Music Industry

Can Toronto Turn NXNE into the New SXSW

That’s the title of this story in Fader. Thoughts?

Much like the rest of North America, Toronto’s festival scene has exploded within the last five to 10 years. The first weekend of June, devotees of local label Arts & Crafts held down Field Trip, a two-day, family-friendly fest headlined by My Morning Jacket and the Alabama Shakes. Torontonians Owen Pallett and Alessia Cara opened for Florence & The Machine and Nas at Bestival, a British import that took over the Toronto Islands this past weekend. Later this month is Digital Dreams, the largest electronic music festival in Canada, to be followed by August’s EDM-centric VELD. Then there’s the Rockstar Mayhem Festival, Bonnaroo offshoot Way Home (taking place in parkland a short drive north of the city), and Drake’s OVO Fest, amongst others. This weekend,Unsound, Kraków’s boutique future sounds festival, will make a guest appearance in the city, but it’s the homegrown North by Northeast (NXNE), which kicked off on Thursday, that is Toronto’s most intensely curated—and hotly debated—showcase.

Every June for the past 20 years, Toronto’s numerous clubs and bars have played host to NXNE’s mix of local bands and international acts. In the beginning that mix was more geared to the former, and largely DIY and indie rock in sound. Today it’s a multi-sponsor-backed, genre-spanning behemoth worth approximately $50 million in economic impact for Canada’s second city. This puts it closer to fiscal power players likeCaribana or Pride, annual events with international renown that generate hundreds of millions for the city every year. (By contrast, NXNE’s local competitor, Canadian Music Week, which takes place in early May, has a footprint of just under $10 million.) SXSW is both an inspiration and minority partner for NXNE, which means they have an advisory stake in their Canadian counterpart. And as it grows into an entity that can rival SXSW in terms of corporate and consumer desirability, NXNE has also become a vessel through which local artists and citizens can express cultural and civic concerns.

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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