Feature

East Coast Music Awards Bringing More than Music to the Port City

Restaurants and stores around uptown Saint John are gearing up for East Coast Music Awards. Image: Cherise Letson/Huddle

The East Coast Music Awards (ECMAs) are bringing a giant party to Saint John next week, but also a lot of money. 

The awards week, taking place April 26 through April 30, consists of 40 individual events and is expected to attract over 13,000 people, with around 2,000 of them coming in from outside the city. The entire event is expected to have an economic impact of $3.1 million on the Saint John region. Victoria Clarke, executive director of Discover Saint John, says that estimate is based on historical data.

“We hosted [the ECMAs] last time about 14 years ago, and then we see the data from the most recent destinations that have hosted it. Last year it was hosted in Sydney, Cape Breton, so we would say that’s a conservative estimate of the impact,” says Clarke.

“You can imagine having hotels and restaurants full for a week. This is a conference as much as it is a music festival. I think people look at it as a music festival and an awards banquet, but it’s actually a conference and sales convention for export-ready musical artists from around Atlantic Canada, so it’s pretty huge economic driver.”

Hotel rooms in the city are quickly booking up. Glenda MacLean, general manager of the Saint John Hilton located in the city’s uptown, says they’re already booked solid for the week.

“The ECMAs in a city like Saint John is big for all hotels, not just the Delta and the Hilton,” MacLean says. “Obviously we’re sort of in the epicentre of the activity, but it’s big for all hotels which is great for the city and gives everybody an opportunity to have a little boost to their business during a time that’s not necessarily really busy.”

Though it may be hard to find a hotel room in the centre of the action, MacLean says there are still other hotel options available in the city– but she tells visitors not to wait.

The East Coast Music Awards HQ in Market Square, Saint John.
Image: Cherise Letson/Huddle

“I wouldn’t say we don’t have room to host anybody else,” she says. “But anybody who’s planning to come should make their arrangements sooner rather than later so they’re not disappointed because it’s going to be an awesome time here.”

Restaurant owners like Corey McGill of McGill’s are also gearing up for a busy week.  With his bar and restaurant located in Market Square, which is being called the “Home of the 2017 ECMAs,” he says they’ve been preparing for the event for a while now with plans to bring in extra staff, extra beer and extra entertainment for the week.

“We just passed our one-year [anniversary] two weeks ago, so the ECMAs have been on our calendar since last year,” says McGill. “We’ve been waiting for this one. It’s very exciting and we’ve been planning for months now on it.”

Saint John’s food scene already has a strong reputation locally, but McGill says the ECMAs will be a chance to spread the word beyond New Brunswick.

“It will just expand based on Saint John having probably the best food scene in all of the Maritimes. You’ve got a couple thousand people coming in [to the city] who aren’t from here, and they’ll just love the abundant amount of incredible restaurants and food and chefs that are in this city,” he says. “Once they leave from here, the word will exponentially expand around Canada, the East Coast and all over the Eastern seaboard about what we have here for food and restaurants.”

It’s been close to 15 years since Saint John last played host to the ECMAs. Clarke says one of the biggest differences this time around will be the power of social media.

“The thing that’s exciting for me is what has changed since the last time we hosted the ECMAs is the number of people that are on social media,” she says. “It’s not just going to be locals who are going to be sharing the fact that they’re having an ECMA 2017 experience in Saint John, it’s going to be people from around the country and around the world.”

One of the week’s events is the Export Buyers Program, which is bringing in  75 international delegates from Canada, the United States, Belgium, France, Denmark, Germany, Australia and the United Kingdom. Among them are booking agents, talent buyers, venue and festival programmers, promoters, presenters, music supervisors, digital experts and media from the music industry.

“For those bookers to be sharing on social media and through their own networks the experience that they had in Saint John, like every conference and every concert, we have the possibility of it being the first time that somebody’s been here,” Clarke says. “Them sharing their positive experience in Saint John goes a long way in helping us share our message.”