Vancouver is a stunning city.

They call it the ‘city of glass’ and it really is, with imposing steel-and-glass buildings that create impossible reflections; when you match this with Vancouver’s other name - the ‘rainy city’, you begin to truly appreciate the beauty of the landscape.  Katja and I travelled there last November to meet some of the city’s music stakeholders and in January, I went back to learn more about the city’s music ecosystem.

In just under a week, I met around 120 people from Vancouver’s music and property industries and was lucky enough to visit some of the main music spaces in the city, like the 604 Records Headquarters and several venues at the historic and charming Gastown neighbourhood


Back in November, the 2018 JUNO Award press presentation was hosted at CBC Studios and they announced that this year’s awards would take place in Vancouver, hosted by Michael Bublé and performances by BC-based musicians like the BC Youth Chinese Orchestra.

  Michael Bublé  at the 2018 Juno Awards Nominations - Photo courtesy of  Kingston's K-Rock 105.7

Michael Bublé at the 2018 Juno Awards Nominations - Photo courtesy of Kingston's K-Rock 105.7

We also announced the forthcoming Music Cities Convention and Music Cities Hackathon hosted by Sound Diplomacy which will take place on Thursday 22nd March as part of JUNO Week.  I also attended Vancouver’s Creative City Strategy at Roundhouse, a very beautiful Community Centre that hosts music, conferences and theatre.

Both trips helped us understand the city, its people and their social habits; their wants and needs.  It also brought us closer to key music industry bodies and gave us ample opportunity to take in the city’s night time vibe, which is so important to our work on the city’s music strategy.


While the city venues are undergoing a crisis, some of the best venues in town still operate, hosting great shows every night.  The city also has a very interesting underground scene and in summer holds great outdoor events, making the most of the beautiful parks and nature spaces the city has. In Vancouver, creativity is merged into the astonishing natural landscapes, and they are both inserted in the population’s DNA.  The whole music scene is highly committed and willing to work together to transform Vancouver into a Music City.

Every meeting we’ve taken, every interview or roundtable we’ve hosted or attended, every venue we’ve been to and every phone-call has lead to the start of conversations among different agents in the city that are all working towards the same objective - to put Vancouver on the map as a Music City.


The key findings of this project will be presented during Music Cities Forum in March, and the report will conclude in a strategy for the city and the music scene.

Sound Diplomacy on the Road: Melbourne

In November, I flew all the way Down Under to represent Sound Diplomacy at Face the Music conference in Melbourne and to do field research for a music strategy project in Brisbane. Both cities greeted me with blue skies, friendly faces and amazing music scenes.

With its population of nearly 5 million, Melbourne is not only Victoria’s state capital - it’s a melting point of cultures (fun fact: it has the third largest Greek population after Athens and Thessaloniki), creative people, food and music. It’s also a pure treat for the senses of anyone arriving from the northern hemisphere at this time of the year.


Melbourne is home to Face the Music - a friendly summit for the local and international music industry. It takes place during the Melbourne Music Week in various locations, such as the marvelous St. Paul’s cathedral and open stages on Federation Square.

Face the Music celebrated its 10th edition with numerous panels, workshops and an international focus on Germany, which is the reason I was invited to speak there, giving Australian artists tips on making it in the German market.

Together with the other international guests, I enjoyed the chance to visit a few of the city’s legendary music locations, such as the Bakehouse Studios. Having played host to the likes of Nick Cave, Cut Copy and Cat Power over its 25 years, Bakehouse is a true local institution that managed to survive the waves of ongoing urban redevelopment in the area. Located on Melbourne’s busiest urban thoroughfare, this is a unique multi-studio and rehearsal space where every room has been designed by a different visual artist that, in turn, inspires musicians. Check out the fantastic Oh Pep!, who played an acoustic set in one of the main rooms.

We couldn’t miss a short stopover at Cherry Bar in the CBD, which is not only rumoured to be Lady Gaga’s hang of choice when in town, but a trusted staple on the local nightlife scene, where waves of happy patrons dance to metal karaoke till the early morn. Oh, and did I mention it’s located on Melbourne’s very own AC/DC Lane?

From big performance halls and open-air stages, to gritty alleys and hidden warehouses, Melbourne offers so much to the music-hungry! I can’t wait to be back for Music Cities Convention in 2018 and hope to see you there.

I would like to thank everyone at Creative Victoria’s Music Passport programme for making this trip possible, and the lovely Face the Music crew for showing me around.

Stay tuned for even more Australia as I share my favorites from Brisbane!


Photos by Sound Diplomacy, Music Victoria and Face the Music.

Music Cities Convention: Memphis

In October, we held the fifth edition of our Music Cities Convention alongside Music Export Memphis and Memphis Music Initiative in the birthplace of rock 'n' roll and the home of the Blues - Memphis, Tennessee.

The event was a sell-out. 215 attendees travelled to Memphis from 5 continents, 10 countries and over 50 cities. We had an incredibly busy three days with 37 speakers bringing their music city expertise to six presentations, five panels, roundtable sessions and two event receptions!

The convention kicked-off with an opening reception at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music and Memphis Slim Collaboratory, allowing the delegates to absorb some of the music history that Memphis has to offer. The Recording Academy: Memphis Chapter partnered with the event to provide entertainment from the world-renowned Stax Recording Academy graduates, as well as superb local food and drinks.

MCC - Memphis

After this crash course into Memphis’ musical history, the following day saw the full 225 delegates descend on the Halloran Centre for a day of presentations and panels, with discussions and talks ranging from ‘Every City Needs a Music Strategy: Artists as Leaders’ to ‘Chengdu Music City’ to ‘Understanding Audiences: The Role of the Consumer in our Music Ecosystems’. Coffee was provided by the excellent local roaster Edge Alley Coffee and food by local favourites, Sweet Potato Baby.

MCC - Memphis Panel

After the day’s talks, we had a special surprise for the delegates and one of the highlights of the event! Local musicians the Memph Orleans Street Symphony were ready and waiting to lead the group down the road to our main event reception at the Blues Hall of Fame Museum - you can check out footage of this in our event video at the bottom of this article! For the reception we partnered up with upcoming Music Cities Convention hosts State of Victoria: City of Melbourne and Lafayette Convention & Visitors Commission to provide our delegates with amazing drinks, food and conversation, which was a fitting end to a great day.

MCC - Procession

The final day of the convention included a half-day of roundtable sessions for a limited capacity of 80 delegates. Topics that were discussed included ‘Music Ecosystems of the Future: What Has to be Improved to Develop a Forward-Thinking Music Policy City?’, ‘Access to Music for Everyone’ and ‘Designing Music-Friendly Noise Regulations and Policies’ which was presented in partnership with expert Don Pitts the CEO of Sound Music Cities.

MCC - Roundtables

The team at Sound Diplomacy then ended the three days with a special VIP speaker trip to the former home of Elvis, Graceland. We had an amazing time, but some of the delegation had an even better time...

MCC - Jackets

We’ve now launched our two 2018 Music Cities Convention events, so head to our website for more information and updates. Check out the Music Cities Memphis video here


Sound Diplomacy on the Road: Seoul

Over the past two months Sound Diplomacy has travelled to Seoul in different capacities. We are always excited to come to Seoul, it truly lives up to its reputation as a 24 hour city. In Seoul, cultural activities, from performances to digital installations, are awaiting the curious mind around every corner.


Being invited to speak at Seoul Music Cities Connection, I traveled to Seoul to present some of our work and discuss best practice and policies for Music Cities with the local music industry, researchers and city representatives. The event took place at Platform 61, a three storey space built from shipping containers in the north-west of Seoul. Opened in 2016, the space includes recording studios, artist residencies and a concert venue. As part of the conference, there were also some music showcases. I was especially impressed by the performances around Hyewon Choi, Songhee Kwon and Seayool Kim, Songhee Pansori Lab, building on their traditional background in gugak music with more contemporary influences.

During my time in Seoul I managed to visit some other creative spaces. I was most impressed by the Oil Tank Culture Park, which opened a week before my visit and is close to the World Cup Stadium.  The 140,000 m2 space hasn’t been open to the public for over 40 years. The whole area comprises of six oil tanks that have been renewed over the few last years and now offer indoor and outdoor concert spaces, exhibition spaces, a community center and much more. On Friday evening I visited Seoul Art Space Gumcheon, a former telephone factory that had been regenerated into a  multi-functional arts space in 2009. They were hosting a special night with some of their local and international residents and other performers, including a great performance by Seoul artist KIRARA.

Mystik, one of my favorite clubs from my last visit had unfortunately closed, but the city is still bustling with lots of other venues and spaces. Since my last visit the owners of Cakeshop have expanded and grown their existing space with Contra, next to its smaller location called Pistil, offering a wider variety of musical styles. I was amazed by vurt and volnost, clubs that are hidden away in residential buildings behind seemingly hidden doors, soundproofed, offering a space for Korean and international artists.

If you are interested in diving deeper into Seoul’s electronic music scene, I recommend spending some time on Seoul Community Radio, who are operating out of a Itaewon. On my visit to their studio, I managed to catch a set by Disco Experience. I also recommend the hidden-away record store Clique Records. It wasn’t easy to find, but if you are lucky you will also be treated to a concert on their rooftop.


After mu:con last year, this was my second visit to Seoul. There are still many more places and areas I haven’t mentioned or didn’t get to visit. Thanks to the organisers of Seoul Music Cities Connection and all of the other people who showed me around during my visit to Seoul.

Sound Diplomacy on the Road: Bilbao

Last month, Sound Diplomacy’s Berlin team travelled to Bilbao to attend BIME Pro - one of Spain’s leading international music industry networking and music & tech conferences.

Bilbao is a former industrial powerhouse and busy port located in the Basque country in northern Spain. Hit hard by severe economic recession in the 90s, the city has since moved on from its industrial past and successfully reinvented itself as a culture & services hub.

We observed this innovative and friendly local spirit in the variety of Bilbao’s music places - from impromptu community choir performances in the historic urban hub, pintxos hotspot Plaza Nueva and raw energy heavy metal shows in Bilborock - a former church-turned-community centre - to the grandiosity of the BEC Exhibition Centre, a multi-use fari and sports arena built in 2005.

Home to both BIME Pro and BIME Live - the two-day music festival responsible for bringing legendary artists to Bilbao - the scale of BEC allows for a true ‘big festival’ experience. Our personal highlights this year included the colossal, yet intimate performance by German industrial veterans Einstürzende Neubauten and the sheer happiness that Orbital brought to our inner 90s ravers. There was nothing better to wrap up a busy three days packed with inspiring panels on the future of music, the launch of Keychange - a European initiative to empower women in the music industry, and BIME City - the showcase programme for emerging artists, ranging from French psychedelic combos to Colombian techno producers.


Photo credits: Javi Muñoz Pacoto and Sound Diplomacy