A new report says that Toronto needs to make music a priority. Here are five ways to make it happen.
As NXNE fills Toronto venues, some music fans might be wondering whether the scene can get any better than it is today. A newly released report from recording industry group Music Canada [PDF], has the answer—a resounding yes. At a panel on Thursday at the Hyatt Regency, Councillor Josh Colle, Jeff Cohen of Collective Concerts, Music Canada president Graham Henderson, and Nikki Rowling of the Austin Music Foundation met to talk about the report, and how to improve Toronto’s music industry. Here are five ways:
1. Think of music both as an art form and as a money-maker.
Including live music, Toronto’s scene is worth about $700 million each year. We’re home to 80% of Canada’s overall music industry, and 18 of the country’s 25 indie labels. There’s room to grow, though: Austin is less than a third of our size, but its music industry is worth $1.66 billion.
2. Create a special music office at City Hall.
Toronto’s film industry is big business and the city treats it accordingly, with a Film and Television Office operating out of City Hall. Music? Not so much. Henderson complained that, in spite of having worked in Toronto music for 25 years, he had no idea what Tourism Toronto was until six months ago. He frequently heard from the City of Toronto’s licensing division, though; for a long time, the allowable capacity of the Horseshoe was below 200 (it’s now just below 500), and he says concerns about exceeding that limit meant that Municipal Licensing and Standards came calling every month. Having one office to work with could streamline issues like those, and let people focus on running their businesses.
3. Pick a non-crappy brand identity and stick with it.
Councillor Colle scoffed at Toronto’s previous attempts at slogans like “Toronto Unlimited” and the creepy “We’ve Been Expecting You.” By contrast, Austin established itself as The Live Music Capital of the World in 1991 and stuck with it. It’s specific, special, and helps establish yearlong branding.
4. Anticipate needs and provide the tools to make it happen.
The panel mentioned the lack of a marquee festival like Coachella or Glastonbury (one of The Grid’s big ideas to make Toronto better), and also worried about the availability of mid-sized venues, particularly with Ontario Place shut down for the next few years. That’s another place where a dedicated music advisory panel or music office at City Hall could come in to help make the process easier and bring people together. Sometimes the boring stuff can be the most important.
5. Be bold.
It’s time to stop selling Toronto’s music scene short, as The Grid declared a few months ago. It’s produced a number of stars, and has a great grassroots scene and all the infrastructure it would need to grow. It just needs a little help, and that won’t come from being timid.