An At­lantic song­sheet

Annapolis Valley Register - - OPINION -

Thou­sands of peo­ple jammed into Har­bour Sta­tion in Saint John last Thurs­day night. Not for hockey but the awards gala launch­ing the 2017 East Coast Mu­sic Awards (ECMA). Or­ga­niz­ers are con­fi­dent ev­ery­one went home fully en­ter­tained and im­pressed.

Sur­prised? You shouldn’t be. In case you haven’t no­ticed, the At­lantic Cana­dian mu­sic in­dus­try is now big-time. The ECMAS just con­firmed it.

The ECMAS have grown by leaps and bounds from a small pub cer­e­mony in Hal­i­fax in 1989 - just as the mu­sic in­dus­try has thrived in At­lantic Canada.

For ex­am­ple, last year’s ECMA gala in Syd­ney re­sulted in more than 80 in­ter­na­tional tours booked, 285 con­firmed shows and 30 mu­sic-li­cens­ing deals for At­lantic artists. The re­sults from Saint John could be even more lu­cra­tive.

The Saint John gala kicked off four days of events spot­light­ing At­lantic mu­sic. It poured mil­lions into the city and province. Any­one with doubts about the im­por­tance of the mu­sic in­dus­try in this re­gion had those erased by the time the party wrapped up Sun­day night.

The euphoria in Saint John sug­gests At­lantic mu­sic has a bright fu­ture. But be­hind the scenes, it’s a slightly dif­fer­ent story. Like any in­dus­try, mu­sic needs nur­tur­ing and sup­port to grow. Stand­ing pat is the start of decline.

Mu­sic is vi­tally im­por­tant to At­lantic Canada’s econ­omy. It’s also some­thing very spe­cial be­cause it in­cor­po­rates our cul­ture and her­itage. It helps de­fine who we are to the na­tion and the world – per­haps even to our­selves. And the in­dus­try is as de­serv­ing of govern­ment sup­ports as any other.

The At­lantic prov­inces just can’t sit back and reap the ben­e­fits with­out get­ting more in­volved in sup­port­ing the jobs and spinoffs com­ing to this re­gion - gen­er­ated by the mu­sic in­dus­try. And like any in­dus­try, it faces chal­lenges and threats.

So it’s es­sen­tial that At­lantic gov­ern­ments get be­hind a new re­port un­veiled dur­ing the ECMAS, which rec­om­mends a re­gional mu­sic strat­egy.

‘Strik­ing A New A-chord’ is a re­port that em­pha­sizes in­vest­ment in the mu­sic in­dus­try as ben­e­fi­cial, not only for those who work in the sec­tor, but also for the re­gion as a whole.

The re­port warns that while the At­lantic mu­sic scene is rich and im­por­tant – it’s also frag­ile.

A key rec­om­men­da­tion is de­vel­op­ment of an At­lantic Cana­dian Mu­sic Fund to pro­vide re­sources to com­ple­ment ex­ist­ing pro­grams, at­tract in­vest­ment, and de­velop mu­si­cians and mu­sic. The strat­egy ar­gues that sup­port­ing the sec­tor also sup­ports small busi­nesses, opportunities to at­tract and re­tain youth em­ploy­ment and de­vel­op­ing artists.

The re­port iden­ti­fies a num­ber of chal­lenges fac­ing mu­si­cians and in­dus­try pro­fes­sion­als in At­lantic Canada, such as strin­gent liquor laws, chang­ing busi­ness mod­els, re­stric­tions on live venues and lack of in­dus­try in­fras­truc­ture. The shortage of mu­sic pub­lish­ing com­pa­nies, agents, pub­li­cists, book­ers and artist man­agers in the re­gion is de­scribed as “alarm­ing.”

A sim­i­lar mu­sic strat­egy has worked in other parts of Canada.

The in­dus­try calls the re­port an his­toric mo­ment. Let’s hope At­lantic gov­ern­ments view it the same way.

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