By Blake Hardy
TAMWORTH needs to market itself as a "full-on" country music destination all year round if it wants to thrive like Nashville, say the team of Tamworth Regional Council staff who travelled there recently.
The three detailed that as just one of the main things to come from a fact-finding-mission to the USA's country music capital - where they said the industry was alive 24/7 with its "honky tonk" bars, rising artists, neon lights and thousands of fans, young and old.
The touring team, council's business events manager Gavin Flanagan, events officer Catherine Burton and Country Music Festival coordinator Kate Baker, returned from their 10 day trip to the city late Thursday afternoon.
They attended Nashville's 2012 CMA Country Music Festival and arrived two days before the festival began to meet with the Nashville Sister City Committee - their hosts throughout the trip.
Mr Flanagan said he was amazed at how Nashville marketed itself as a music city year-round, with its array of established and rising stars performing daily, recording studios by the dozen and impressive media partnerships - there was about 500 accredited media representatives present at the festival alone.
He said Nashville's festival only lasted four days but the city managed to pack in the crowds without it.
Mr Flanagan said they needed to do more to ensure Tamworth was truly a country music capital all year, and suggested that performing artists should not just visit during the 10 festival days in January, but throughout the year like they do in Nashville.
"But Nashville's had about 60 to 70 years to work on that," he said.
Ms Baker said even though Nashville's population was upwards of 600,000 - and Tamworth's was around 60,000 - the scale of national populations put them in proportion.
She said Tamworth had the potential to adopt components of Nashville as a country music capital and that would be set out in a 10 year plan.
Ms Burton said when they got off the plane at Nashville's airport, country music was right in their face.
"People should come (to Tamworth) and know straight away that we are the country music capital," she said.
They had about 30 meetings with various groups and the first steps were taken to develop a formal sister-city connection between the two cities.