by Mark Harrison
I love Halifax. I have been dozens of times, and the experience magically seems more special each time than the last. Over the past weekend, I was a guest at the East Coast Music Awards, an invitation I eagerly accepted after attending the 2019 event in Charlottetown. (Thanks to the East Coast Music Association for having me!) Personally and professionally, it was time well spent for my soul and brain. I have a few goals in mind whenever I go to an event.
First, we are blessed in our industry to be able to mix and pleasure. How many professions allow you to build friendships, experience new cultures, and gather ideas simultaneously? In a nutshell, that was my weekend at the East Coast Music Awards. I met many people, and in the name-dropping category, it was fun to talk with Heather Rankin of the Rankin Family, a favourite of the generation that loves roots music. I recognized her as a singer-songwriter. However, she is also an actress, comedian and entrepreneur. The Red Shoe Pub is her seasonal spot in Cape Breton and is now high on my list for a family trip.
My brain enjoyed assessing the Red Carpet for the awards show, an energetic activity zone featuring Atlantic Lottery, Libra, Dairy Farmers of Canada, and local breweries.
It was like a moving sidewalk in a mall of promotions and engagements. I loved the transformation of the dreaded event lineup into an engaging attraction zone for the fans fortunate enough to have a wristband.
One thing I loved about the receptions I attended is the focus was on people connecting and not politicians speaking. Of course, being a great hostess requires preparation, thought, and discipline. But, there is a magical balance between telling people your message and allowing them to live it. Kudos to the ECMA for finding that balance. Galas, receptions, showcases, and activations are all vital elements to any award show, yet the ECMA conference sessions may have the most long-term impact. Designed to build the music industry, guide emerging artists, provide resources for marginalized talent, and network for unknown people, it will amplify the “GDP” of the Atlantic music industry for years to come. Convening to build business is time well invested.
The East Coast Music Awards gala, honoured the amazing Natalie MacMaster with the special director’s award. She performed with her seventeen-year-old daughter to close out the awards show. The standing ovation she received was well-deserved and heartfelt. However, there was no resting on her laurels as Natalie and her daughter turned up in the Marriott hotel lobby two hours later and started to perform again. Surprise and delight never get old, something all marketers can learn.