News and Articles

Music Places: Halifax, Nova Scotia

By Katerina Ivanova

Back in May, I visited the Atlantic province and conducted interviews and roundtables with stakeholders from Nova Scotia’s music ecosystem. More on the project can be found here:


In this blogpost, I’d like to talk about Nova Scotia*’s capital city, Halifax, and its rich urban music, both past and present. With a population of over 400,000 inhabitants, Halifax is the largest urban area in Atlantic Canada and is Canada’s 13th most populous city.

Although most may not regard Nova Scotia’s capital to be a historic Canadian music city comparable to the likes of Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver, Halifax is home to many hidden musical gems. The city’s musical legacy is built upon many culture-bearers including Sloan, Joel Plaskett, Anne Murray, Holly Cole, Natalie MacMaster and Buck 65. Nowadays, Halifax is well known to Canadian musicians for its affordable living costs and collaborative culture.


The city has a complex racial and social history. In 1946, Halifax-born businesswoman and activist, Viola Desmond, challenged racial segregation when she refused to leave the “whites-only” section of a local cinema. Fast-forward to over 70 years later, Desmond became the first Canadian woman to be featured on the 10 CAD banknote in 2018.

Much like elsewhere in North America, Halifax implemented urban renewal plans in the 1960s that displaced many African-Canadians from established settlements to government-subsidized urban residences, while “simultaneously undoing generations of identity and ownership” according to local music journalist Adria Young. More recently, the North-End neighbourhood, home to the descendants of many of the relocated African Nova Scotians, has become the eye-candy of property investors and regeneration efforts that have brought flashy condos and trendy new businesses to the area. With them, fears of gentrification and rising living costs threaten the livelihood of the neighbourhood.

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Despite the challenges, in particular the predominance of Halifax’s pop and rock scenes, the city has nurtured a strong and growing rap and hip-hop scene; spearheaded by working class, African Nova Scotian and Indigenous artists and audiences. Zamani, Reeny Smith, Corey Writes, Aquakultre, are some of the young artists making waves in Canada and beyond, alongside more well-known names such as Ghettosocks.

CKDU, the largest campus and community radio station in Atlantic Canada has been a culturally significant institution since 1985. The station hosts six different ‘hip-shop’ shows. $mooth groove$ showcases and interviews the best of the local and international scene and has been on air for over two decades. While a more recent show, Black Power Hour, blends conscious hip-hop and hosts discussions surrounding social, political and cultural issues pertaining to the communities of Black Nova Scotians in the province.

Hopscotch Halifax, a community and festival that was established 10 years ago, celebrates and showcases the best in local hip-hop talent; from dance to DJ's, graffiti and MC's. The festival team is passionate about including a number of all-age shows, free or at affordable prices to encourage young people to participate in the city’s music scenes.

902HipHop is a young company founded and managed by Melissa MacMaster. It creates opportunities for local hip-hop artists by providing services such as full-service artist management, music licensing and sync for TV & Film music placements. It represents a handpicked roster of talented local artists, such as Quake Matthews and MAJE.

The Remix Project, a Toronto headquartered organization that provides top-notch alternative, creative, educational programs, facilitators and facilities for young people from disadvantaged, marginalized and underserved communities recently held a two-day conference with panels, workshops culminating in a packed hip-hop showcase at one of Halifax’s most beloved live music clubs, The Marquee, that I was lucky enough to attend. The entire event was free for all 16-29 year olds who had applied in advance.


Have a listen at this playlist of Nova Scotian rap, hip-hop & R’n’B artists, curated by Halifax producer Ghettosocks for Music Nova Scotia.

*Nova Scotia includes areas of the Mi'kmaq nation and it was home to the Mi'kmaq when European colonists arrived in the early 17th century. The province has the oldest African-Canadian community in Canada.

All photos by Katerina Ivanova, Sound Diplomacy


by Caitlin Buckley

Music embeds itself into our memories. Whether it be the day an album comes out, a song that represents a friendship, or the moment our favourite singer died. Pick a date in musical history and the events of that day are bound to spark nostalgia for thousands of people, but all for individual reasons.

On this day, 4th June, I’m sure it’s no different. In 1942, this date marked the opening of Capitol Records in LA. Starting with a release by Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra, “I Found A New Baby” and “The General Jumped At Dawn”. Founded with $25000, Capitol Records grew to represent Nat King Cole, The Beatles, and Frank Sinatra following its acquirement by EMI in 1955. Nowadays, it sits under Universal Music Group  and boasts acts such as Halsey, Naughty Boy, Paul McCartney, Sam Smith and Nine Inch Nails. Record companies are as relevant today as they were in 1942, they continue to grow and adapt to meet new demands. Two years ago, record companies in the UK saw a surge in earnings of 10.6% after overcoming the hurdle of illegal streaming and embracing the popularity of established streaming sites such as Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Music.

Record-breaking history also began with this date. The Beatles started a 28 week run at No.1 in the UK charts with “Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band” in 1967.  Furthermore, the album found itself back at No.1 in 2017 after being re-released for the 50th birthday of the record. They had already managed to exceed this 4 years earlier, however, with 30 weeks at the top with “Please Please Me”. Simon and Garfunkel still hold the record for 33 weeks at the top in 1970 with their album, “Bridge Over Troubled Water”.

Many people remember the day an album was released. On this day in 1984, Bruce Springsteen released his album, “Born In The USA” . Metallica released, “Load” in 1996, and  Disclosure, “The Face” in 2012.

This date also represents remembrance. In 2017 - Ariana Grande’s commemorative concert for Manchester, One Love, was held on 4th June. Arranged in memory of the 22 people who died in the Manchester Arena 2017 terrorist bombing, the benefit concert included Coldplay, Pharrell Williams, Liam Gallagher and Katy Perry. Benefit concerts have long been used to raise awareness, bring people together, and fundraise. Some of the biggest benefit concerts to date include Concert for Bangladesh in 1971, Live Aid in 1985, and The Concert for New York in 2001.

Every single day of the year is replete with the rich world of musical history and we get to experience it in so many ways.



In the first third of 2019 we’ve already hosted two sold out events in two separate continents and welcomed 600+ attendees from all over the world. So what’s coming up for Music Cities Events for the rest of the year and 2020?

Music Cities Convention - Chengdu, April 2019

Music Cities Convention - Chengdu, April 2019

We started 2019 with a Sound Development in London on February 5th and followed this up with our first-ever Asian Music Cities Convention hosted in Chengdu, China on April 10-12th. We had 100 delegates join us for our London event and 500 from all over the world join us in China.

Music Cities Convention - Chengdu, China, April 2019

Music Cities Convention - Chengdu, China, April 2019

Sound Development - London, UK, February 2019

Sound Development - London, UK, February 2019

Where do we go from here?

We have five events happening between May and September. We’ll start with another Sound Development in London on May 21st, then move over to Cannes, France for our first European Music Cities Forum held alongside MIDEM on June 6th, after Cannes we’ll head back to the UK for a Sound Development in Leeds on June 13th and then finish off September with our Music Tourism Convention in Liverpool on September 6th and another Music Cities Forum in Norrkoping on September 27th. Read on to find out about each event:


We’ll start in London on May 21st with the spring edition of Sound Development, partnered with the Association of Independent Music and ING Media. Property developers and music industry representatives will gather to explore stronger strategies to develop and champion better spaces and places. The first event of its kind, Sound Development has been held five times in London and New York and has brought 700+ key stakeholders and decision makers together.


Tickets are available on a 'pay what you like' basis, and all ticket revenue will be donated to Claire House Children’s Hospice. You can check out the schedule and speakers here and get your tickets at this link.


June will see us host our first-ever French event. We’re thrilled to have partnered with MIDEM and to be bringing our Music Cities Forum to Cannes on June 6th. This will also mark the first time Music Cities Forum is held in Europe, as previous editions were hosted in Indianapolis, USA and Vancouver, Canada.

Worldwide Village @ MIDEM in 2018

Worldwide Village @ MIDEM in 2018

The event will take place at the Worldwide Village Conference Room in Cannes in the morning of June 6th and will feature presentations and panels discussing topics such as how music can steer economic development or help achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the link between music companies and urbanism.

Check out our website for news and information - the full list of speakers will be announced in May.


We’ll also be returning to Liverpool on September 6th for the fourth global edition of our iconic Music Tourism Convention!
The event is hosted alongside Visit Britain and Marketing Liverpool, with as our key sponsor and will be held at the British Music Experience in Liverpool, the perfect setting for 200 international delegates to look into various areas of music tourism and expand on the opportunities the worldwide music and tourism sectors can gain from each other.

Music Tourism Convention - Liverpool, February 2017

Music Tourism Convention - Liverpool, February 2017

Line up, schedule and hotel deals will be announced soon on our website, but tickets are already on sale at a very special price: get yours here.


September will be an exciting month, as our second 2019 Music Cities Forum will also take place in Norrkoping, Sweden, our first Scandinavian event.

Our Norrkoping Music Cities Forum will be hosted alongside Norrkoping City of Music on September 27th and will gather 200+ attendees and 15+ speakers for a day of learning, best practice and examples of music's role on cities in Scandinavian countries and beyond.

On the following day, attendees will also have the chance to experience Norrkoping and Sweden’s vibrant atmosphere at the Culture Night 2019, which will see music performances, dance shows, theatrical performances, yoga, movies, crafts, exhibitions, guided tours and more be held in 300+ sites all over the city.

Norrkoping Culture Night 2016. Ph: Nicole Olsson

Norrkoping Culture Night 2016. Ph: Nicole Olsson

More information can be found on the event page, while early bird tickets are available until June 30th and can be purchased here.


Last but not least, our first 2020 event has just been announced!

On September 23-25 2020 Music Cities Convention will head to Denver, Colorado, USA to be hosted alongside Denver Arts & Venues, University of Colorado Denver, Colorado Creative Industries and The Music District. 40+ international speakers and 300+ attendees will meet in this creative, multicultural, innovative and thriving music city to dig deep into concepts such as urban planning, music, education, sustainability, creativity, community-building, health, tourism and much more.

Music Cities Convention - Lafayette, October 2018

Music Cities Convention - Lafayette, October 2018

The first info are now online and tickets are already on sale with early bird discounts here.

We couldn’t be more excited for what’s to come and we can’t wait to meet you at one of our confirmed events! While waiting, check out the highlights of our last Music Cities Convention Chengdu in this photo gallery!

Delivering Cardiff’s Music Ecosystem Strategy

In April 2019, Sound Diplomacy’s full report and strategic recommendations for Cardiff’s music ecosystem were made public by Cardiff Council, representing the culmination of 18 months’ work. In this time, we engaged with multiple council departments and over 130 stakeholders face to face, analysed answers from 1000+ survey respondents and organised multiple city visits. It is the biggest project of this kind we have completed in the UK to date.

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Over the course of the work, we delivered a Music Vision to lay down our strategic aims and how we hoped to achieve them. We hosted a series of roundtables, open door meetings, town hall style debates, and 1 on 1 interviews with stakeholders in Cardiff’s music ecosystem, ranging from CEOs to students, university professors to classical musicians, venue managers, funders and promoters to everything in between. We launched a Full Music Ecosystem Survey to ensure local residents and organisations outside the music industry also had a chance to have they voices heard, and we undertook a Music Infrastructure Mapping exercise and an Economic Impact Study of the city’s music ecosystem, benchmarking our findings to data from other comparator cities.  

We then completed a Comparative Analysis report, looking at how legislation in areas such as Licensing, Planning, Transport, Governance & Leadership and Funding held up against counterpart policy in five chosen international cities. This was accompanied by a comprehensive Regulatory Assessment of Cardiff’s legislative landscape, and specifically how it interacted with, allowed or prevented music to thrive within it.

Once we completed the qualitative and quantitative stages of the research, we delivered the final report, which included the Key Findings & Strategic Recommendations, and an Executive Summary.

The recommendations are designed to build on Cardiff’s music ecosystem’s strengths, address the areas of underdevelopment, and lay down a path to make music an integral part of the city’s daily life. We are pleased to say that the public reception has been fantastic, with some of Cardiff’s music ecosystem’s leading figures engaging with the work very positively.

Since then, Cardiff’s Scrutiny Cabinet has given unanimous approval to the report, and the full set of recommendations have been approved, with both the Cabinet and all the opposition political parties agreeing to them.

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I would like to thank every individual that worked with us, took an interest in the report, responded to the survey, attended a roundtable and shared information. Your participation and input has been invaluable and the work could not have been done without it. I look forward to the next stages of Sound Diplomacy’s relationship with the city, to see the recommendations being implemented, and work towards making Cardiff the Music City it aspires to be.

Read the Executive Summary here.

Rollo Maschietto, Cardiff Project Lead, UK Office



April 10 - 13, 2019 - Chengdu, China

Our first-ever Asian event and biggest Music Cities Convention to date was held in Chengdu, China’s next Music City.

Traditional dinners and performances, two full Convention days, pandas, ancient towns and live music are just some of the highlights of this memorable edition.


Two weeks ago, as we walked out of the airport, we were immediately inundated with Chengdu’s unique sounds, smells and charm. A long-established music center, the city’s creative ferment welcomed us and our enthusiasm about bringing our first event to China was further amplified when we saw Music Cities Convention billboards, subway ads and bus banners spread all over the city.


48 speakers and 500+ delegates from all over the world got together in Chengdu for our biggest Music Cities Convention to date and discussed music, policy, planning, tourism and much more around this edition’s theme, “Districts to Countries: Envisioning Global Music Cities”.

We began the eighth global edition of Music Cities Convention on April 10th with a special VIP opening reception held at the Grand Hyatt, where we were immersed in Chengdu culture and heritage with traditional food, music and dances.


On April 11th, Luo Qiang, Mayor of Chengdu, and our very own Shain Shapiro welcomed delegates to the Grand Hyatt and kicked off Music Cities Convention.

Our virtual journey around the world’s most prominent music cities started shortly after with presentations from cities such as Bologna, Chengdu, Beijing, Genoa, London, Kingston and Nashville; we then learnt more on the World Choir Games and the Chinese recording industry.

Other stops included Tenerife, Spain, the Sarawak province in Malaysia and Alaska, USA and completed a full day of insights and inspiring talks, rounded off by a panel discussion on how to develop world class music hubs featuring top minds from France, Brazil, China and the US.

Day 1 ended at the Level 12 French Garden at Grand Hyatt with food, drinks and a special performance from the Sichuan Province Song and Dance Theater Company.


On Day 2, Music Cities Convention was held at the Eastern Suburb Memory, a music-themed park located in the east side of Chengdu. There, another full day began with presentations from Melbourne, Australia and Seoul, South Korea.

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Pierce Freelon then told us more on how to engage young people in music and why it is so important, followed by a panel discussion on music education and a presentation on the relationship between music and cognitive health; night-time economy challenges were discussed by Merlijn Poolman, Night Mayor of Groningen, just before lunch.

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In the afternoon, topics such as music tourism, traditional music export, Chinese music industry and economic development were addressed in a variety of presentations and panels before rounding off day 2 with a suggestive signing ceremony: by joining on stage and signing a symbolic document, delegates from all over the world expressed their interest in further collaborating with the city of Chengdu and in creating a global dialogue around Music Cities. The ceremony truly encapsulated the theme of the event and was the perfect ending to Music Cities Convention.


We obviously couldn’t leave Chengdu without exploring its beauties and attractions. On Saturday April 13th, an additional tourism & networking day brought delegates to the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Base and to the discovery of Jiezi and Andren ancient towns.


Our first Asian event was a huge success and we couldn’t have wished for more: great people, great insights, great music and great places, as well as the awareness that the Music Cities movement is growing every day and in every inch of the world.

A special thank you to our key sponsor Victorian Music Development Office, and to our hosts and partners: the City of Chengdu, Chengdu’s Musical Fun District, Sichuan Province Song and Dance Theatre, the New Silk Road Chamber of Commerce, Incenter Culture, Chengdu Music Industry Promotion Office, Chengdu Culture, Radio And TV, Press And Publication Bureau and Sichuan Federation of Industry and Commerce.

Our next confirmed Music Cities Convention will be held in Denver, USA in September 2020 and tickets are already on sale! Click here for more information.

Hungry for more Chengdu photos? Check out our Facebook photo album!

Sound Diplomacy at SXSW 2019

Guest post by Elizabeth Cawein.

I always know I’ve had a good SXSW when I’ve lost count of two things: number of tacos consumed and number of new bands discovered. This year was a win in both categories, so much so that it’s taken me almost a month to recover and put together a proper recap of the highlights!

I was honored to start off my week (truly, about an hour after my plane landed!) at the EU House, sharing some insights as part of a panel discussion on music export strategies.


This is a topic I’m passionate about, and it was great to have the chance to highlight not just the economic possibilities of music export, but the cultural implications when we create opportunities for artists to build relationships and collaborations across borders.

Later in the week I had the chance to experience GovCity, the first gathering of its kind of innovators in government, and meet some stellar young people as a SXSW music mentor.

And of course, in between all of this I saw as much live music as I could! Naturally, I always love to check out what cities and countries are doing to represent at their own showcases and day parties, and this year was no exception – I took in bands at WeDC House, the Canadian Blast BBQ, Tulsa Boom Factory, and more. Sound Diplomacy was once again involved in organizing the German Haus at SXSW - 7 days of events around music, creative industries and tech - and I was glad to check out the new venue, meet my colleagues from Berlin and enjoy some live music. I also got to stop by the Recording Academy’s block party at the Four Seasons, another annual favorite, for some great live music presented by the Texas chapter. (And in case you missed it, they shared our Music Cities Manual on!).

My SXSW week ended as strong as it started, with our panel on music cities – I was thrilled to see how many people came out to be a part of this conversation at 5 o’clock on the Friday of SXSW, when a cold beer was most certainly awaiting them anywhere else! That turnout – along with so many conversations I had throughout the week with folks from across the U.S. and around the world – is an indication of how important this topic is, and how many people are invested in the music ecosystems in their home towns and cities. I so enjoyed moderating this conversation with Matthew Kowal from Majestic Collaborations, Kara Elliott-Ortega from the City of Boston, and Nick Mattera from Brand USA. You can check our Music Cities Manual here.

Furthermore, as part of 'Music Cities: The Impact of Music and Nightlife on Cities' programme at German Haus, Sound Diplomacy hosted a presentation on Music City Scope - an interactive model developed by the City Science Lab at Hafen City University, Hamburg in collaboration with Sound Diplomacy, Clubkombinat, and the Hamburg Music Business Development Association. Music City Scope is an interactive, digital model that analyzes the relationship between music and urban development and simulates development scenarios. The presentation session was attended by economists, researchers, business associations and night-time economy officials from European and US cities. 


As Sound Diplomacy announces plans for American outpost, get to know our first boots on the ground

Guest post by Elizabeth Cawein.

I don’t remember the exact day, month or year that I became obsessed with music – I imagine it really set in far too early for my recorded memory – but I do remember when I became obsessed with music and cities.

It was 2015, and I’d been spending the better part of the year working to build a nonprofit export office in my hometown of Memphis that would focus on leveraging our music for talent attraction, tourism and economic development, while creating a needed pipeline for our musicians to grow their national audiences. In the midst of that work I’d become interested in the interesting ways other cities – in the U.S. and across the globe – were approaching supports for their music ecosystems.


Enter Sound Diplomacy and the Music Cities Convention, the first-ever in the states, held at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. in October of 2015. I saw a Billboard story about the conference by chance and was immediately intrigued. But it was just a few weeks away, so I figured it wasn’t practical to try to make it work. I decided to check flights, just in case, sure that the last-minute price gouging would make the decision for me.

Somehow, the flights were hovering around $115.

Almost as soon as I closed my search tab, I had an e-mail from my husband – he would need to be in D.C. at the end of the month for a conference. The exact dates of the Music Cities Convention. If I didn’t think it was kismet then (I did), I certainly know it was now.

That one-day event left me feeling the best kind of exhausted: my brain absolutely swimming with ideas, my passions ignited, and my preconceived notions smashed. I was hooked.

At the close of the conference I marched up to Shain Shapiro, Sound Diplomacy President and Founder, and asked what I needed to do to bring the Music Cities Convention to Memphis. Two years later, that’s exactly what it did. The Memphis edition of Music Cities Convention, held in October 2017, was in a way the beginning of my working relationship with Sound Diplomacy, as I spent a year working with them to put together the conference programming and logistics.


A year later, I had the pleasure of working with the Music Cities team again for the Music Cities Convention in Lafayette, La., handling publicity and marketing for the convening. And in January of this year, we made it official. I’m thrilled to join the Sound Diplomacy team, especially at such an exciting time of growth with the opening of a new U.S. home base.

The reality is that America traditionally has lagged behind the rest of the developed world when it comes to funding and supports for arts and culture, so to see so many U.S. cities interested in thinking about innovative ways to grow their music ecosystems and understanding the broad impact that a healthy music community can have for their citizens is exciting, and I hope a sign of a paradigm shift ahead. The prospect of being invited to so many incredible places to discover their music cultures and to help them realize the potential in their own cities is a thrill for my music-and-cities obsessed brain, and an honor.

And beyond my hometown of Memphis – one of America’s richest and most important music cities – Sound Diplomacy is already working with some of my favorite American music hubs: New Orleans, Muscle Shoals and San Francisco.


I also can’t wait to discover the music of Indianapolis, Fort Worth, and Huntsville. (And so many others I can’t mention just yet!) What I know to be true is that music makes our cities better. It drives economic impact, it creates jobs and attracts talent. It invites people to our cities, brings in hotel tax dollars and creates cultural connection through tourism. It improves education, it brings life to our neighborhoods. It gives us pride in a shared civic identity and makes us invest and care deeply in who we are as a city. And when our musicians thrive, our cities are full of creative people who can very often bring creative solutions to civic problems.

When our musicians thrive, our cities thrive. I’m driven by that belief, and lucky to be part of an organization that believes it, too.