For the fourth year in a row, the City of Hamilton is presenting its annual Musician Entrepreneur Conference. This year’s conference is free to attend, and is targeted towards independent local musicians looking to gain insights and knowledge to develop their careers. 

Due to the pandemic, this year’s conference will be held virtually, over the course of October 19-23, which is also Small Business Week. Musicians interested in officially registering for one of the five sessions can do so via individual Eventbrite links from the City of Hamilton website; alternately, participants can watch via a Facebook link, where sessions will be streamed live. 

Each session focuses on a different element of preparing for an album release, and promises networking opportunities and panels with industry experts and other local musicians.

Topics for the Conference include:

  • Planning Your Next Release (October 19 at 3pm)- panelists discuss how to best organize time, money and work to make the best release.
  • Grants for Musicians (October 20 at 2pm)- featuring grant officers from the City of Hamilton’s City Enrichment fund, FACTOR and the Canada Council for the Arts to talk about grant programs and available funding for Hamilton musicians. Musicians participating in this conversation are encouraged to share their experiences in both the application process and in receiving funding.
  • Getting Ready to Record (October 21 at 7pm)- advice on how to best prepare for studio time in a professional setting, and tips that can assist in the recording process for those recording at home.
  • Marketing with a Small Budget (October 22 at 7pm)- speakers address free or low-cost marketing strategies (including social media content) for emerging or self-produced musicians who may not have a label or marketing team to assist in promoting their work. 
  • My Album is Done. Now What? (October 23 at 3pm)- a panel discussion on the options to share music, build audiences and develop revenue streams from music.

The Conference is the City’s only contribution to small business week; a national celebration of entrepreneurship organized by the Business Development Bank of Canada that has taken place for over forty years. 

While session conversations will likely be influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic, topics for the conference do not explicitly reflect many of the challenges of this unprecedented time, including the unprecedented context that entrepreneurs and musicians are working in, and will likely work in for the foreseeable future. The Canadian Association for the Performing Arts (CAPACOA) reports that employment in the performing arts, spectator sports and related industries in September 2020 was 27% lower than the same time in 2019. The same study also suggested that workers are increasingly leaving the sector to find work elsewhere. 

Mental health for artists and creators is also increasingly pressing. With October 10 representing World Mental Health Day (an international day for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy), a timely opportunity exists with conference sessions to address the unique challenges faced by musicians and resources and strategies available to assist. 

Providing equitable spaces and access for diverse and marginalized communities is also not specifically addressed within the session titles or descriptions, but has become an increasing focus of the arts community in recent years and will hopefully be addressed throughout the conference by panelists. This conference provides an opportunity to be a virtual meeting place for marginalized artists and music professionals to discuss systemic racism, accessibility for disabled artists, social change and the impact of all of these on the creation, promotion and distribution of music.

There is no charge to participate in the conference, which is an initiative of the Musician Sub-Committee of the Hamilton Music Advisory Team.

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