Is The Local Music Scene Broken?

An essay by Glen Brown

It’s time to include music in the “locally grown” movement. I’m convinced it’s one of the things that will take our great city of Hamilton to the next level.

Case in point: The Hamilton Music Awards recently presented four awards to a guy named Jeremy Fisher. Apparently, Hamiltonians think that he is the best male artist and best songwriter of the year. He was also voted to have made the best music video and the best album of the year.

I’m sorry, but I haven’t heard of the man. I trust he is a fine musician, a great performer and lyricist. But somehow along the way he missed me. Or did I miss him? I feel rebuked for being ignorant of someone who is worthy of such recognition. I can almost hear some industry person saying, “What? You’ve never heard of him? How could you NOT have heard? Where have you been…?”

Which makes my point precisely. The local music scene is broken. Fragmented. Haphazard at best. Exclusive or insular at worst. In Jeremy Fisher’s words, it’s time to Shine a Little Light Where You Need it the Most. In this case, we need a little more light on our local communication.

I don’t consider myself to be out of touch. As a local musician, I’m playing around town on a regular basis. I watch the local TV news, I read magazines and I pick up the local paper now and then. I also work in the music profession as a teacher, so in the course of my day’s work I’m on-line, browsing and buying music, and doing research. I read way more than the average person.

But still, I never came across this guy’s name. No offense. Really.

Here’s the problem: I need a connection. And without that crucial connection, I missed everything about him, his career, and his music. Too bad.

So how do we get better ongoing connections to our fellow musicians and our local music trade? We’ve already got plenty of sources of information. Here are some that I can think of:

  • Informed people. Word of mouth. Friends of musicians or trade professionals, venue owners, teachers.
  • Print media. Big and small local newspapers and magazines and advertising.
  • Paid-for Advertising and Marketing.
  • Radio, TV, Internet. Mass-market or specialized programming.

All of these sources are driven by our own musical tastes. Some of them require more action and determination on our part, while others work more passively. But all are driven by our relationships and preferences. And those tastes can take us anywhere, even far far away from Hamilton. That’s a good thing.

But the local music trade is still critically important. It serves a special role in nurturing, promoting and identifying our talent. It makes hobby musicians feel important. It acknowledges our local music students and their teachers who will shape our future. It clarifies the pathways and processes for musical development and services. It embraces our local businesses and services. The local music trade is made up of all the movers and shakers we haven’t heard about, but are part of music-making in Hamilton.

The more we know about local music, the more we will love Hamilton. It’s already out there in our great town.

We just need to get better connected.

Next year when the HMAs are presented, I want it to be a bigger deal than ever. I want the nominations and voting to be a topic of conversation at my workplace and at the dinner table. We are ready to move past the stage of consuming it as an awards show that we watch on TV, to becoming more involved, as musicians, in the entire nomination process.

For this to happen, there needs to be some significant bridge building between key players and organizations in our town.

It’s not that anyone is doing anything wrong. We just need to build more connecting bridges.

It doesn’t help me if I just know that a band or musician exists. I want to be able to hear their stories, listen to their music, see them perform, play with them if they need a player, and enrich my own musical practice.

I want to buy “locally grown” music. Are you with me?

Hamilton Music Award Winners

Female Artist of the Year: Rita Chiarelli
Male Artist of the Year: Jeremy Fisher
Local Group of the Year(People’s Choice): Live How You Live
New Artist of the Year: Dinner Belles
Pop Recording: Brandon Pacheco, Broke Up
Roots Recording: Blackie And The Rodeo Kings, Kings & Queens
Alternative Country Recording: Dinner Belles, West Simcoe County
Folk Recording: Scott Orr, Where I Live And What I Lived For
World Recording: Yiannis Kapoulas
Alternative Indie Rock: Dark Mean, Dark Mean
Rock Recording: Monster Truck, The Brown EP
Loud/Metal: Sexbeast, Avi Sexbeastis
Punk: Come On Let’s Go, Come On Let’s Go
Blues: Rita Chiarelli, Music From The Big House
Rap/Hip Hop: Canadian Winter, Just Wait Till February
Electronic: Junior Boys, It’s All True
R&B/Soul:Chris Jackson, Action
Religious: Jamie Barnes, Wilderness
Songwriter: Jeremy Fisher, Flood
Female Vocalist: Rosanna Riverso
Male Vocalist: Jon Harvey, Monster Truck
Piano/Keyboard: Greg Brisco, Dinner Belles
Special Instrumentalist: Yiannis Kapoulas
Guitarist:Luke Doucet, Whitehorse
Drummer: Chris Sindrey, Aerith
Bassist: Sean McNab, Creepshow
Canadian Recording of the Year (People’s Choice): Finger Eleven, Life Turns Electric
Record of the Year: Jeremy Fisher, Flood
Lifetime Achievement: Ian Thomas
Lifetime Achievement (Industry): Kim Cooke

Your Turn

Do you know someone who is key to music in our town that needs to get in on the conversation?

Would you like to write an article about your favourite musical venue, personality or experience?
What are your thoughts? Do you have an article idea? Any feedback is most appreciated.
Contact us at


Share your love