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The Music Tourist Podcast - interviews with music tourism operators from all over the world

On May 29-31st, 2023, the Music Tourism Convention will be traveling 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 Scotland to talk with Olaf Furniss, Co-Founder of Wide Days Music Convention and Host of The Music Tourist Podcast

In this interview, Olaf shares some insights into the eye opening conversations he’s been having with music tourism operators from all over the world, including visits to the ABBA Museum, the Leonard Cohen walking tour in Montreal and a music cruise that touches the Shetland Island in Scotland, and more.

Hi Olaf, thanks for taking the time to do this interview for the Music Tourism Hub. To begin, I’d like you to give us a bit of an introduction on your background and why it makes so much sense that you’re doing The Music Tourist Podcast. 

I have quite an unusual background in that I have worked in tourism and music for over 30 years, which has made me aware of how often the two worlds intersect. However, what I noticed a long time ago, was that people were unaware of the opportunities collaborations between the sectors could offer. 

In 2010 I wrote a couple of case studies - one on how Hamburg Marketing placed music at the heart of their city promotion and the other on Promote Shetland’s approach - which were to lead to UK Music’s pioneering Wish You Were Here report. 

This was the first time an economic value had been calculated for music tourism and the organisation continues to carry out useful research in this area. However, it is focused on larger live events and realising that there were many other stories, in 2016 I hosted the world’s first music tourism conference in Glasgow. 

Featuring a selection of case studies where music and tourism intersected, it included presentations on Iceland Airwaves, music-based hotels, the AC/DC tribute festival in the birthplace of Bon Scott and Hamburg Marketing. 

Although I have done numerous talks and workshops since then, running a conference is a major undertaking so the podcast allows me to continue highlighting great examples of where music and tourism converge

¿How did you arrive at this moment in your career, professionally?

I began working as a tourist guide in Scotland as a student and continued to do so even when I became a journalist covering the music industry, often guiding fellow media professionals working on articles and TV programmes. 

In 2004 I began to work for music industry conferences, programming panels and interviews, eventually going on to launch my own convention, Wide Days, in 2010. As far back as 2011 we programmed a strand focusing on how the music and tourism sectors could more effectively work together, which has been a recurring theme over the years.

¿Why did you create The Music Tourist podcast and what kind of stories do you cover in it? 

Wide Days and the various other events we run take up an immense amount of time, but I continue to be obsessed with the huge number of areas where music and tourism cconverge.  The podcast is a way to indulge my obsession without having to organise a whole event.

As I was a bit reluctant to be yet another person launching a podcast during the the pandemic (and I was far to busy hosting online events),  I waited until the beginning of last year to take the plunge. At some point I hope to return to the conference, but in the meantime, this allows me to stay up-to-date. 

¿What’s the overall theme across all episodes? 

The underlying theme is to highlight interesting examples of where music and tourism converge. The options of what to feature are limitless and I am really looking forward to some of the interviews I have planned over the coming months. 

We’d like to tease the audience into checking each individual episode. ¿Could you briefly describe what each episode is about, what makes the project that you cover special and what would be the main lesson from the interview? 

  • During the pandemic I took part in an online event and connected with Ruby. More than a year later I was at the M For Montreal festival and she agreed to meet for an interview about the Leonard Cohen tour. Ruby is a force of nature and I love the fact that she admitted to finding Cohen’s music depressing. The interview lasted half an hour but we ended up chatting for the whole afternoon. 

  • Barry Nisbet, the founder of this incredible initiative got in touch with me after I hosted the conference and I always thought it would make a great case study. So often people think of music tourism in the context of cities or huge live events. What I love about this is that it is a small sailing ship travelling around the Scottish islands with guests playing music together, as well as stopping off at remote communities to perform with the locals. 

  • My partner is from Stockholm and not long after the museum opened, we were shown round the hotel and museum. I was really impressed with how innovative it was and how much thought had gone into connecting all the different parts. The worst DJing experience I ever had was a Christmas party for teachers at a further education college where all they wanted to hear was ABBA and the museum is so good that it helped me overcome the trauma of that night. Caroline Fagerlind, the head of exhibitions has been involved since the beginning so gives a really illuminating account of how it all came to be. 

  • When you arrive in Stockholm’s Arlanda airport the first advert you see is for the Avicci Experience and so it went without saying that I had to pay a visit shortly after it opened. When I found out that Caroline also oversees that, we arranged for me to do a second interview with her the next time I was in town. One of the interesting things with the museum is that it also works closely with the Tim Berling Foundation which was set up in his memory and supports young people with mental health, as well as getting into producing music.

Are there any other exciting music projects that we should check out? Are you planning on getting any of them on the podcast?

In my head there is a huge list and although I prefer doing interviews in person, I am going to start conducting them remotely as it means I can feature them on the podcast without having to wait until my next visit. In addition to visitor experiences such as museums and tours, subscribe to the podcast and keep your ears open for a feature on a record shop, a statue and a hotel! 

We hope you enjoyed getting some insights into the music tourism projects covered by Olaf as part of his Music Tourist Podcast, for our 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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