Celebrating Hamilton’s Musical Legacy

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City of Hamilton & music industry partners on music strategy

Think of Hamilton music and what comes to mind?
For some, it may be the unmistakable voice of FrankieVenom whose band Teenage Head defined Canadian punk in the early 80s. In recent years,The Arkells’ professed
love for Hamilton has spread near and far. Others may reference Hamilton’s treasured blues and jazz musicians Harrison Kennedy or JackieWashington, or the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra’s spectacle of sound. Still yet, Hamilton is also home to Daniel Lanois, album producer for iconic artists such as Bob Dylan, Neil Young and U2.

In actuality, Hamilton established itself as a vibrant “music community” long before the rise of blues, folk, jazz or rock ‘n’ roll.The city’s musical roots stretch back to the late 19th century with the Hamilton Conservatory of Music, where thousands of musicians had their start and where the city established itself as an important regional centre for music (now expanding into all of the arts).

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Add to this rich history the incredible momentum driven by such events as Supercrawl and the JUNO Awards that the city hosted in 2015, generating an estimated $10 million in economic impact. Clearly it is high time to celebrate Hamilton as a music city.

Hamilton city council laid the groundwork for a local music strategy in 2013, in line with the Province’s recognition of the music sector as a major economic driver.This led to the Province establishing a $45 million investment fund to showcase Ontario’s music industry globally.

Hamilton’s music strategy started as a collaborative working group of municipal staff and local music advocates and artists, who steered the strategy’s development, and extended outward to the community for consultation and feedback.What emerged was an action plan intended to sustain the momentum of Hamilton’s robust music scene, and to establish Hamilton as a key destination to write, record, perform, and experience live music.

Action plan items include a review of city by-laws and zoning to identify barriers to the local music industry, such as prohibiting amplified music on patios, and to create more diverse venues for live music.

Over the last two years, the over half of the Hamilton music strategy’s actions have been completed.Taken together, these actions are about more than fostering a thriving music scene.

For companies looking to invest in a community, cultural amenities can be a key decision factor.The number one goal of the City of Hamilton’s overall Cultural Plan, of which the music strategy is an offshoot, is to position culture as an economic driver – attracting new business, investment, jobs, and talent.

“It goes beyond quality of life. It’s about being able to illustrate the impact, along with the supporting statistics, of culture as a catalyst for generating growth,” says Debbie Spence, Acting Business Development Officer,Tourism and Culture, City of Hamilton.“The connection with economic development is key. Hamilton has one of the most diverse economies in Canada, but other sectors and industries are interested in a strong creative and cultural sector as well.”

In the words of Christopher Hume: “Culture is to the contemporary city what roads, sewers and bridges were in the 19th and early 20th centuries.” If the Hamilton Music Strategy and its success to date is any indicator, the city is well positioned to compete on the global stage as a major music hub.

For more information visit www.hamilton.ca/music-strategy.


The Hamilton Music Strategy celebrates ‘all things music’ in Hamilton. It guides the activities of its partners to create and nurture an environment where music and the music industry ourishes, grows, and prospers.Hamilton’s Music Strategy focuses on: musicians, music businesses/industry, and music fans/ supporters with the goals of:

  1. Strengthening the local music industry;
  2. Growing audiences and appreciation of music;
  3. Increasing access to music experiences; and
  4. Cultivating music creation and talent.