The Hamilton Music Strategy (PDF, 25 MB) celebrates "all things music" in Hamilton. It guides the activities of its partners to create and nurture an environment where music and the music industry flourishes, grows and prospers.
The success of Hamilton's Music Strategy depends on multiple partners working together to realize a common vision. The City of Hamilton, the local music industry and Hamilton's musicians have significant yet different roles in implementing the Strategy.
Music Strategy Goals
1. Strengthen the local music industry
Link with other major music initiatives, strategies and cities.
- Examine the feasibility of "twinning" Hamilton with another major music city.
- Seek funding and alignment opportunities for Hamilton within the Ontario Live Music Strategy.
- Provide Hamilton representation to the Ontario Music Strategy Industry Working Group.
- Assess the resources needed to participate in the proposed provincial music portal and provide content as appropriate.
- Bid to host significant music industry events ie. JUNO Awards.
- Co-ordinate strategic efforts to develop the music industry with neighbouring municipalities.
Build connections within the music scene.
- Review options for the industry and/or musicians to formally organize e.g., advisory Music Commission, council, industry association, artist co-operative and network (e.g., Seattle, Washington)
Embed music in City of Hamilton initiatives.
- Provide music industry-related input into the development of the City's 2014-2018 Economic Development Strategy.
- Align with the other key City policies, plans and initiatives e.g., culture plan, events strategy
- Provide input into the review and Development of municipal arts funding models e.g., City of Hamilton's Arts Investment Strategy and Community Partnership Program (CPP) review.
- Includes music programming in local Pan Am Games activities.
Provide tools to support music business development.
- Create a City of Hamilton Music Office in the Tourism & Culture Division, Planning and Economic Development Department.
- Conduct and share research on local music industry (e.g., economic impact, workforce and market).
- Link small music businesses and entrepreneurs to available services such as the City of Hamilton's Small Business Enterprice Centre and cultural service organizations.
Remove barriers to live music presentation.
- Identify and examine City bylaws and regulations that are barriers to the local music industry and mitigrate where possible.
2. Grow audiences and appreciation of music
Brand Hamilton as a music city.
- Develop a music-based brand and brand strategy (and marketing plan) for Hamilton Music Strategy.
- Create and/or participate in provincial, regional and local cultural tourism product development and promotion related to music.
Promote local music.
- As part of a potential local branding initiative, identify mechanisms and tactics for promoting defined aspects of the local music scene e.g., locals musicians, businesses, performances, events and festivals.
- Adopt a broad and inclusive approach to music with consideration to genre, cultural diversity, and levels of competency in the Music Strategy and its implementation.
- Identify key music districts in Hamilton for branding, destination marketing and business development.
3. Increase access to music experiences
Promote live music throughout the City. Encourage a diversity of venues for music.
- Produce new opportunities for music experiences.
- Complete an industry needs assessment and inventory of venues.
- Develop or facilitate the creation of diverse venues for live music.
4. Cultivate music creation and talent
Celebrate Hamilton's music legacy and potential.
- Support, participate in, and grow locatl to national recognition and celebration initiatives e.g., Hamilton Music Awards, City of Hamilton Art Awards, Tourism Awards, JUNOs.
- Link with City of Hamilton Cultural Plan asset-based initiatives e.g., storytelling project, asset mapping and Love your City.
Involve youth in the music industry.
- Facilitate and promote youth contact with and placements in the music industry.
Encourage strong music education.
- Advocate to, and work with, education providers to expand lifelong music education opportunities.
For more information on the Hamilton Music Strategy, read the Music Strategy Background Document (PDF, 4.8 MB).
In late 2016, with 50% of the actions complete from the initial Music Strategy, an enhanced music industry group was developed in partnership with the city. The Hamilton Music Advisory Team (HMAT) is a group of local music industry representatives from musicians; multicultural music genres/origins; venues; youth; music education; industry representation – managers, event organizers, record labels, promoters, recording studios; not for profit/support industries; festivals/events (outside of venues) who assist with the City’s Music Strategy.
Role of the Advisory Team
- To provide advice on the goals and priorities of the music industry to help support and achieve corporate priorities such as Economic Prosperity & Growth and Culture & Diversity.
- To act as a point of contact for members of the music community regarding issues affecting Hamilton and to help inform Council of issues and achievements.
Advisory Team Members
- Patricia (Tricia) LeClair (Chair)
Executive Director of Hamilton Children’s Choir (HCC)
- Lisa La Rocca (Co Chair)
Director of Operations, Sonic Unyon Records
- Nimal Agalawatte
- Janna Malseed
Vice President, Hamilton Musicians Guild
- Becky Katz
Multidisciplinary Artist, Experimental Musician, Promoter, Activist, and Philanthropist
- Garrett LaJoie
Marking Coordinator and instructor, An Instrument for Every Child
- Roman Marcone
Producer / Engineer
- Judy Marsales
Musician and Music Advocate
- Marie Nash
Director of Operations, Hamilton Chamber of Commerce
- Mark Pongetti
Owner, The Acoustic Room
- Brodie Schwendiman
Owner, The Casbah
- Marie Cassidy
Station Manager/Technologist 101.5 The Hawk and Ignite Radio, Mohawk College
- Hamilton Public Library
- Jenn Mueller
Senior Project Manager for Creative Industries & Cultural Development, City of Hamilton
- Kim Varian
Executive Director, Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra
Music Strategy Updates
In 2013, Council approved a Music Strategy for the City. The report that accompanied the Strategy indicated that Hamilton has the talent, history, industry, spaces and places that create a music city. The Music Strategy and its goals are the guiding document and principles that help ensure that city-wide efforts (e.g. by-law, planning, funding/City Enrichment Funding, policies etc.) support the infrastructure necessary in maintaining and enhancing music in Hamilton and recognizing the importance of music culturally and economically. Hamilton’s Music Strategy was developed with strong community engagement and the City continues to engage and seek advice from the local music community through an advisory team called the Hamilton Music Advisory Team (HMAT).
2020 Music Strategy Update
Highlights - Key Recovery Initiatives, Projects and Accomplishments for 2020
This update provides selected highlights of the work that supports the Music Strategy and the important efforts of the Hamilton Music Advisory Team (HMAT).
The year 2020 saw significant negative impacts and losses to the music industry and its workers due to the restrictions and impacts caused by COVID-19. These impacts were especially significant for musicians and live music venues. In response to the pandemic, staff focused on recovery efforts for the sector and worked to modify previously planned projects where possible.
Key recovery efforts led by the City, including those done in partnership with others, as well as projects that helped the City fulfil its on-going commitment to music are listed below:
Virtual Mentor Program for Musicians and Music Managers
Developed in collaboration with Canada Music Incubator (CMI), the City launched a mentorship program in late March. The goal of the program was to provide free, highquality, hands-on professional business development tools to Hamilton musical artists and artist managers. Musicians who resided in Hamilton and met the eligibility criteria received free access to a bundle of three 60-minute one-on-one video meetings with CMI mentors. A total of 27 music sector individuals participated and received important business-related training including Grant Writing, Branding and Fee Negotiation.
In response to the pandemic, the fourth annual City-led musician conference shifted to a virtual format. The conference expanded from a one-day event to a five-day online event (from October 19 to 23, 2020) during national Small Business Week. Each day featured a different 60-minute panel discussion with topics providing practical business tools aligning with the overall conference theme of “How to release your next album”.
Conference attendance surpassed the 2019 event with a total of 236 conference registrations and an average of 47 attendees at each session. Panel discussions were recorded and remain online as a resource for the sector. As of January 2021, there have been 1,700+ views of these free resources.
In keeping with previous years, HMAT and the Musician’s Sub-Committee were instrumental in providing promotional assistance for the conference. Additional information and conference videos can be found at www.hamilton.ca/musicianconference
Virtual Business Coaching
One-to-one virtual business coaching opportunities for creative industries entrepreneurs (i.e. music, film, fashion, visual arts) was launched by the City in April. The City hired Capacity Creator to assist businesses (regardless of their stage of development), in pivoting, refocusing and/or scaling-up in response to the pandemic. A total of five sessions or 10 hours of business coaching assistance was leveraged by music-based businesses.
City Enrichment Fund for Artists
The City funds the creative output of artists and collectives through the Creation and Presentation stream, as well as the creative output of organizations through the Operating, Festivals and Capacity Building stream.
A total of $894,769 in funding was provided to 40 music-based individuals and organizations, various artists, i.e. musicians and music organizations who deliver music-based programs or events to the public.
In recognition of the impact of the pandemic, the City committed to funding successful applicants and allowing modifications to their program, or for cancelled programming where costs were incurred due to COVID-19.
“Hamilton Shows Up” - Virtual Events Series
As one of the first deliberate initiatives in Hamilton to provide online content as a response to the pandemic, Hamilton Shows Up was developed and led by Cobalt Connects with the City providing funding and promotional assistance. In total, 22 artists were hired resulting in four hours of free public programming for the first evening. The City funded the first night of performances where there were 2,700 views of the video and a consistent audience of over 500 for the four-hour event.
Music on Patios
To further support the music sector and facilitate public access to live music, in August Council temporarily revised the Music/Entertainment on Patios By-law and extended it to December 31, 2020. The revised By-law permitted music on patios in all Downtown areas and lands zoned D1, D2 and D3. Following this change, many live music venues leveraged the revised By-law and were able to make music part of their offerings to customers.
York Boulevard Live Performance Series
Through a competitive bid process, the City offered access to the top level of the York Boulevard Parkade along with seed funding of $7,500 to create a temporary, outdoor performance venue for public programming. The successful proponent, Supercrawl Inc., developed a live performance series that included live music, fashion and visual arts.
The series took place over four days (September 24 to 27, 2020) with six separate performances, four of which sold out. This series assisted with the live music/gig economy and resulted in the hiring of musicians, their support teams, artists, production crews, vendors, facility and security staff as well as utilizing the services of local James Street businesses.
Creative Enterprise Facilities Property Tax Sub-Class
In November 2020, the Arts and Creative Industries working group of the Mayor’s Task Force for Economic Recovery recommended consideration of a property tax relief or reduction for creative industries, specifically live music venues.
A motion asking the Province for approval to create a Creative Enterprise Facilities Property Tax Sub-Class was approved by Council in December 2020. In January 2021, the Mayor of Hamilton sent correspondence to the Premiere requesting this approval. If approved, the Creative Enterprise Facilities Property Tax Sub-Class would provide a reduction in property tax for eligible creative enterprises and live music venues in Hamilton and contribute to their on-going viability.
Live Music Research
Live music helps create and support a strong urban core and quality of life. On June 15, 2020 an Information Report (PED20112) was shared with Council providing information on economic impact data and key issues impacting live music venues. Though the research was based on 2018 data and completed pre-pandemic in 2019, it detailed the importance of the music sector in Hamilton.
Music Blog Series
The City of Hamilton website (www.hamilton.ca/music) hosts a music blog series written by local, contracted subject matter experts. In 2020, the topics for the articles focused on assisting and promoting Hamilton musicians. Three articles were created on the following topics: Improving Your Home Show; How Hamiltonians Can Help and Support Local Musicians; and Marketing Tips for Indie Artists. An article was also written and posted to the Invest website highlighting musicians and music businesses.
Music Mondays, a free lunch time music series held at City Hall each year was cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19 gathering restrictions.
Anne Foster Music Window Displays
The Anne Foster Music Window Displays are in the original Anne Foster music shop window at the Lister Block building located at 28 James Street North. The City issues a call for artists then contracts an artist to create a display that celebrates and recognizes an element of Hamilton’s musical past, present or future. The displays for 2020 included:
- “World Records” by Juliana LaChance
- “PUSH! An Exhibition of Analog Music Machines” by Todd Murray
- “Some Outsider Music Hamilton” by Becky Katz and Aaron Hutchinson with featured artists Charli, Sahra Soudi and Katie McDonald
Photos and information about this project can be found at www.hamilton.ca/annefosterwindows
Hamilton Music Advisory Team (HMAT) Member Updates
The City continues to value and appreciate the efforts of HMAT in providing advice to the City on music, and in supporting the implementation of the Music Strategy. Many thanks to Kojo Damptey (Music Artist/Music Curator) for his work and support as HMAT Chair in 2020, and to Janna Malseed (Hamilton Musicians Guild) for her efforts and support in her role as Co-Chair in 2019 and 2020.
The new Chair and Co-Chair of HMAT for 2021 to 2022 are Tricia LeClair (Hamilton Children’s Choir) and Lisa LaRocca (Sonic Unyon/Supercrawl).
HMAT welcomed one new member, Marie Cassidy (Mohawk College - The Hawk) who replaced Bry Webb (Mohawk College - The Hawk). Mr. Webb was a valued member of HMAT and has retired from Mohawk College.
Looking Ahead - Selected Examples of Up-Coming Projects for 2021
The City will continue to focus on recovery efforts for the music sector in response to the on-going effects of the pandemic. Several projects and initiatives will support these efforts including:
- Virtual mentoring for musician and music managers
- Development of a fifth Annual Musician Conference (October 17 to 23, 2021)
- Development of a Strategic Music Business Plan in collaboration with various local partners that will drive a refresh of the City’s current music strategy
2019 Music Strategy Update
This update provides selected highlights of the work that supports the Music Strategy and the important efforts of the HMAT. In 2019, the Hamilton Music Advisory Team focused on two goals from Hamilton’s Music Strategy: cultivating music creation and talent; and growing audiences and appreciation of music.
2019 Highlights: Key Projects and Accomplishments
Creative Industries Sector Profile
Creative Industries Sector Profile On March 20, 2019, Council approved a report and presentation on Hamilton’s Creative Industries Sector. Music was identified as one of the top sub-sectors within the Creative Industries in Hamilton with 541 businesses and a labour force of 7,725. Other key music statistics from the report included:
- Hamilton is home to more independent musicians per capita than many top tier cities
- Hamilton has the second largest growth of employment in music in Canada
- Hamilton is home to the sixth largest cluster of music businesses in Canada
Anne Foster Music Window Displays
The Anne Foster window displays are located in the original Anne Foster music shop window at the Lister Block (28 James Street North). Displays are curated through a City issued call for artists. The contracted artist then creates a display that celebrates and recognizes an element of Hamilton’s musical past, present or future. Every three months starting on the corresponding Art Crawl, a new music themed window display is unveiled. The Anne Foster window displays from 2019 included:
- POSTARRS: a retrospective [2011-NOW] - A digital collage on vinyl by artist Stylo Starr
- Live in Hamilton, 2018 - Celebrated Hamilton as a “City of Music” through the lens of music photographer Nathan Nash
- Music to the Bone! Audiotorium Orchestra - A mixed media display of Dave Gould’s sound sculptures; photographs by Ariel Bader-Shamai portraying practice, performance, promotion, and recording in the Hamilton music scene
- World Records by Juliana LaChance featuring hand painted records that celebrate the relationship between folk music and art
Photos and information about this project can be found at www.hamilton.ca/annefosterwindows.
Music Career Day
On April 30, 2019, in partnership with Mohawk College, the City supported a Music Career Day for 200 local high school students. This event provided the opportunity for students to hear directly from people working in the music industry. This education session helped students better understand the different music career options available.
Hamilton Public Library Music Archive
On May 3, 2019, the Hamilton Public Library’s Music Archive officially opened with support and participation from HMAT. There were 97 people in attendance at this important event. HMAT were instrumental in providing expertise and assisting with the development of criteria for items to be included in the archive.
The Hamilton Music Archive collects material from a diverse and inclusive group of Hamilton Music Champions spanning all time periods and genres of music. The seven seed collections making up the Hamilton Music Archive spans 100+ years of Hamilton music history. The collection includes various items such as meeting minutes, programs, posters, audio/visual recordings, photographs, awards and memorabilia ranging in music genres from opera to rock to country. This also includes, materials related to musicians, composers, conductors, record labels, artist management, venues, music organizations, music instruction, retail and broadcasting.
Throughout 2019, Local History & Archives has acquired six additional collections which will be incorporated into the Hamilton Music Archives and made accessible to the public.
As part of the May 2019 launch, the music storytelling “Love Your City, Share Your Stories - Music Lives Here” exhibit and videos were featured. The exhibit was displayed at the central Hamilton Public Library location from May through August 2019. Videos can be viewed here www.hamiltonstories.ca/music-lives-here.
Music Mondays at City Hall
Music Mondays, the free weekly live music series at City Hall kicked off during Canadian Music Week. A total of seven free music performances took place in the forecourt of City Hall featuring Hamilton artists and bands from seven different genres. Total attendance for these noon hour concerts was 1,120 representing a 50% increase in attendance over 2018’s inaugural year. This year’s event enhancements included the addition of Muskoka chairs and the hiring of a local sound technician to improve the event experience for participants.
Hamilton Music Scene Awareness Initiative
In 2019, a social media campaign was introduced highlighting different areas of Hamilton’s music industry. The purpose of the campaign was to increase awareness of the many different areas of the music industry, and to profile local businesses, organizations, and musicians who represent Hamilton’s music scene. The campaign featured 20 different areas and/or individuals (music photographers, sound engineers, musicians, guitar makers and radio station staff) wearing “Hamilton is Music” t-shirts.
Live Music Venue Study
The City strategically and cost-effectively partnered with the Canadian Live Music Association; the City of Toronto and contracted Nordicity, to conduct research focused on live music businesses and organizers. This live music venue study examined the economic and music industry impacts in Hamilton. As part of the research, a survey was conducted that focused on core and temporary live music venue spaces along with local musicians and event organizers. A draft report was received in December 2019 which will be used to inform future music planning decisions.
Launch of New Music Blog Series
In August 2019, the City launched a music blog series of four published articles that paid local writers to write short pieces on different elements of Hamilton’s music scene. The articles included the places and spaces to find music in Hamilton; the power and benefits of live music; hometown advice for fledging musicians; and the positive impacts of music on infant and child development. Articles were posted on www.hamilton.ca/music and were shared via social media.
Hamilton Music Showcase Event
On August 25, 2019, the City partnered with Mills Hardware (live music venue) to host a one-night event. Approximately 100 people attended this Hamilton Showcase event, which featured four local artists/bands and offered an opportunity for audiences to experience different artists and genres. At least 30% of the audience members were not familiar with these artists/bands and the event helped contribute to the growth of their audience base.
On October 19, 2019, the City’s third annual conference for musicians took place during Small Business Week. Session topics were focused on strengthening the skills of those working in the music sector and included how to build a music team; touring as an independent artist; developing an electronic press kit; and copyright. There were 70 attendees and 18 panelists/speakers. A post event survey of participants found their overall satisfaction with the event rated at 4.6 out of 5.
Social Media & Media Coverage
A successful social media plan was developed and implemented in partnership with the Hamilton Public Library. Significant results were realized in the three channels for @HamOntMusic (Facebook, Instagram & Twitter) as follows:
- 33% increase in followers on Facebook
- 30% increase in followers on Instagram
- 18% increase on Twitter
In addition, the City’s Music Strategy, HMAT and various music projects received media coverage in all key Hamilton outlets (i.e. The Spectator, CHML, CBC, Cable 14, CHCH, CFMU, The Hawk Radio).
HMAT Member Updates for 2019
In 2019, HMAT filled a few team membership vacancies to ensure representation from several different areas of the music industry (e.g. a recording studio, record label and DIY organizer/expert). HMAT was pleased to welcome several new members who included: Roman Marcone (Halo Recording Studios); Lennox Toppin (Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra); Lisa Larocca (Supecrawl/Sonic Unyon); Bry Webb (Mohawk College, The Hawk); Becky Katz (Strangewaves); and Garrett Lajoie (Hamilton Music Collective).
HMAT thanks and recognizes the contributions of the following members, some who have served for many years, who stepped down from the team in 2019: Nathan Fleet (musician, teacher and Hamilton Film Festival director and entrepreneur); Diana Weir (Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra); and Evan DiValentino (Mohawk College).
Special thanks and recognition to Mark Furukawa (owner of Dr Disc, DJ and music advocate) for his time, energy, expertise and guidance as Chair of HMAT in 2018 and 2019. At the end of 2019, Mark stepped down as Chair but will remain a member of HMAT. Kojo Damptey is the new HMAT Chair for 2020.
Looking Ahead: A Few Examples of Up-Coming Projects for 2020
- Music Mondays at City Hall starting Monday, May 25, 2020
- 4th Annual Musician Conference (October 2020 - date TBD)
- Completion of the Live Music Venue Study and development of a Music Business Plan. The Music Business Plan will focus on business development of the music sector (i.e. business and talent attraction and retention).
2018 Music Strategy Update
This update is an overview of the work that supports the Music Strategy. In 2018 Hamilton’s Music Advisory Team’s (HMAT) focus was on cultivating music creation and talent and growing audiences and appreciation of music: two goals of Hamilton’s Music Strategy. HMAT is a group of local music industry representatives from diverse backgrounds, supported and guided by City staff, who advise and assist with the implementation of the City’s Music Strategy.
Selected Projects and Accomplishments
Cultivating Music Creation and Talent
- In partnership with Mohawk College, Hamilton’s first Music Career Day for high school students was held on May 1, 2018 that offered students the opportunity to explore different music careers.
- Held the 2nd Annual Musician Entrepreneur Conference on October 20th: a free, full day event with discussion panels and workshops on topics such as funding opportunities, how to get a gig a at local music venue, mental health for musicians and song writing.
- Partnered with Canada’s Music Incubator to offer free one-on-one professional development mentoring sessions for Hamilton musicians and music managers.
- Hamilton was the first Canadian municipality to be awarded with a special SOCAN Licensed To Play designation that supports fair compensation for musicians and music creators. “Hamilton is a true playground for music creation, publishing and performance,” said Hamilton-based SOCAN member, Max Kerman, of Arkells. “The SOCAN Licensed To Play designation confirms that Hamilton recognizes the hard work of music creators and publishers, and the importance of venues having a music license. To truly celebrate Canadian culture, it’s important to honour the livelihood of the thousands of songwriters, composers, music publishers, and other musicians living in the area. These administrative steps really add up for someone who works in music.” Review the full award details.
Growing Audiences and Appreciation of Music
- Piloted Live Music Mondays; a lunchtime music series featuring emerging artists from Hamilton and eight (8) different music genres outside at City Hall during the months or May, June and August.
- In support and recognition of Canadian Music Week (May 6, 2018), piloted an Evening Showcase, Monday evenings throughout May, hosted at live music venues featuring emerging artists from Hamilton representing eight (8) different music genres.
- Partnered with the Hamilton Public Library to create a new video series with six (6) Hamiltonians with diverse perspectives, backgrounds and musical connections that included musicians, community members and a music business. These stories are now part of the Hamilton Public Library, Local History & Archives digital storytelling project in partnership with the City of Hamilton’s Music Strategy. The videos were part of a Supercrawl exhibit Music Lives Here.
- Provided assistance and advice to the Hamilton Public Library in the development of their Hamilton Music Archive.
- Anne Foster Window Displays: located in the original Anne Foster music shop window at Lister Building 28 James Street North a window display created by a Hamilton artist celebrates and recognizes an element of Hamilton’s musical past, present or future. Every four months starting on the corresponding Art Crawl a new music themed window display is unveiled. The Anne Foster Window Displays from 2018 included recreating a display at the Anne Foster Music Shop in the 1950s, a collection of canvas, acrylic, collage, recycled material assemblage from artist and musician Jude Johnson, and a collection of posters, books, CDs and records that reflect the diversity of Hamilton’s music scene and are connected to musician David Byrne who lived in Hamilton as a child. Photos and information about this project can be found at www.hamilton.ca/annefosterwindows
- The Music Strategy, HMAT and various music projects received media coverage in all key Hamilton outlets (i.e. The Spectator, CHML, CBC, Cable 14, CHCH, CFMU, Hawk Radio).
By the Numbers: Key Performance Indicators
Cultivating Music Creation and Talent
- Lead or partnered in five (5) professional development events for a total of 166 artists.
- 500+ high school students attended an all-day Music Career Day at Mohawk College on April 1, 2018.
- Supported 20 artists or bands by offering fair wages to perform at various events and grow their audience.
Growing the Audience and Appreciation of Music
- Programmed 20 different music events with local artists at 10 different (mostly small to medium sized) venues or public spaces to reach a total audience of 1,300+ people.
- The @HamOntMusic accounts saw an increase of 78% in Facebook followers, 53% increase in Twitter followers and 38% increase in Instagram followers.
Looking Ahead: A Few Examples of Up-Coming 2019 Projects
- Live Music Mondays at lunchtime will be back at City Hall starting on May 6, 2019 to kick off Canadian Music Week.
- Participate and support in the April 30th Music Career Day at Mohawk College.
- 3rd Annual Musician Conference (Saturday, October 19, 2019 during national small business week).
- Evening music showcase supporting and promoting local spaces and places that host music.
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