Last night I had the pleasure of attending a special panel discussion regarding the live music strategy being undertaken by the Downtown Yonge BIA in partnership with Music Canada, City of Toronto’s Economic Development & Culture Division, Canada’s Music Incubator and Heritage Toronto. The focus of the discussion was the historical and contemporary importance of Yonge Street as a music and cultural hub for the city (see end of blog for web addresses).
Hosted in the Hard Rock Cafe (originally known as the Friar’s Tavern in the 60’s and 70’s), the venue overlooks the world-famous Yonge-Dundas Square (below).The event was part of the Yonge Street Speaker Series sponsored by Downtown Yonge BIA and presented by Yonge Street Media who publishes an online newsletter containing information and news pertaining to the Yonge St corridor (I highly recommend you subscribe to this). http://www.yongestreetmedia. ca/
Introduced by Yonge Street’s Ritu Bhardwaj and supported by Downtown Yonge BIA’s Exec. Director & Chief Staff Officer Mark Garner, the panel of music industry experts (pictured below) included moderator Amanda Martinez – singer/songwriter and media personality; Greg Godovitz – long-time recording artist whose hard rock band Goddo was a big fave of mine back in the 70’s & 80’s when I was a weekly clubgoer. Greg is now a radio personality, producer and author; Amy Terrill, VP of Public Affairs for Music Canada; Nicholas Jennings – music journalist and author of one of my fave books Before the Goldrush (the story of the Yorkville scene in the 60’s), and Mike Tanner – Music Sector Development Officer for Toronto’s Film & Entertainment Industries office.Several topics were addressed including the state of viable live performance stages in the city (or lack thereof), as well as the value of Yonge Street as the touchstone for the city’s music history. A number of initiatives have already been launched including designating the various locations of important venues from the past along the Yonge strip that will receive plaques acknowledging their contributions to the city’s and country’s music industry. See map below:Soon to launch is the Canada’s Music Incubator initiative, which is the next phase of Downtown Yonge’s music strategy. Partnering with Coalition Music, they are introducing an Artist Management program – something I myself taught for several years at one of the city’s music & film schools. One of the missing components in these days of online music distribution and social media marketing is the professional artist’s manager who guides artists and negotiates liveable performance fees for them, so hopefully this program will result in a more professional approach to music marketing and gigging esp. for emerging artists who need this important support.
It was great to watch the introductory video that reminded us of Yonge Street’s heritage – The Colonial Tavern, Le Coq d’Or Tavern, Ronnie Hawkins and other legacy musicians…see below
…and attendees were very enthusiastic with their own questions and commentary- belowOne important issue that was brought to the fore is that musicians gigging around town these days are not paid by the clubs and bars that take advantage of the fans’ booze and food sales. Back when the city’s live music venues had a thriving attendance (70’s- early 90’s) bars would pay the artists and promote/advertise their own venue – these days bands have to either work for the door or sell tickets provided by the club owners who pocket the revenue generated. Bands also have to promote themselves using whatever publicity vehicles they can afford (social media is free but few artists really understand how to target the market outside of their own “circle of friends” to attract new fans). The panel all agreed this is a serious issue, however, as one of my musician friends pointed out, last night’s event was held in just such a venue where bands have to rent the space (for a substantial fee) plus meet a bar sales minimum. So instead of operating as true bars and live music venues, many are now operating as corporate event spaces. Musicians lose out and in the long run, so do the fans who are not exposed to as many talented homegrown artists as we did back in the day.
I hope to participate in more discussions and activities in support of this “Music Strategy/Downtown Yonge BIA” project and I encourage you all to go out and see/hear a band this weekend. Thank you for supporting Canadian artists!
Important websites for fans of Canadian music:
www.downtownyonge.com www.musiccanada.com www.toronto.ca www.canadasmusicincubator.com www.coalitionmusic.com