One of my favourite memories from my teenaged years is going to local shows in my hometown. About 45 minutes west of downtown Toronto, Milton has never really been known for having a vibrant local arts scene — outside of Milton, at least. In the mid-2000s, my sleepy little town had a booming underground music scene. Local metal, hardcore, and punk bands played frequent shows in church basements and the Lions Club hall. Bands from across the GTA and Niagara came to play in Milton as well, and one time we even had a couple of fairly well-known American bands play at a local show. Admittedly, these concerts did occasionally get a little rowdy and we eventually ran out of venues who were willing or, in the case of a couple older churches, able to host these concerts. They couldn’t be hosted at one of the few small bars around town; these shows were open to all ages and the bars did not have the space. Now we have the Milton Arts Centre, which hosts a variety of acts from all over, but I doubt they would allow a show like I attended as a teen. Every now and then I hear about a small underground concert, but nothing compared to a decade ago.
It’s not just in towns like Milton where the local music scene struggles. In cities across the country, small and medium-sized venues struggle for funding and revenue. Yet, despite this, new research from SOCAN found that 70% of Canadians under 35 who live in urban areas believe in the importance of a vibrant local arts scene that includes live music. In order to help foster these local arts scenes, SOCAN believes cities need to play a critical role and can take several steps, including:
- Providing artists with realistic housing options
- Bringing cultural groups together to encourage discussions around arts
- Examining local development fee structures to take live music venues into consideration
Furthermore, Canadian property developers are often required to contribute towards community infrastructure and amenities when they build in an area. For example, developers can provide funds that go towards building libraries, park development, and transit projects. SOCAN and Canadians agree that live music venues should be considered for these funds. With more funding towards small and medium music venues, Canadians would be able to better support local artists, something that SOCAN encourages. That way, creators and publishers are fairly compensated for their creative work and concert-goers support local businesses and economy.
Another interesting bit of information to come out of the survey is that two-thirds of Millennials (18-34 year olds) and over half of Gen Xers (35-44 year olds) said they would enjoy living in a hip, modern condo that offers music in the lobby.
SOCAN CEO, Eric Baptiste commented:
“The results of this study solidify what we at SOCAN have long known: that Canadians have a passion and desire for live music at a local level…Many cities already know that live music supports the municipal economy by bringing tourists and attracting young people to settle and contribute to the local economy. We hope these recent findings will further encourage municipalities and citizens to come together, foster our unique Canadian music culture, and keep building vibrant Canadian neighbourhoods”.
He also added:
“The idea of saving music and arts scenes throughout Canada can seem like a daunting task, but it can be accomplished by simple gestures such as enjoying live music in venues that are already license-compliant…It is a small step, but it means that Canadian music creators and publishers are being compensated fairly, which allows them to support themselves and create more music for our collective enjoyment.”