Firstly, I toot my own horn a bit and declare this is the first year anniversary of this blog. Thank you to the small but growing number who follow it.
While I take some pride in that fact, it is small potatoes compared to the day-in-day-out commitment of professional journalists like my friend and former Nerve bandmate David Israelson, and Toronto Star pop critic Ben Rayner. The latter wrote a very interesting piece earlier this month entitled Is Toronto facing a live-music crisis? that highlights concerns with recent club closures and a commitment the Mayor John Tory has made to making Toronto a “music city”.
I wrote a blog a while back that outlines my concerns and opinions about the music scene and its challenges. A bit ranty, I know. The gist though is that the club-going public, particularly for the small venues where emerging artists first start performing, is not very inclined to pay cover charges, or even drop a few dollars in the tip jar for the artists. Changing that mindset against an acceptance of “free music” on demand is probably not achievable in the short term. Given the costs of operating a club, that leaves the performers with little or nothing, or less, in their pockets. Many musicians pay to play in this city, just ask around.
I am glad for the note of optimism in Mr. Rayner’s article, and I’m hopeful the mayor will indeed communicate with Austin and other cities for “best practices”, but more importantly execute on concrete solutions. A broad declaration of wanting Toronto to be a “music city” without support is wishful thinking.
Perhaps the city could start by providing a form of tax credit to clubs for payments to live performers, to encourage them to compensate the bands something more than a feeble honorarium or a free beer. This would encourage support for live music at the grassroots. I hope the city avoids supporting specific clubs exclusively, despite their storied past, as the impact of such measures would be narrow. The other action the city could take is a campaign to elevate the status of all musicians in the city, from buskers on up, as their active presence is part of what makes this city one of the best in the world.
To all my musician friends who follow this blog, I encourage you to read the Star article, and respond to the mayor’s invitation therein.
“I think he may have an idea or two,” said Tory. “I’m all ears.”
Until next week, and to more in year two, be well.