By Jeffrey Martin
The establishment of the Live Venue Music Alliance in 2015 may be another first of its kind in Canada. Music strategy team member Lou Molinaro (This Ain’t Hollywood) co-chairs the Alliance, and says the group really reflects the spirit of the Hamilton music community at large – collaborative, friendly, supportive.
“It’s given us an opportunity to learn about each other’s rooms and the obstacles each of us face, and how to improve the audience experience. We all recognize and respect each other, and vibe and direction of our respective music presentation. My peers in Toronto were kind of surprised about what we’re doing in Hamilton. I think the Venue Alliance concept is going to be nationally recognized.”
Few cities have established a formal collaborative approach among live music venue operators, and there’s a lot more challenges today than even 10 years ago.
“So if venue owners and managers want to strengthen their live music scenes, they’re going to look at this whole game completely different. In Hamilton, we’re showing that it doesn’t have to be so competitive ideology. It’s like they say, teamwork makes the dream work.”
Molinaro points to recent bylaw changes as another positive outcome for Alliance members and live music. Hamilton now provides live music venues with extended parking permits that allow bands to do their loading/unloading of gear before and after shows – without the threat of tickets.
“The city is starting to recognize some of the issues that the music community is facing, and on a logistical basis. The more that the city helps us alleviate those hurdles, the more we become a more viable and stronger business, and can move on to do more things. And the entire music community benefits.”
The music team was a strong advocate and supporter of the city’s “acoustic music on patios” pilot project. City councillors, staff and the music strategy team worked long and hard to see this through. It was a real win for all. Unfortunately a north-end neighbourhood association, the West Harbour Neighbours Inc., appealed to the OMB and the project became a “Grinch who stole summer” story – meaning officially there’s would be no music on patios for the summer of 2017. But despite this setback, summer still came. And so did the music.
“On one hand, Hamilton is telling the world that it is a music city, but then a completely unnecessary hurdle appears that doesn’t really help the already challenged local food and entertainment businesses,” says Molinaro. “Summer months are the most difficult time to bring people out because there’s so much going on: festivals, vacation time, people are busy entertaining in the evenings. Having a couple of musicians playing acoustic instruments and singing songs on a patio could really help bring more people out to have some food, a few drinks, conversation and listen to some great homegrown music.”
One thing for sure is that none of the club owners want to disappoint any of their neighbours. “When you look at the people who represent these venues, they’re responsible, community-oriented business people. And they’re committed to this city and to their respective neighbourhoods. This is not a “noise” issue. If the big picture is making Hamilton a music city, then this is a very important part that needs to be resolved.”