Toronto’s Economic Development Committee unanimously supports item on Music Sector

November 22nd, 2013

Today, Toronto’s Economic Development Committee unanimously supported an item on the Toronto Music Sector. The item included a report from the General Manager, Economic Development and Culture, titled Toronto Music Sector (Collaborating for Competitiveness – Implementation Action 6), that includes a series of recommendations & initiatives to advance the music industry. This staff report comes after a unanimous motion at City Council in July endorsing the Toronto-Austin Music City Alliance.

There was a terrific turnout from the music community to support the report, several of whom gave deputations on the item.  Here is a snapshot of what each had to say:

Graham Henderson of Music Canada began the deputations giving credit to the many members of the music community who have worked hard to raise awareness about the importance of commercial music to Toronto’s economy, job creation, investment attraction, tourism, and general quality of life. He also noted the work of many people at City Hall, who have worked diligently on this effort.
Speaking of the highly successful trade mission to Austin, Henderson noted that while Austin had many offers from cities around the world to establish a sister-city relationship, they chose Toronto because they recognized the huge economic opportunity.

Jesse Kumagai of Massey Hall emphasized the economic value of live music in Toronto.  Kumagai noted that Massey Hall has 59 employees, and tonight will be putting on concerts at Roy Thomson Hall, Massey Hall, and the Winter Garden Theatre, generating $400,000 in economic activity in one night. Kumagai also spoke highly of the Austin mission, discussing best practices learned from organizations like Austin City Limits, which draws more than 75,000 people per night, the majority of whom are tourists. When asked about Toronto’s concert market, Kumagai said Massey Hall has seen consistent support from ticket buyers, as well as growth in summer festivals, with economic activity scaling accordingly.

Bill King of the Beaches International Jazz Festival highlighted the 1million-plus people who attend the free festival each year. He noted a music office would be very beneficial, as it would allow all members of Toronto’s music sector to come together.

Maia Davies of Ladies of the Canyon brought an artist’s perspective to the meeting, saying that it was the wealth of venues and presence of the majority of the music industry that drew her to Toronto. “The Horseshoe Tavern, Massey Hall, The Winter-Garden Theatre, the Dakota Tavern, the Cameron House, Lee’s Palace, the Opera House, The Phoenix, this is where Toronto music lives,” explained Davies.
She also spoke of the need to market Toronto’s scene and “establish ourselves on the international scene in a more significant way.” She noted that the province has taken a significant step in this direction with the Ontario Music Fund, and urged the committee to follow suit.

Jeff Cohen of Collective Concerts spoke as a venue owner, identifying issues related to bureaucracy and red tape, saying “I have a feeling I am being regulated to death.” He says he can fight and win against the red tape, but unlike Austin, there’s no Music Office here to help deal with the problems. He was supportive of today’s item, noting that as a venue operator, any initiative to alleviate red tape gives the idea that city council has your back. “We need a music office and advisory board so we can get all parties, including resident associations & BIAs involved: that will bring more festivals to Toronto,” said JC as he closed his deputation.

Noah Mintz, owner of the Lacquer Channel Mastering, spoke about the growth of Toronto’s recording sector. While Toronto’s recording studios were in decline in the 1990’s, there has been a strong resurgence in the past 5 years, said Mintz, citing artists like Feist, Rush, Drake, Blue Rodeo, The Tragically Hip and more who have chosen to record in Toronto. When asked what led to the increase, he cited the opening of new studios downtown, including Noble Street Studios, and Revolution Recording, which feature talented engineers.  Mintz said there is a need to continue this momentum, noting the education facilities that graduate more than 300 students per year in the field.

Next, Andrew Weir of Tourism Toronto spoke of the significant impact of music on tourism in the city, noting that music is at the top, or near the top, of reasons most tourists come to Toronto. “Music is an experience visitors can take part in every part of the city,” said Weir.  “Every single night there is music in this city.”  His presentation made the impact of music on tourism in Toronto very clear: “It drives business, it drives tourism, it expands yield while they are here, and it drives repeat visits.” Councillor Shelley Carroll cited this as a reason for Toronto’s music strategy, tweeting that “Music events drive immediacy of travel decision-making. Thinking of going to [Toronto] turns into going.”

Rob Lanni of Coalition Music spoke of the importance of professional development and education for artists. “We need to nurture and look after emerging artists,” said Lanni. “All artists are entrepreneurs, so we need to teach them entrepreneurial skills,” speaking of Coalition’s role as an incubator. “We don’t sell the dream at Coalition, we explain the opportunities in the music industry,” said Lanni.

Ray Williams of the Scarborough-based Music Marketing Inc. spoke next, calling Toronto a leader in the technology space. His company won a Grammy Award for significant technical contributions to the recording field for their Melodyne pitch correction software.

Che Kothari of Manifesto Toronto emphasized the importance of having artists on the advisory board. When asked if the artist community is listening to progress made on the music front at City Hall, Kothari said that the opportunity provided by the Ontario Music Fund, combined with municipal efforts has had a “galvanizing effect” on the artist community.

Following the community deputations, Councillor Josh Colle thanked the chair and community for their input. Colle said the discussion is really about jobs and tourism, noting that today’s deputations came mainly from entrepreneurs who are creating jobs in Toronto. “People in the music industry are lining up to work with us,” said Colle. “Let’s let them in.” He also recalled his trip to the Google office on the Austin business mission, highlighting the way the local music scene is used as an attraction for young workers.

Councillor Shelley Carroll said it was important to get the advisory board started, noting that the benefits will come over time. She said it is important to recall the experiences learned from the creation of Toronto’s film board, which has evolved over time. She spoke highly of the Arts and Craft Field Trip festival this past summer, noting it generated very few noise complaints and many benefits for Fort York. After the meeting, Carroll tweeted congratulations to the Toronto music community for pushing City Hall to bring a new approach to this important industry.

After speaking highly of Toronto’s diverse live music offerings, Councillor Raymond Cho called the music item the most exciting item he’s seen at the Economic Development Committee agenda in his short time on the committee, adding he will support the report.

Councillor Gary Crawford then moved two amendments to the report, the first expanding the artist representative on the Advisory Board from one person to a pool of four, to account for artists’ busy schedules. The second amendment clarified the categories of stakeholders for the Advisory Board, giving a better representation to the breadth of the industry.  He then said he will be supporting all of the recommendations, adding that we cannot underestimate what we have as a city.

Councillor Ana Bailão said that the music item is great for our city, noting that Toronto is competing in the global economy, and the way to do that is with a good quality of life, which music is a big part of. She spoke highly of Councillor Josh Colle’s passionate support on the item, which we certainly agree with.

Councillor Michael Thompson then moved a motion to accelerate the process of stakeholder appointments to the Advisory Council, with the report to be presented to City Council at its meeting on December 16-17. He also moved that the Chair and Vice-Chair of the Economic Development Committee serve as the nominating panel to review the stakeholder applications for membership and select the candidates to be recommended for appointment to the Toronto Music Industry Advisory Council.

All motions were carried, with the committee unanimously supporting the item.