Why Canada Needs to Push Our Music Scenes Internationally. (Hint: It Makes Good Sense Economically)

Toronto Mayor John Tory just got back from a taxpayer-funded trip to SXSW in Austin to see how that city has turned their musical heritage into a world class destination. Some in the press kvetched that this was a was waste of money. What could possibly be gained from such a trip? Well, a lot, actually.  David Farrell wrote this in today’s FYI Music News newsletter.

SXSW has politicians of every stripe dancing to the music of Austin’s music festival that had humble beginning 28 years ago and now annually attracts as many as 300,000 people, pumping  $315M into the local economy, and coming ever closer to rivaling economic juggernaut Super Bowl.

Suddenly, music festivals and culture have become respectable, and tourism officials everywhere are falling over themselves in coordinating strategies to benefit from the ‘economic impact’ these events offer.

The Montreal Jazz Festival annually attracts 2.5M visitors with its mix of free street music and big ticket events, employs as many as 2,500 people, and generates approximately $125M in revenues each year; the Shambhala Music Festival outside of Salmo, a town of 1,200 people, attracts 10,000+ people and  contributes an estimated $20M to BC’s West Kootenay region.

In Hamilton, lobbying for additional Arts fuding from city council is likely to be greenlighted after a report suggests the Juno Awards brought with it $12M in economic benefit to the city.

According to an Enigma Research report, commissioned by Canadian Festivals Coalition, the 15 largest events annually generate more than $1B in new spending.

Festivals are big news on the political landscape, but the competition is fierce and about to become fiercer still. Rio Carnival annually attracts 500,000 visitors, and Summerfest in Milwaukee, WI pulls in a reported 1M  people over the 11-day event.

A coalition of the like-minded, calling themselves UK Music, recently released a report showing music related tourism annually  attracts as many as 6.5M people to the island nation, spending £2.2B and helping to generate as many as 24,000 jobs.

The music industry is in a state of flux, and trade association Music Canada, aware of this, has taken a forward looking approach to investing resources to map out a future and affect change in government policies. It was this message that was conveyed at NXNE in 2012, and backed up with solid research in a report that can be downloaded here, and subsequently expanded on in a more expansive and forward thinking document entitled The Next Big Bang: A New Direction for Music in Canada.

Government are changing their tune when it comes to Arts and Culture and, in so doing, offering Canada’s music industry a pathway to a new future.

— David Farrell

And there are plenty more events that bring in big dollars. The Winnipeg Folk Festival. Heavy MTL.  Sled Island. Ottawa Bluesfest. Osheaga. Squamish Valley. Rifflandia. Pop Montreal. All of these festivals and events create vital economic and artistic activity.  Why are we even debating this?

Subscribe to David’s newsletter here.

 

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ 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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