Ottawa Music Industry Coalition offers a vision of a future music city

By Meaghan Richens

About 86 per cent of respondents in a recent survey support the City of Ottawa investing in the local music industry. But only 24 per cent of respondents believe that it’s possible to make a living in music in the community.

The survey of artists, music industry professionals, educators, fans and others was conducted by the Ottawa Music Industry Coalition (OMIC) in a two week period last fall. There were 1,134 responses to the questions asked by OMIC and 87 per cent of those asked completed the questionnaire, the coalition said.

The results were released Saturday afternoon at an event in the National Arts Centre’s City Room held to talk about the way forward for the City of Ottawa Music Strategy which is expected to be presented to a council committee in April. 

The strategy, which will lay out a three-year plan to develop a vibrant music industry in Ottawa, was given a $100,000 boost in the city’s 2018 budget — funding that underpins OMIC.

The OMIC team also unveiled its vision for the local industry as it might appear in 2030, if the music strategy is adopted and implemented.

In 2030, OMIC says, music will be an “undeniable part of the Ottawa brand.” As well the city will be “respected as among the most inclusive music cities in the world.

OMIC would also like to see music education part of “everyday life.” And it hopes live venues will anchor a thriving music scene and a nightlife economy. 

Robin Moir, Secretary Treasurer of Canadian Federation of Musicians in Ottawa (Local 180) is part of the strategy’s 15-person task force, and one of the speakers Saturday.

She told the crowd gathered in the NAC’s City Room that she joined the OMIC task force preparing the music strategy already convinced that Ottawa has a music brand.

“We’ve been in business as a union since 1902, and so we’ve always been working with musicians,” said Moir. “But I really believed, based on our past and the Paul Ankas and the Alanis Morissettes and Bruce Cockburns … that Ottawa had a great foundation to actually move forward, 20, 30 years,” said Moir.

Jesse Stewart, a percussionist and an Associate Professor of music in Carleton University’s School for Studies in Art and Culture, said a big focus for members of the task force was music education.

“I teach music at Carleton University and I’m a big believer in the power of music to transform lives and to transform communities,” Stewart said.

Nik Ives-Allison, General Manager of OMIC, said she believed the survey showed “a tremendous amount of interest in the community in both the music strategy and the music industry itself.”

Of the respondents 38 per cent were artists, 38 per cent were music fans, 11 per cent were other music industry professionals, 10 per cent selected ‘other’ and three per cent were educators.

The survey also showed that 87 per cent of music fans asked know at least one person who works in Ottawa’s music industry.

Only 37 per cent of respondents believe the city’s music business is diverse and inclusive. And only 23 per cent think the city’s role as the national capital helps local music. Another issue that was highlighted was a sense among respondents that local music was not promoted well — 52 per cent. And 41 per cent said it was somewhat difficult to find out what is going on in local music.

About 27 per cent of respondents said the city can have the most significant positive impact on the music community by building Ottawa’s identity as a music city and as a music-tourism destination. Another 20 per cent said reducing red tape, changing by-laws and regulations would create a music-friendly environment.

“There were two main goals for that survey,” said Andrew Vincent, the lead consultant developing the strategy for OMIC.

“One was to make sure that the recommendations were generally in alignment with a bigger group of people and secondly, to provide some metrics for gauging the success of the strategy over three years,” said Vincent.

“Speaking generally about the strategy and the recommendations, I’m really excited about what we’ve got here in terms of a foundation for seeing the realization of the strategy over the next say decade,” said Vincent.

“In terms of the vision process, we were talking about what would Ottawa look like in 2030 if we’re successful? This is a three-year strategy. This is basically the first 25 per cent of that time, and I think its big goal really is to create the foundation for future growth. So at the end of three years we’ll be able to look back and say, ‘what was working?’” sad Vincent.

The event also formally launched Sonicity, a mobile phone app developed by local media arts group artengine, which pairs an OC Transpo bus route with a specially commissioned piece of music composed by an Ottawa musician.

The launch included performances from artists featured on the app, including Boyhood, Nathanael Larochette, Ben Globerman and Adam Saikaley, as well as a Sound Installation by Philippe Charbonneau.

This story was produced in collaboration with Centretown News and Carleton University.

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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.