A Brief History of Music Canada Live

During the years 2010-12, a diverse group of music industry stakeholders, started a conversation in Ontario about how to better leverage its collective assets with – among others, the Provincial Government and tourism sector.  When they took stock of who was absent from the dialogue, it became apparent that the live music sector was deeply under-represented. Upon further examination, it was obvious that not only was “live” not effectively at the table, it was an unorganized, fragmented group of diverse, highly-skilled, passionate people – people whose work was profoundly impacting the industry, the culture and economic vitality of their communities, the livelihood of artists and the ever-important musical experiences of their fans. They were working largely autonomously and in the absence of a formalized network or association – unlike their label, publishing, independent and many other counterparts whose united voices had consistently demonstrated influence and authority.

Leaders from the live sector recognized that to effectively entrench the value of their efforts, they should work together to achieve common goals.  With encouragement from the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, City of Toronto councillors, key live sector individuals such as Jeff Cohen (Collective Concerts), Jesse Kumagai (formerly with the Corporation of Roy Thomson and Massey Hall, and now Live Nation), and Mike Tanner (NxNE) among others, joined forces with Music Canada’s Graham Henderson and Amy Terrill to define, evaluate and design a plan for the future growth of the Toronto and Ontario live music industry.

The following projects were the initial building blocks that helped the Province realize that by working closely with the local and regional live music sector, the potential for greater job creation, economic stimulus, and enhanced tourism was achievable while connecting audiences in regions across Ontario with the music and artists they love:

  1. Development of Ontario’s Live Music Strategy: a plan that will strengthen the province’s position as a global leader for live music;
  2. Establishment of the Ontario Music Fund: Aimed at strengthening and stimulating growth in Ontario’s music companies and supporting this growing sector
  3. Delivery of OntarioLiveMusic.ca: a comprehensive live music listings portal for live concerts, festivals and music events occurring throughout Ontario
  4. Music Canada’s “Measuring Live Music”, a first-of-its-kind economic impact survey and “an essential piece of [the] music story in Ontario” which will help to identify strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats facing the live music community and will:
    • Provide the live music community with a critical tool that will assist individual and cooperative efforts to grow the industry;
    • Inform future government policy decisions and initiatives; and
    • Provide benchmarks for future measurement and tracking.

Music Canada Live board member and a founder of the association, Jeff Cohen, sums up the history-to-date as this:

“The Music Canada report “Accelerating Toronto’s Music Industry Growth, Leveraging Best Practices from Austin, Texas” drove the creation of a Toronto Music Office, a Toronto Music Advisory Board, an Ontario Live Music Strategy, an Ontario Music advisory board, the creation of the OMF, Mayor [Ford] going to Austin, the Austin-Toronto alliance, Mike Tanner [NXNE] getting hired as the city’s first Music Officer, Jesse Kumagai moving from Massey Hall to Live Nation, Music Canada’s ascension as the most important music trade organization in the country, new federal immigration laws for touring bands, and our live industry coming together for the first time, to talk about common goals such as why the Canadian live music industry has no representation through its very own association…”
Jeff Cohen, Collective Concerts

In early 2014, the people involved widened their vision from just Toronto and Ontario and joined forces with other nationally based promoters, agents, and ticketing agencies in crafting further language defining this new association, including giving it its name – an homage to the hard work of Music Canada, and an opportunity to be identifiable yet distinct from its major label colleagues.

Music Canada successfully sought funding for strategic visioning and marketing for Music Canada Live. Founding board members made financial commitments to seed the association for its first two years.  Music Canada successfully incorporated the association on November 7th, 2014. Music Canada Lives’ first-ever Executive Director began on November 10th, 2014.

On November 17th, 2014 the founding board met as a group for the very first time in person at Roy Thomson Hall, on November 17th.  At this meeting the strategic vision, mission statement and core objectives were defined.

The organization continues to raise awareness, engage new members and stakeholders, champion the mission and objectives, and announce the arrival of Music Canada Live and the role it will play in promoting cities across Canada as live music centres.

Music Canada Live will begin delivering programs and services to and on behalf of its members, the incredible people who are Canada’s live music sector.