An Atlantic songsheet
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 over 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.