Hamilton's new music office should help put the city on the map as an arts hotbed and differentiate it from Toronto in a battle for new provincial funding, music community sources say.
On Wednesday, members of the general issues committee voted to establish a music working group and office aimed at boosting the music business in Hamilton. This comes on the heels of the province announcing it plans to create a $45-million Ontario Music Fund to support music in the province and promote Ontario music worldwide.
'We really have to set ourselves apart from Toronto. Hamilton is a completely different beast.' —Terra Lightfoot, musician
Coun. Brian McHattie moved the motion in council, and told CBC Hamilton that he wants to make sure those funds don't just end up going to Toronto. "I didn't want to get left behind," McHattie said. "I wanted to put us front and centre in the music industry in Ontario."
One person from the city's economic development office will staff the music office and it will be dedicated to the music industry, making it no different in terms of legitimacy than the steel industry, healthcare or education, McHattie says.
"The reason Brian stepped on the gas on this is because of the live music push provincially," said Supercrawl organizer Tim Potocic, who is also a member of the music working group. "Hamilton is in an amazing place to take advantage of it."
"It's anybody's oyster."
'I'm always learning about new pockets of money'
But the big question is: what exactly would a music office do for the city and its musicians?
"In a general sense, the office will create opportunities," Potocic said. The province will have a point person to be able to call and get a dialogue going on music related issues and funding, he says. "They can call and get someone to pick up the phone and get a response — when last week, they couldn't."
It will also help establish funding for the city's festivals, Potocic says. "I'm always learning about new pockets of money that can be used to facilitate things we have going here."
But what will that mean for the city's musicians? While there would likely be a trickledown effect from increased funding, how could it help day to day?
Singer-songwriter Terra Lightfoot says it could be a big help for young musicians trying to figure out how to get started professionally and applying for arts grants. Adam Bentley of The Rest echoed that need. "It's often so daunting," he said. "You never know if you're doing it right."
Grabbing attention and funding
But that kind of help is a long way off, Potocic says. He says help with booking, grants and promotion could come farther down the road but ultimately, the onus is on the musician to get that sort of thing going. The music office will mostly exist to promote the Hamilton music scene — something that suits Lightfoot just fine.
"The biggest thing is drawing attention to us having a thriving music community," she said. "Hamilton definitely deserves more attention and funding than it currently gets."
"We really have to set ourselves apart from Toronto. Hamilton is a completely different beast."
Bentley says there is a value to promoting the city as a whole, but he also hopes one on one help for musicians could be part of the music office's mandates in the future.
"What I find is hard for new bands is facilitating things they have no experience with. That's what they should focus on," he said.
"A group comes to them and says 'how do I get into the U.S.? How do I get into festivals?' I hope that would be part of a long term plan."