Cities can create conditions for live music to thrive
From the Carleton in Halifax, to the Silver Dollar Room in Toronto, to The Railway Club in Vancouver, reports that small and medium-size live music venues are struggling across the country are common. Rising property costs in Canada’s urban centres can make it difficult for owners to make ends meet and, increasingly, music creators who perform at these venues can’t afford to live in their own city.
Yet, ironically, live music attracts people to cities.
Recent SOCAN third-party research reveals that 70 per cent of city-dwelling Canadians younger than age 35 feel it’s important to live in a neighbourhood that includes live music. If artists can’t afford to live in our urban neighbourhoods, and venues are steadily disappearing, we must ask ourselves: where will live music take place?
Cities such as Toronto, Halifax, Vancouver and Montréal have a strong desire to be a “music city” because they understand that music supports the local economy by attracting tourists, and encourages younger Canadians to settle in their communities by creating a thriving employment base. To be a true music city, however, municipalities can do more to actively create conditions under which live music won’t just live but thrive.
Cities can start by better supporting live artists with new types of housing options, something they have done with many other arts and culture communities and small businesses. A recent Toronto-based project plans to offer musicians their own building in downtown Toronto, with affordable rental units, rehearsal and recording space. It’s a joint project between a property developer and Toronto Music City, and an excellent example of corporations and not-for-profits working together to foster music creation and performance.
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