Council adopts Ottawa Music Industry Strategy

With a unanimous vote at city council, the hard work can begin in earnest to build a bigger and better music industry in Ottawa.

The full city council, as expected, adopted the community’s first ever music strategy Wednesday morning giving momentum to an idea that was first raised almost five years ago.

The Ottawa Music Strategy proposes a three year plan to increase the working relationship between the city and a local music scene that is understood to be an economic and cultural mainstay in the advancement of the community.

This means changes in city staffing to include a music development officer and support for the Ottawa Music Industry Coalition. It also will mean a renewed focus on regulatory issues that affect how musicians and clubs operate.

“The next step,” says Nik Ives-Allison OMIC’s general manager, “is for us to further our discussion with various city departments around the regulatory environment.”

OMIC has been tasked with holding regular forums with various sectors of the music community and the first of them on Feb. 28 involved those connected to live music.

“One of the outcomes from that was a significant interest in addressing the regulatory challenges (such as zoning and access to venues to load equipment in and out) that small music businesses face in the city,” she said. The meeting in February put this at the top of OMIC’s to do list.

OMIC will also take a serious look at “inclusivity and diversity” in the music scene, she said.

“We know that there are certain sectors of our community that are under-represented in our music industry itself.” One example that Ives-Allison cited involved women and their participation in the technical side of the music business, for example, as producers and recording engineers. One way to overcome this shortfall is through workshops, such as some live sound sessions OMIC has already held.

OMIC will also hold more regular sector forums which help identify other challenges that people face in making their art.

The city has already given OMIC $100,000 in funding for 2018. The city is also hiring a cultural development officer as early as next week and there has been an on-going collaboration with bylaw enforcement for the past year, she says, on such things as educating music establishments about the implications of the city’s revised noise bylaw which allows for more flexibility with regards to live performances at places such as Lansdowne Park and the Canadian Tire Centre.

In the next budget cycle, OMIC will have to approach what will be a new council about the renewal of its funding as well as to confirm $25,000 to create a music fund that will support artists’ work and another $10,000 to establish music awards for artists in Ottawa and Gatineau.

With the unanimous support exhibited by city council Wednesday morning, Ives-Allison is hopeful that the next council will continue to support the implementation of the music strategy.

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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.