Jean-Paul Gauthier

There's no sign of the Hamilton Music Awards this year. Founder Jean-Paul Gauthier did not respond to questions about the state of the HMAs on Tuesday. (Hamiltonmusicawards.com)

In the wake of a multi-million dollar lawsuit launched by its founder, the Hamilton Music Awards have all but vanished, leaving virtually no hope that the awards show or its accompanying festival will happen in the city this year.

This all comes after a tumultuous few months for Hamilton Music Awards (HMA) founder Jean-Paul Gauthier, who launched a massive lawsuit against one of Canada's biggest talent agencies late last year, after his other project — the Harvest Picnic — imploded.

Several Hamilton acts did not get paid for playing the Harvest Picnic last year. The bulk of that lawsuit was thrown out in court at the end of 2016.

In court documents related to the lawsuit, Gauthier himself warned that the HMAs were in peril.

"The events that September Seventh produces and owns, namely, the Harvest Picnic and the Hamilton Music Awards, are now at great risk of ceasing to exist," he wrote.

Around this time last year, Gauthier was announcing award nominees, festival schedules and ticket information for the HMAs.

'As far as I can tell, the HMAs have just quietly disappeared.'
- Darlene MacNeil, manager, Mills Hardware

This year, it's been radio silence.

Gauthier did not respond to calls, emails or text messages for comment on this story.

Venues that usually house HMA events have not been booked this year. Last year the awards show was held at Theatre Aquarius, but General Manager Lorna Zaremba told CBC News that there are no HMA bookings at the venue this year.

The same can be said for Mills Hardware and This Ain't Hollywood, which hosted showcases and a speaker series for the awards last year.

"As far as I can tell, the HMAs have just quietly disappeared," said Mills Hardware manager Darlene MacNeil.

The HMAs have been a Hamilton staple since 2004.

Juno Awards 20140330

Country artist Johnny Reid is countersuing the company that runs the Harvest Picnic for unpaid fees after playing last year. (The Canadian Press)

Problems with September Seventh Entertainment — which is the company Gauthier oversees that runs the HMAs and the Harvest Picnic — emerged after he filed a $27 million lawsuit late last year.

Gauthier launched his suit with the intention of suing talent agency the Feldman Agency, Jann Arden, country star Johnny Reid, alternative country band Cowboy Junkies, and others, alleging they essentially torpedoed that last iteration of the Harvest Picnic.

Arden dropped out of the festival because of illness, and Gauthier alleged that the other bands violated the radius clauses in their contracts.

A radius clause is an agreement in a band's contract that dictates they not play another show within a certain distance of the venue close to the same date, to maximize crowd size. Arden played a Christmas show in Toronto, while Reid played a song the Canadian Country Music Awards.

In a judgment released in January, Justice Alan Whitten highly criticized Gauthier, and suggested he cherry-picked the issues upon which he based his lawsuit, while not paying people the money they were owed.

Whitten dismissed any claim against Jann Arden, Feldman and Arden's manager.

Reid, in turn, is suing September Seventh, seeking thousands of dollars in unpaid fees after last summer's festival.

adam.carter@cbc.ca