Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Possible Solutions to Ontario's Music Crisis

Possible Solutions To Ontario's Music Crisis
by Allan Willaert, AFM Vice-President for Canada

Those of us working in the music scene have, over the years, always suspected that the economic impact of playing music didn’t end with the club owner pocketing his nightly take. We knew it spilled over into the music stores, and certainly liquor sales. Then there are composers, music publishers, producers, studios, manufacturers, retailers, and concert promoters, just to start the list. The problem was, nobody else knew the colossal size--least of all government--until now.

81% of the Canadian music
industry is based in Ontario
Music Canada, formerly the Canadian Recording Industry Association (i.e. The Majors), went through enormous expense to commission an analysis, to determine the economic impact of the sound recording industry in Canada. They did this because they have suffered enormously through the past few years, and watched a $1.4 billion per year profit decimated down to $400 million.

"7,420 Jobs in Live Music"

Interestingly, 81% of the Canadian music industry is based in Ontario. The numbers were run twice. It was initially thought the Quebec would have a greater share, but no. They found there are 2,605 jobs in the recording industry and 7,420 jobs in live music, with 50% of that being in Ontario.

Music Canada developed a strategy where they would approach the Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and Sport; the Ontario Media Development Corporation; the Ontario Arts Council; and the Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership, in addition to the chambers of commerce and executives from various facets of the industry. The core objectives are “to develop a coordinated live music marketing and promotions plan, leverage existing resources, and position Ontario as a premier global destination for live music and music tourism through the province’s international marketing initiatives.”

Alex Pangman, "Canada's
Sweetheart of Swing."
Part of the analysis involved using an existing model, in this case, Austin, Texas, as an example of how a city (or province) can benefit from international recognition as a tourist destination for music. The data revealed that in the year 2000, Austin’s music festival (primarily SXSW) generated $616 million in revenue for local venders, hotels, restaurants, and so forth. That figure has grown to $1.6 billion as of 2010.

With paper in hand, Music Canada has had meetings with the councils and MPPs in various cities in Ontario--London, Guelph, and Toronto, to name a few. By demonstrating the tremendous impact “music boomin” has on a community, they hope to increase the support, accessibility of venues, and cooperation of the businesses within that community through the chambers of commerce.

"Leveraging Tourism Dollars"

There have been extensive talks with provincial MPPs as well, with a view to leveraging tourism dollars to ramp up visitors for live music and festivals. One of the other objectives is to expand and enhance the recording tax credits, and also to expand the film tax credit to include post production, to entice film producers to record movie soundtracks in Ontario for films shot here, rather than have that work disappear to Europe.

Also discussed has been the creation of a “music office” within Queen’s Parks, which would be a one-stop shop for folks wanting to obtain permits for festivals, and perhaps book music. The list is extensive as to what could be processed in this office. There would also be a music advisory board, acting as a liaison between industry and council, and to build a coalition between the music community (artists, labels, recording studios, live music venues, managers, etc.), and the allied organizations (chambers of commerce, tourism organizations, and local businesses).

"A Model For Exploitation of Musicians"

A working group of 21 people, mostly from the recording industry and festival area, in addition to studios and agents, has been formed. At this point, there is no one representing the musicians. Clearly, the Canadian Federation of Musicians is best positioned to speak on behalf of the musicians, and given that they have chosen Austin as the example, it is critical that we are a part of the dialogue. While Austin may be a model for the $1.6 billion it injects into the economy, it’s also a model for exploitation of musicians of the highest order.

We couldn’t sit idly by if we didn’t have assurances that Ontario’s model would include fair wages for the musicians’ performances and control over the recorded content. I’ll keep you posted.


This article was first published in the March 2013 issue of International Musician, the official publication of the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada. The local chapter of AFM is the Hamilton Musicians Guild. hamiltonmusicians.org