The view from Toronto, at least music industry-wise, has a gotten a little brighter over the past year. Some of the credit can go to Mayor John Tory, and Mike Tanner, the city’s music sector development officer. He’s had that (newly created) position for a calendar year now. The job came with a desk at the film sector development office, and a number of goals to help Toronto grow as a music city.
Tanner spent the past spent the past several years as director of operations for NXNE, and prior to that worked as a business-writing instructor, event promoter, and yes, musician. He admits to seeing the Toronto’s music industry as a sort of “ecosystem” (with community being a better word than industry).
The changes the music community has seen have seen from October 2014 to October 15, have taken place incrementally, and some mostly symbolic of change. Perhaps the most visible is the creation of the Toronto Music Advisory Council in December 2014. The council has since been helping to advise and provide ideas to work with to mutually benefit city hall, the music community, and Toronto businesses.
It took a while before the public was introduced to TMAC and for Tanner to step in front of the music community. In April a Music City Town Hall meeting was held at the Garrison (to capacity). With people from every stream of music including festivals, indie musicians, venue owners, and bloggers there, it was an open forum to talk ideas, problems, wants, needs, and never going to happens. Tanner made it clear he wanted to hear what matters and how to make Toronto a Music City.
The music community was helped in June when the postering bylaw was quashed. ML&S worked with the TMAC to make that happen. Previously venues could face $300-$500 fines for putting up music event posters on city property (though it was the musicians who did). A number of tickets were fought in court and eventually won. Montreal similarly had its postering bylaw canceled in 2010 (note: Toronto’s bylaw started in 2010).
Changes continued as the Music 311 feature on the city’s 311 call line was added in July. When calling and put on hold for city services (like missed garbage pickup) callers could now hear music tracks from various indie artists. TMAC members Amanda Martinez and Miranda Mulholland were among the first. The city advertised for more with payment going to artists.
Also in July, TMAC and ML&S held a music industry consultation to go over ongoing changes to the city’s noise bylaw. Festival organizers, venue owners, various citizens all had a chance to speak their thoughts, as the meeting was moderated by, yes, Mike Tanner. Recommended bylaw changes have since been submitted to ML&S included clear decibel threshold measurements, improved communication with enforcement officers, and streamlined access to special permits for event holders.
So, how is the view from Toronto today? We have more homegrown festivals happening – TURF, Wavelength, CMW, NXNE, Bestival. Locally and Internationally, audiences are starting to see the city as a music hub. Yonge street businesses are coming together to recognize city music history. Mayor John Tory continues to promote music alliances with other cities (Nashville, Austin, Chicago). We’re still working on music zoning laws. The city is debating canceling permit fees for arts and music in park areas. No one misses the lost ticket income from postering (not that you’d notice the city covered in posters right now).
We may not truly be a music city yet, but we’re working on it.
Meet Mike Tanner – Toronto Star
Toronto Music Advisory Council – City of Toronto
Music City Town Hall Meeting – blogTO
Toronto addresses postering issue – Music Canada
Toronto launches 311 Music
Toronto noise bylaw changes – NOW magazine
Ryan Ayukawa has long been part of Toronto’s music scene as a venue booker and promoter. You’ll recognize him these days as a music reviewer and writer. He’s also Cleo’s favourite human.