Read this first: http://bit.ly/159sOvk
The Ontario Government on May 1st (today .. it's a Wednesday..) announced that it is going to produce a $45 million dollar fund that "will support the production, distribution and performance of music in the province and promote Ontario-made music across Canada and around the globe".
This is one of the most exciting things I've read in a long time. My only concern is, will they follow through? I don't care about anyones political affiliation. If you hate or love the Liberal government then good on ya. But, government in general has this habit of saying things and not following through with it from time to time.
As I've stated in previous blogs, the decline of the music industry in Ontario has to do with the whole system from when your kids are doing music in school right up until they're playing the Horseshoe Tavern or the Hideout. Kids are currently not learning any instruments in a large majority of schools across Ontario. Yes, they're taking music classes, but many times they're taking basic piano, make-shift guitar courses or simply a vocal class instead of a band instrument. The result? That high school music programs have seen a massive decline in the interest in band and orchestra instruments forcing the schools to either cancel their band program or opting for a more cost efficient program. Trained music teachers are low in availability and demand. So, many Ontario music teachers often are teachers who's specialities are another subject, but know how to play a piano or guitar and can teach a more low budget course to accommodate the necessary credits needed for the Ontario High School Diploma (and so the teachers can take a full time position and not an LTO job for once). Universities and Colleges are seeing less demand for these instruments as well and as such their music programs are having to adapt. Band instruments don't appeal to everyone, but neither does only guitar, piano or vocal.
This is neither here nor there I guess. This doesn't affect the current Toronto music market. Right? Well, it kinda does. Often parents can't afford to put their kids through music lessons. The school system has had an ability to make up for that loss until now where private lessons aren't an option to some students. Their appreciation for a variety of musical styles and their cognitive and spacial abilities improve because of it. Look at all the studies showing how music can help the development of children to teens. Its a proven fact that music lessons will help in their development and make them more creative, articulate, adaptive and productive adults. They just need exposure to music. And, their willingness to spend money on the music industry as productive adults is also more likely. (Yay money into the economy!)
"The total economic impact of the music industry in the Nashville MSA is $6.4 billion per year."
Wait, did I say BILLION?!? Yup. hmmm.. $45 million in Ontario vs. $6.4 BILLION industry in Nashville.
You want to see a city that knows what the music industry can do for you? Take a look at Nashville. The Ontario government can tell me that there's no reason to go south for work, but the reality is the money is THERE. Not here. Why? Yes, it has a rich history woven within its culture that helps stimulate the creative process. It has diversity in styles and has acted as a magnet for some of the greatest musicians and songwriters of our time. Yes, it has cool statues, studios and celebrities living there that support tourism. .. wait .. .. WHY AREN'T WE DOING THESE THINGS?!?!? Why aren't we making our talent a part of our tourism instead of a footnote? Think about it.
I could be wrong, but being someone who frequents the clubs in Toronto often I can't say I run into too many tourists just out to see a show on a Wednesday night in the middle of the week while they're visiting the city. If you're from Regina and in a band then you might be, but not the savvy tourist from New York or Austin. Why? Well, for one, the product is inconsistent. The bands themselves aren't setting the bar high enough, putting on a show with little effort and musicianship (there are many exceptions. I don't deny that). So a $15 cover seems expensive for 1 of 5 bands that aren't bad. Secondly, the clubs are dingy, run down and while they have a lot of character don't really attract the out of towners to stop in for a drink. The sound system is old, the atmosphere dark and uninviting, the stage show lighting (what? front lights?!? no way!) is unimpressive. Go to Nashville, LA, New York, if you don't have that stuff together you don't survive.
The Ontario government has taken a MASSIVE step in the right direction towards helping the music economy. The music industry in this province desperately needs the influx of capital to help it out. In order for them to see a return on investment though they need to sustain, rebuild, market and promote Ontario as being a capital for music in Canada. When people come here they need to know that they can go to the Rivoli on a Tuesday night and find good music. Nothing less than good music and a good show. If you want to be like Nashville then we need to compete.
We as a city, as a province, as a society, as an industry need to set our standards higher and strive to improve the product we present. World class music exists in this city. Our economic situation in this industry is forcing labels, distributors, publishers and other facets of the industry to pull out of Canada and our talent to go south to achieve their goals. If you want to see our industry legitimately thrive then invest in it properly. $45 million is a good start. Try and make it another $5 million annually based on the revenue we get out of your investment and don't stop. Only then will you see the economy our hard working talent and province deserves to boast.