The sounds most regularly heard from Toronto’s City Hall are the raised voices of bickering city councillors. Hopefully that will change occasionally with the introduction of Live from City Hall, a new twice-monthly live music series that officially commences on the afternoon of Thursday January 7.
Presented by TD Bank, it will occupy the second-floor rotunda at City Hall, and is a new initiative from the Music Sector Development Office of the City of Toronto that was created in 2014. Live from City Hall is designed to showcase Toronto-based musical talent.
It certainly aims to be inclusive genre-wise. According to the official artist application form, preferred genres are “acoustic, alternative, bluegrass, blues, classical, country, electronic, experimental, folk, funk, hip hop, jazz, pop, reggae, rock, R&B, singer-songwriter, soul, world – including music sung in languages other than English.”
The form also notes that “solo artists, duos and full bands are all eligible. We ask artists who normally use electric guitars/basses and full drum kits to consider a stripped-down format for this program (e.g., acoustic guitars, cocktail drum kits/percussion vs. full kits). The rotunda’s acoustics are extremely “live,” and performances cannot exceed 85dB.” If you’re a death metal band, then, this gig may not be for you.
No interlopers from Hamilton or Oshawa are allowed, as the submission criteria states “Only Toronto-based artists can apply, which means your official mailing address must be in Toronto. If you’re a duo, one of you must be based in Toronto; and if you’re a band, at least half of your members must be Toronto-based.”
If you’re an eight-piece funk band or world music ensemble, keep in mind this isn’t exactly a premium paying gig. All artists chosen to perform will receive an honorarium of $200 per show (regardless of how many musicians perform). That far from princely sum does rather lead us to question just how much sponsoring Live at City Hall will cost TD Bank?
Perhaps that question will be asked at the launch party on Thursday. The event begins with remarks from Mayor John Tory, to be followed with sets from The Young Novelists and The Muso Project. Tory will likely recall his visit to Austin last year as part of a City Hall delegation keen to learn from Austin’s example of how to build a music industry-friendly city. Along with cities like Vancouver, both Toronto and Austin have to grapple with the challenge skyrocketing downtown rents and real estate prices pose for their live music scenes.