recognition for its contributions to the local economy. Most people are not aware of the true scope of Hamilton’s music community and don’t think about music as an industry that employs people in a wide range of occupations and contributes tens of millions of dollars to the local economy. Nor do they fully understand its potential to enhance the city’s image and attract business investment, visitors and new residents – including musicians looking for a great place to live, write and record. By telling the world something we’ve known for more than a century, we hope to change all that.

Being a city of music doesn’t mean that Hamilton isn’t also the “ambitious city” or that other industries or cultural endeavours aren’t as important as music. But music in Hamilton is big. Being a city of music doesn’t preclude Hamilton from being all the other things that it is. It can, however, help Hamilton be the kind of city where other arts and cultural organizations and creative industries can thrive and grow.

Can music be an economic driver for Hamilton? In some respects it already is – but it receives little recognition for its contributions. Most people are not aware of the true scope of the Hamilton music scene and don’t think about music as an industry that employs people in a wide range of occupations. Nor do they fully understand its potential to enhance the city’s image and attract business investment, visitors and new residents. By branding Hamilton as a city of music, we hope to change all that. Being a City of Music doesn’t mean that Hamilton isn’t also an “ambitious city”; or that other industries or cultural endeavours aren’t as important as music.

Being a City of Music doesn’t preclude Hamilton from being all the other things that it is. But it can help to make Hamilton the kind of city where other arts organizations and businesses can thrive and grow.

All photos courtesy of: Bill Watson