LISTEN: Toronto comes alive for Canadian Music Week

Music city alliance with Austin, TX just getting going: event President

Toronto's barrooms and concert halls are jammed every night this week with music fans and bands from around the world.

Canadian Music Week is underway in the city.

CMW President Neill Dixon says when the event was born in the 1980s, the goal was to promote Canadian artists at home and abroad, and introduce them to new audiences.  30 years on, he admits, "it's not quite as simple as it used to be."

CMW has tucked a four-day comedy festival, a three-day film festival and a handful of awards shows under its umbrella. But a series of open-to-the public concerts and conferences for artists and music industry pros are still CMW's centerpieces.

This year's music festival includes over a thousand acts from around the world, including established names like City and Colour, Neko Case and Tegan and Sara. Dixon says it’s also a chance for fans to “be exposed to tomorrow’s stars, today”.

Jeremy Taggart, drummer for Our Lady Peace says CMW, along with next month’s North by Northeast offer up-and-coming bands a shot at what they most need to grow and to improve: playing shows in front of real audiences. He says that experience can be tough to be come by for unknown acts in cities like Vancouver, where smaller music venues are scarce.

While Toronto’s music industry is one of the mightiest in North America, the push is on to boost it.

In October 2013, Toronto signed a music city alliance with Austin, TX: the ‘Live Music Capital of the World’. Mayor Rob Ford led a delegation of Toronto politicians, club promoters, festival organizers, record label executives and other music industry professionals to the Texan capital to “further position Toronto as a leading live music destination”.

Ford declared the trip a success, but Neill Dixon says the alliance has yet to bear fruit.

“It will, I think it’s still very early days,” says Dixon. There are delegates from Austin in Toronto for CMW and “this year is about introducing our industry to theirs”.

Dixon says CMW has already met with executives from Austin City Limits, Fun Fun Fun and South by Southwest—musical festivals all held in Austin—to discuss best practices. The conversation will continue with a panel on the CMW conference floor on Friday morning.

“How can we work closer together, what can learn from each other, what are the best practices, what’s been working in Austin, what makes that magical. And can it be reproduced in Toronto. I think it can.”


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