By BROOKE WANSER
Inside Liberty Hall in Franklin’s the Factory, around 150 people gathered to discuss how to attract tourists to music destinations on Thursday afternoon.
The U.S. Music Tourism Convention is the first such event in the United States, and is co-hosted by Sound Diplomacy and Pilgrimage Music Festival. Delegates to the convention traveled from Ireland, Japan, England and Canada to attend, said Ellie Westman Chin, the president and chief executive officer of the Williamson County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.
Chin said the event came about after she and some bureau members attended Sound Diplomacy’s first-ever music tourism convention in Liverpool in February.
She befriended the people behind Sound Diplomacy, an international music agency, and asked them to host a convention in Franklin. “Every time you get to do something like this, it expands the exposure for your brand,” she said.
Brian Wagner, the assistant commissioner of marketing for the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, was one of the first speakers of the day. He said it was a mixture of “luck and happy accident” that Nashville became a music destination.
“I don’t know when the tourism plan in Tennessee has not included music,” he said. “What Tennessee has been able to do across the state is to develop our tourism products.”
Butch Spyridon, the president and chief executive officer of the Nashville Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, said Nashville’s campaign to drive music tourism began in 2003.
“We were on life support in 2003, we had lost our destination attraction,” Spyridon said.
“We knew music was the answer, but we had to overcome a lot of hurdles.”
This included taking over celebrations, like the Fourth of July; Spyridon said the bureau created a hype surrounding the holiday and filled hotel rooms throughout the city on a night that was previously dead.
“We’re the only show in the country that is live choreographed,” Spyridon said of the fireworks show.
Spyridon said the bureau is now in discussions with CBS News, which wants to broadcast the New Year’s Eve celebration in Nashville, another event the bureau worked to rebrand over the years.
Panelists discussed how to create events from a town’s unique musical history.
Greg Hackler, one of the panelists and a chiropractor who lives in Winslow, Ariz., was a key part of a successful campaign to reinvigorate the city’s economy through a unique musical reference.
Winslow is the city mentioned in the popular rock song “Take it Easy” by the Eagles, with the line, “Standin’ on a corner in Winslow, Arizona/Such a fine sight to see.”
“In 1979, when they opened the interstate, our little town started to die,” Hackler said.
To combat the problem, Hackler and other community members created the Standin’ On The Corner Foundation, raising money throughout the decades to create a park, festival and pavilion in the town, which Hackler said draws 8,000 visitors each year.
“It’s been a great boon for us,” he said of the mention, even though he admits a secret: Jackson Browne was in Flagstaff when he wrote the song but, “Standing on the corner in Flagstaff, Arizona. . . it didn’t fit.”
After listening to speakers, attendees were invited on a tour of live music venues in Williamson County via trolley, including Puckett’s of Leiper’s Fork, Gray’s on Main and Saffire.