Office of Councillor Jeff Leiper, Kitchissippi Ward, Ottawa | (613) 580-2485  |
Responsive image

Connecting Art & Commerce: The Economic Potential of Ottawa's Music Scene

You are here

As readers of my newsletter know, last week I was honoured to speak at the launch of the new Ottawa Music Industry Coalition (OMIC). It's a new music industry group "dedicated to growing the city's music industry for the benefit of its artists, businesses, and the city as a whole."

OMIC is the culmination of months of work by volunteers such as Andrew Vincent, Jon Bartlett and Mark Monahan, along with Ottawa city staff in our arts and culture and economic development branches. Thanks to funding from the Ontario Music Fund, Vincent and Bartlett spearheaded the creation of the Connecting Ottawa Music report in March. It outlined some of the opportunities and challenges to fostering a strong music industry in this city, and created much of the momentum to create OMIC.

At the same time, I was working with our staff to ensure recognition in this term of Council's economic development priorities of the music industry as an economic driver. I've said consistently for several years that having a strong music scene can be a competitive advantage in a global market for talent. While in my previous employ, I even led the development of a report on the subject, Music - a catalyst for technology hubs and innovative talentThat report led to my contribution to a national report, Music Canada's The Next Big Bang that spoke to the same themes.

With seed money secured from the City deriving from the music industry's new status as a priority, OMIC will be working to help develop audiences, support our artists, build networks in town and beyond, and advocate on behalf of the industry to the various levels of government.

As a contribution to this effort, I commissioned, soon after taking office, a paper by noted research and writer James Hale to help make the case for prioritizing the music industry in Ottawa. It's been circulating widely internally. Now that OMIC is launched, my attention is turning quickly to how the City of Ottawa can play its part in building a strong music scene that contributes to its quality of life and economic prosperity. Different cities have adopted different approaches - something Hale outlines very nicely in the paper he wrote for me: Connecting Arts & Commerce: The Economic Potential of Ottawa's Music Scene (French and English versions attached below).

Looking at several mid-size cities, Hale concludes that there is no one right approach, but there are some key ingredients. He writes:

"The common threads are vision, leadership, and collaboration. These cities have come together at various internal points to ensure that the proper ordinances and licensing agreements are in pace, that the right people are at the tables where decisions are being made, and that infrastructure like rehearsal spaces, backline providers, and publicity channels are in place. The musicians of these cities share enough of the vision to want to work together, even when they are not the star of that night's show, and the people of these cities put their bums in the seats - still, always, the most important component of any live music scene."

I've taken a lot of inspiration from Hale's paper. Our artists are ready to hit the world stage, but they'll need to be supported at home. From my perspective, the most important things the City can do are to ensure we're planning our city as progressively as possible to attract creative talent, and to ensure our by-laws, zoning by-laws and regulations balance the needs of residents with the potential to strengthen and increase the number of venues in the city. We can also play a role in marketing our emerging industry and leverage the networks that we have with the private sector to make some matches. In my view, one of the most exciting opportunities is to ensure that, through our Ottawa 2017 activities, we're matchmaking the music industry with tourism. Imagine the possibilities of leveraging a strong music scene to keep the tourists visiting Ottawa for Canada's 150th in town for just one more night.

The potential is endless. I hope stakeholders will benefit from some of the perspectives that Hale raises in his paper. Both he and I are keen to hear your feedback.


Posted September 29, 2015