Report Offers East Coast Music Strategy For Moving On

Striking A New A-Chord is the title of a new report calling for the need to develop an Atlantic Canadian Music Strategy to strengthen the future of the region’s music sector.

The deep pool of musical talent residing in Atlantic Canada has never been in question, but the lack of music industry infrastructure has hampered the ability of area artists to reach their full potential.

The report, jointly spearheaded by the East Coast Music Association (ECMA), Music Canada, and Music Canada Live, emphasizes that concentrated investment in the music industry is beneficial not only for those who work in the sector but ultimately for the region as a whole.

Unveiled last week at a Town Hall meeting during the East Coast Music Awards festival and conference in Saint John, ECMA executive director Andy McLean says the report's findings were received with unanimous support.

“I think the most significant thing is that we now have a 59-page document pulling together many of the elements we all know exist here. It is written in a concise way with the data to support it and I’m hoping it will have a much more influential impact and show that there is the beginnings of a real strategy here. That is the next step.”

McLean adds that “the strategy from the beginning is that, unlike the Ontario and BC Music Fund, we would go as a region strategically. There are five regions in the ECMA, four provinces and one region [Cape Breton], and together we are stronger.”

“This is the approach we’ll continue to push within our strategy of working towards an Atlantic Music fund that would be about generating new investment money."

Many of the existing music industry associations (Music PEI, Musique/Music NB,  Music Nova Scotia, Music NL and the Cape Breton Music Industry Co-operative) were concerned that somehow it would affect their present funding, but we are only committed to going in and making the argument for new investment. That is long overdue.

“All the info in the report shows that this is a strong case for investment, and the ROI will be substantial. There is so much potential out here sitting underdeveloped. If we don’t do something now we will be left behind.”

Among other recommendations, the report calls for the development of an Atlantic Canadian Music Fund that would seek to provide resources to complement existing programs, attract investment, and develop and incentivize musicians and music related businesses to reinvest in Atlantic Canada.

"Targeted investments in other parts of Canada have strengthened those music communities and stimulated additional private spending as well, leading to increased activity in the sector,” says Amy Terrill, Executive Vice President of Music Canada.

“We look forward to working with government and industry stakeholders to find ways to complement the existing programs available to the music community in the region in order to create a stronger, more sustainable Atlantic music sector."

Striking A New A-Chord is unsurprisingly short on music industry economic data, as regional MIAs work with stretched dollars. However, the document for change notes that “each year millions of dollars in revenue, including taxes for all levels of government, is generated in Atlantic Canada through the work of music industry professionals and musicians.

One hard fact cited is SOCAN having paid out royalties of more than $2.7 million dollars to Atlantic Canadian songwriters and music publishers in 2015. Strikingly, with less than six percent of Canada’s population residing in the region, the royalty payments represent four percent of all Canadian general licensing and live music revenue.

The document makes clear that “there has been no recent study of the impact of Nova Scotia’s music sector,” and states that “a comprehensive study of the economic impact of the music sector, including live performance, across the Atlantic region is needed.”

The report claims “some important assumptions can be made based on the available information. It is significant that, despite a small general population, the PEI music sector supports over 800 artists and generates $23.9 million in economic impact. In fact, the size and economic impact of the music sector in all three provinces is substantial, especially when viewed relative to their populations.

“In both PEI and New Brunswick, the live music sector is a critical driver of music industry revenues and jobs. Not only does this represent activity among the businesses and professionals who produce live music, but also represents an important component of artists’ income.

It quotes from a New Brunswick economic impact study that shows “the most prominent music business activities in the province were in the live music sector. This includes promotion, event management, and artist management.”

"The introduction of an Atlantic Music Fund must also ensure that existing MIA investment, as well as funding accessed by creative industries and cultural organizations, is not prorated or decreased as a result of the introduction of a new investment strategy," the document's authors assert.

Those interviewed for the report included such notable Atlantic Canada artists as Catherine MacLellan and Amelia Curran and industry executives like Louis Thomas, Sheri Jones and Bob Hallett.

The PEI-based MacLellan commented that “within our community, people understand that being a musician is a real job and that cultural value is really important. I don’t know that the government acknowledges that – but within our community, it is acknowledged.”

Social History

Music is a fundamental part of East Coast traditions and inextricably intertwined with its general and social history.

Among those having achieved success by exporting their music to the rest of Canada and around the globe are The Rankin Family, Anne Murray, Roch Voisine, Sarah McLachlan, Ashley MacIsaac, Stan Rogers, Russ Little, Hank Snow, Stompin' Tom Connors, Rita MacNeil, Ron Hynes, Leahy, April Wine, Great Big Sea, Joel Plaskett, Tom Swift, Rich Aucoin, Eleanor McCain, Erin Costelo, David Myles, Gloryhound, Hal Bruce, Heather Rankin, Jenn Grant, Kirk MacDonald, Mary Jane Lamond, Matt Minglewood, Matt Andersen, Mo Kenney, Natalie MacMaster, Old Man Luedecke, Port Cities, Rawlins Cross, Jerry Granelli, Radio Radio, Gordie MacKeeman and His Rhythm Boys, Classified, Hey Rosetta!, Lisa LeBlanc, Rose Cousins, Wintersleep, Matt Mays, Dean Brody, George Canyon, Ryan Hemsworth, Ten Strings and a Goat Skin, Fortunate Ones, Sloan, Eric's Trip, Gordie Sampson, Amelia Curran, Tim Chaisson, John Allan Cameron, Portia White, Bruce Guthro, Patsy Gallant, Mia Martina, Neon Dreams, Joan Kennedy, Haywire, Figgy Duff, Simani, Damhnait Doyle, Eddie Eastman, The Young Saints, The East Pointers, Alvvays, Lennie Gallant, Terry Kelly, The Stanfields, The Trews, Radio Radio, Repartee, Les Hay Babies, Rachel Cousins, Ben Caplan, Jen Grant, Bryan Potvin, Carleton Stone, Dave Gunning, Jimmy Rankin, Catherine MacLellan, Gene MacLellan, Kim Stockwood, Maureen Ennis, and Ria Mae.

The full report can be accessed here

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