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Miami’s strategy to consolidate itself as a music destination using digital and live music experiences

Miami music destination strategy

On May 29-31st, 2023, the Music Tourism Convention will be travelling to Cape Breton Island in Canada, which is one of the most unique music destinations of the world.

As we get ready for the event, we’re expanding our new #musictourismhub series, a place to discover stories, profiles and resources from people working at the forefront of Music Tourism from all around the world. 

On this occasion, we head up to Miami, Florida, U.S.A., to talk with John Copeland, Director, Arts & Culture Tourism, Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau .

In this interview, John shares insights on Miami's long history as a music destination and the varied supply of musical attractions of the city. In addition, he opens up on how projects such as "Find Your Voice" in collaboration with Sony Latin, or bringing the Montreux Jazz Festival to the city help their strategy to consolidate Miami as a music destination using digital and live music experiences.

Hi John, thanks for taking the time to do this feature for the Music Tourism Hub, we really appreciate it. To begin the interview, please tell us a bit about yourself. How did you end up working for the GMCVB in these projects to position Miami as a music destination?

My background is in music education. I grew up in a family that really valued music - both of my parents studied music, my brother played trumpet and I picked up the trombone. After a brief stint as a middle school band director, my career turned to arts administration when I worked at national arts service organizations, performing arts centers, cultural affairs departments and now for Miami’s tourism bureau. The work that I’m doing now is truly a culmination of all of my past positions - to educate global travelers on our destination's incredible arts industry so they will add a cultural experience to their plans while visiting Greater Miami & Miami Beach.

Can you give us a bit of context on Miami as a music and non-music destination? How is it different from other destinations in the area?

Historically, Miami was developed as a winter vacation paradise for the wealthy elite of the northeast U.S. As one of the few international cities founded by a woman, Julia Tuttle partnered with Henry Flagler to build a railroad system into South Florida swampland to develop a beachside hotel industry. As the tourists arrived, so did the entertainers. In the 30’s and 40’s, every major big band made its way south to perform in the hundreds of hotel ballrooms for thousands of wintertime snowbirds. The Historic Overtown neighborhood hosted many of the black entertainers that were not allowed to stay on Miami Beach during the Jim Crow era including Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole and Billy Holiday. These incredible artists would perform at The Lyric Theater. Miami was central to the Beatles introduction into the U.S. along with the emergence of the Disco movement with the BeeGees followed by the explosion of the Miami sound by artists such as KC & the Sunshine Band, Gloria Estefan, Vanilla Ice and Uncle Luke.

Today, Miami is well known as the home of Art Basel Miami Beach – an internationally renowned contemporary art fair that attracts nearly 80,000 art collectors to experience our vibrant visual arts scene. While this visual art experience has developed into a week-long celebration and year-round recognition, our music scene is just as vibrant and rich with diverse talents, fresh styles, and international flavors.

Our unofficial status as the Capital of the Americas is reinforced through the tremendous collection of music styles, genres, rhythms, and voices. Our range is tremendous – from the Florida Grand Opera (the oldest opera company in the state of Florida) to the Spanish and Cuban Zarzuelas – from Bahamian Junkanoo to Brazilian Samba – from the New World Symphony to the Nu Deco Ensemble – our ability to nurture, sustain and embrace such a diverse variety of cultural voices can be so inspirational. This is what truly sets us apart from other destinations around the globe.

A music destination with 100 years of experience

We recently learned about the “Find Your Voice” campaign, tell us more about this project.

A collaboration between Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau and Sony Music Latin. This campaign is designed to allow artists to share their personal journey, exploring the ways that the destination has impacted their music and influenced their favorite songs. The key elements are the heartfelt stories combined with intimate performances all connected to the Miami Beach destination.

The campaign developed out of conversations our team has been having with the leadership of Sony Music Latin. Sony’s Latin division is headquartered in Miami (and has been for years!) and they were looking for opportunities to better connect with the community. In Miami and Miami Beach, community always includes our visitors who are the lifeblood of our economy. Sony Music Latin recognizes our destination is an important backdrop to Latin Music and therefore our partnership developed organically.

We expect this campaign to continue to solidify relevancy among our audience and further enhance Miami and Miami Beach as a source of inspiration for creative expression. From a marketing and communications perspective, our social media engagement is performing well as we continue to story tell our destination's assets through music.

Find Your Voice

We also learned that the Montreux Jazz Festival is coming to Miami. Tell us how this project came about and what you are expecting from it.

The Montreux Jazz Festival Miami project has evolved through strong local community leadership and a desire by the Switzerland-based festival to find a committed partner for U.S. expansion. The GMCVB was brought into some early conversations exploring the possibility of hosting a Miami festival. We provided familiarization tours of the destination to the Montreux leadership and helped bridge connections with local government, universities, venues, hotels, and potential supporters. Our work will continue as we leverage the event to drive visitors to Miami to attend the annual festival.

The hosting of the Montreux Jazz Festival Miami creates an incredible opportunity to bring a piece of one the world’s most iconic music brands to Miami. As our destination continues to develop into an international cultural center, festivals of this caliber are part of the natural evolution. Key to the success will be incorporating the best elements of the Montreux festival and the waterfront Coconut Grove location into a singular experience that will be uniquely Miami.

We expect this year to be a powerfully intimate kick-off. The festival team has assembled world-class artists to provide an exceptional inaugural event. The team will be looking to secure national and international press hits, high quality engagement on social media and naturally – a sell-out audience providing rave reviews on the experience.

As with any new endeavor, there are many challenges ahead. Building a new brand with a robust awareness campaign along with the development of a new audience base will be high on our priority lists. Success in both these areas will be important indicators. To date, there has been a tremendous amount of support and excitement about the new festival. Headline artists in year one include Jon Batiste, Darryl Hall, and Brazilian sensation Daniela Mercury.

One of the biggest takeaways so far is the palpable level of excitement from Miami’s music industry. The Montreux brand is incredibly strong and well-known for a reputation of excellence amongst music aficionados. While the festival is no longer exclusively dedicated to jazz music, it does represent the live music presentation of the highest quality – in terms of performance, sound delivery, backstage hospitality, and audience experience. These are the attributes that we are so committed to delivering with the Miami festival.

Montreux Jazz Festival Miami

Would you say that “Find Your Voice” and hosting the U.S. version of the Montreux Jazz Festival Miami are complementary music tourism strategies?

These projects are absolutely complementary. Our destination does not have a singular unique “sound” like so many communities are able to easily identify. We have an energy, a style, and a feeling that permeates through everything – our food, our relationships, our fashion and right into our music. This is why so many artists have found inspiration to create, to record, and to build a musical life in our destination. Examples of this include: The Eagles, who recorded the album Hotel California in Miami’s Criteria Studios, Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine’s rise to the world stage from a party band at backyard quinceañeras, to the late-night jam sessions in Historic Overtown (Harlem of the South) by Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong and Count Basie when they were not permitted to sleep overnight on Miami Beach. These artists and their journeys continue to inspire our future generations to explore limitless possibilities.

To celebrate this through “Find Your Voice” and the Montreux Jazz Festival Miami is such a natural evolution of our growth as an international music city.

Are there any other relevant strategies that Miami is doing to position itself as a music destination that you’d like to share about?

We have been working hard to collect and aggregate the entire landscape of our music scene for visitors. Miami is an event city with hundreds of things happening every single night of the year. Major festivals such as Ultra Music Festival, Jazz in the Gardens, iii Points Music Festival, along with more intimate venue experiences by organizations like the South Beach Jazz Festival, IlluminArts, Nu Deco Ensemble, GroundUP Music Festival, Seraphic Fire, Miami Symphony Orchestra plus our presenting organizations like the Adrienne Arsht Center, the Moss Center for the Arts, Fillmore Miami, Rhythm Foundation – all of which combine to create a rich tapestry of offerings. Our work also includes highlighting the eclectic live music venues such as the Miami Beach Bandshell, Dante’s Hi-Fi, Café La Trova, Lagniappe House, Ball & Chain, Washington Avenue, The Doral Yard, and Oasis Wynwood. It’s such a rich environment with a never-ending audience of seeking unforgettable Miami experiences.

An ideal 3 day music itinerary in Miami

What does an ideal music holiday in Miami look like?

Here is a Miami Music Cities Weekend Itinerary, written by William Abreu

Day 1: Little Haiti and Little Havana

Morning & Early Afternoon

The Citadel, located in Little Haiti, is a food hall with a smorgasbord of culinary options to choose from. Aside from the plentiful options, The Citadel also pairs its offerings with an assortment of DJs and live musical performances.

While in the Little Haiti neighborhood, be sure to stop by the Little Haiti Cultural Complex. This community arts center/museum highlights Haitian art, crafts, and sculpture, while also offering community classes in screen printing and Afro-Caribbean folk dancing. Their 300-seat theatre also hosts musical performances that exemplify the vibrant Afro-Caribbean culture.

Afternoon & Evening

Cultural experiences await in Little Havana, a lively hub of Hispanic culture and food located just west of Downtown Miami and Brickell. Stroll down the area’s famous thoroughfare, Calle Ocho (Southwest 8th Street), where there is a nonstop celebration of Cuban heritage.

Check out the Cubaocho Museum & Performing Arts Center, which doubles as a museum with a rare and stunning collection of Cuban art dating from the 1800s through 1959 and serves as a popular gathering space for live entertainment at night. While you can grab great Cuban coffee, croquetas, and pastries from any of the area’s walk-up windows, you can also enjoy a memorable night full of culture at Cafe La Trova. Savor delicious Cuban food with a modern twist, sip on award-winning cocktails, and enjoy live music that keeps the crowd dancing all night.

If the night is still young, make your way over to the iconic Ball & Chain restaurant/bar/nightclub. Nestled in the vibrant heart of Little Havana lies a cherished establishment embraced by both locals and visitors. Step through the doors and venture into their expansive back patio, where a striking pineapple-shaped stage commands attention. This unique design sets the scene for unforgettable live performances, complemented by the lively ambiance of the restaurant. With ample room to dance, immerse yourself in the spirit of the music and let loose, channeling the vibrant energy of 1959 Havana.

Day 2: Wynwood and Downtown Miami

Wynwood is known for its colorful and photo-ready street art, but this Miami neighborhood also houses art in the form of live musical entertainment. No matter the time of day, you will find DJs turning tables, and some venues even host local and national bands and artists.

Gramps in Wynwood is one such venue that regularly hosts live entertainment. This venue offers guests a chill vibe with its outdoor and open-air stage, and its signature cocktails and pizza bar keep your ears and tummy satisfied!

Oasis Wynwood is one of Wynwood’s newest music-centric attractions. This colorful and trendy outdoor venue offers a home to concerts, festivals, and art installations year-round.

A bit further east of Wynwood is Lagniappe. This “hidden” gem is quickly becoming a favorite among locals and visitors alike! Lagniappe is known for its wide selection of wines and cheeses to suit the taste of all wine lovers. This venue is also a friend of local talent, featuring local artists and bands on a cozy carpet-covered stage to share their talents with guests.

You may also happen to be in town on the same night as your favorite artist! With a capacity for nearly 20,000 fans, the Kaseya Center in Downtown Miami is a much-revered venue for many superstar’s concert tours! Along with the Kaseya Center, a smaller, more intimate concert venue can be found just up the street. The Knight Concert Hall at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts is a beautiful, 2,200-seat, 4-level venue, with internationally renowned acoustics and regularly presents a wide range of musical acts.

Late Night

For those who are looking to party until the Miami Sun rises in the east, make your way over to Club Space. With operating hours of 11 PM to 11 AM, this is the perfect place to end a music-filled day/night/early morning! Club Space is a highly revered venue for some of the biggest names in electronic, house, and techno music. You are sure to have a cosmically fun time at this iconic Miami music staple.

Day 3: Miami Beach

Morning & Early Afternoon

Miami Beach has a host of music-centric venues that suit the wants and needs of all music-loving visitors. One such venue is the iconic Palace Bar & Restaurant. Known around the world for their signature weekend Drag Brunch (and lunch, and dinner!). Be prepared to have a fabulous time, just make sure you bring plenty of singles!

Afternoon & Evening

Blankets and picnic baskets are welcomed at SoundScape Park at the New World Center. Lay back, relax, and be treated to pre-recorded or live video feed from the musical performances inside the Frank Gehry-designed concert hall. Stroll on over to The Betsy Hotel for live jazz and curated art installations throughout the property. Catch a show at the Miami Beach Bandshell, an open-air amphitheater that hosts the monthly “North Beach Social,” a world music treats for locals and visitors alike.

If you happen to be in Miami Beach on the 3rd Thursday of the month, be sure to join the FREE Miami Beach Culture Crawl. This walking tour offers visitors a chance to check out all the spots mentioned above, along with other must-visit music venues in Miami Beach.

Night & Late Night

The Fillmore Miami Beach at The Jackie Gleason Theater is a classic art deco marvel and a musical venue for up to 2,700 guests. Do not let the vintage style fool you though, this theater is equipped with state-of-the-art sound and lighting technology to ensure that any act that graces the stage puts on an unforgettable show!

The Faena Theater is another, more intimate venue for musicians and cabaret acts. This theater is a great spot to catch dinner and a show. All while providing an aesthetically stunning, European grand opera house-inspired design.

Dance the night away at the world-famous LIV Nightclub at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach Hotel. This mega-club presents the world’s top celebrity DJs and musical acts and boasts over 18,000 square feet of space. Combining the opulence of an upscale lounge and the energy you would expect from a Miami nightclub. LIV is the place to see and be seen and a must-visit on any Miami Music itinerary!

More Spots to Check Out!

The Dennis C. Moss Cultural Arts Center or simply The Moss Center, is a cornerstone of the South Miami-Dade arts and culture community. With programming, performances, and other cultural events packing their calendar, you are certain to find a musical event hosted at the center that suits your personal tastes!

FPL Solar Amphitheater at Bayfront Park is an open-air performance venue in the heart of Downtown Miami. This venue is a popular spot for touring concerts and other live music performances due to its location and beautiful view of the spectacular city skyline.

Jazz at MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami) is a free, monthly (every Friday of the month) live jazz music event, which has quickly become an integral part of the North Miami music scene. Jazz + Art = MAGIC!

We hope you enjoyed the insights John shared about Miami as a music destination (and the amazing 3 day itinerary) in this entry for the Music Tourism Hub. If you're looking for ideas and tools to turn your city into a music destination, or have a music tourism project that you'd like to bring to new cities, then join us on May 29-31st, 2023, at the Cape Breton Island Music Tourism Convention.  

Do you want to keep up to date with everything related to Music Cities Events and Music Cities topics? Then we invite you to also subscribe to our monthly newsletter. 

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