Ottawa Music Industry Coalition launches Love Local Music campaign to raise awareness

Ottawa-based singer-songwriter and standout harmonica player Catriona Sturton, helped launch OMIC's Love Local Music campaign Saturday. Photo: Peter Robb

Buoyed by the promise of a cool $100,000 set aside in the preliminary city budget and surround by local music heavyweights, the Ottawa Music Industry Coalition launched a new campaign to stimulate interest in music made locally.

Known as Love Local Music, the campaign was fêted with music from local singer-songwriter and standout harmonica player Catriona Sturton.

At the centre of the rollout is a website (lovelocalmusic.ca) which now features digital compilations of music, from hip hop to indie, all by local talent.

Mark Monahan, founder of RBC Ottawa Bluesfest, CityFolk and the Festival of Small Halls, is the newly minted president of OMIC. He was also one of the founding board members of OMIC.

“What OMIC has accomplished so far, I think, is bringing together the music industry who are now saying there is an industry here. That was a leap.” That has been followed up with education initiatives to help performers such as offering seminars on such things as legal issues and the proper way to apply to play at a music festival. These have proven very popular, he says.

Next is building an audience, he says, adding that Love Local Music is a way of saying, “Hey guys, get out and support local music. People want to know what’s going on and right now they don’t.” The initiative is a way to help inform the public, he believes.

The City of Ottawa is getting set to consider and perhaps adopt a music industry strategy, the creation of which has been spearheaded by OMIC and city staff, that could come as early as January. The $100,00o will be used to implement that new plan.

Kitchissippi Councillor Jeff Leiper, City Hall’s main music man, was in attendance Saturday and he said in an interview that he believes the value of an active and vibrant music and cultural community is evident.

“If you think back a couple of weeks ago, one of the big things we were talking about was how to attract Amazon to locate a headquarters in Ottawa. One of the things that we know about younger tech workers is that they have choices to live anywhere in the world.

“We know these people want to live in cities that have a exciting cultural scene. We are really lucky in this town we have the NAC, we have the gallery … but we are still in the early stages of having a nationally known or even regionally known music scene.”

He believes with some key investments by the music community and by the city, the industry could be strengthened.

“What if we could get visitors saying ‘I hear there are some really exciting things happening locally, I’m going to stay an extra night’.”

There is an opportunity, he believes, but he also says the industry needs support first before any reward can come.

“That’s what we are trying to figure out through our music strategy.” He hopes it will engage audience to encourage going to clubs and individual shows. Right now Ottawa is a festival town.

In announcing the campaign, Nik Ives-Allison, OMIC’s general manager said, “We need to show residents of Ottawa the wealth of local talent across all genres and engage them as fans.

“The Love Local Music campaign was designed to increase awareness of the great local music being made and played here in Ottawa,” she said. “These artists are telling our story in our city.”

“The main piece that we are doing is a series of curated playlists to present local music. It is available through Spotify so anyone can listen to it. You can stream them in businesses for example.

“We are also launching a podcast in January covering local music news, events and key developments in the local scene. It is geared toward a general audience but who aren’t necessarily going to see local music now” because they may not know what is going on. She added that the campaign is bilingual in an effort to bridge the gap between French and English music communities.

To get the playlists, OMIC put out an informal call to the music community, many of who already belong to the coalition. Ives-Allison also said that OMIC is encouraging new artists to submit music for consideration through the website.

New playlists will be added to the website in the coming months.

There are more than 800 recording composers, who live here, who are registered with SOCAN, the organization that represents songwriters in Canada. OMIC has 100 artist members, but Ives-Allison says that’s only the tip of the iceberg. She says there are about 600 acts, from solos to groups, living and working here.

“We are hoping that this is the starting point of great support for music in Ottawa,” she said of the city’s budget. “We want to see Ottawa become a music city because it is good for us, economically and culturally.” She also believes local music can play a role in developing a cultural tourism industry in the capital that is more than just the national institutions.

It was fitting that the event Saturday afternoon was held in John Thompson’s Wellington Street store The Record Centre says, which has become a focus for local artists and music fans.

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Peter Robb began his connection with the arts community in Ottawa in the mid-1980s when he was the administrator and public relations director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company. After a long career in journalism with the Ottawa Citizen where he served in a number of different posts he returned to the arts when he became the Citizen's arts editor.