How to pro­tect live venues

If the problems have been iden­ti­fied, next should be con­crete ac­tion


As we look ahead to the is­sues that will shape the mu­sic scene this year, the question of how the city will ad­dress the venue crisis has still gone unan­swered. That’s con­cern­ing be­cause we’re still los­ing small venues. Not even half­way through Jan­uary, D-Beat­stro has an­nounced it’s shut­ting down, while the once-promis­ing Less Bar sits with a “for sale” sign, wait­ing for some­one to take over the busi­ness.

The Toronto Mu­sic Ad­vi­sory Coun­cil spent 2017 dis­cussing the is­sue. Mem­bers tabled a lot of ideas and even rec­om­mended some poli­cies to city coun­cil. But progress has been slow. That’s been a fo­cal point for crit­ics of TMAC, and to­ward the end of 2017, it also ap­peared to be a point of con­tention within the or­ga­ni­za­tion it­self. TMAC ul­ti­mately re­struc­tured into three work­ing groups: one will ad­dress the venue is­sue head on, while the oth­ers will fo­cus on com­mu­nity out­reach and ex­plor­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for ex­ter­nal part­ner­ships.

At TMAC’s De­cem­ber 4th meet­ing, all three work­ing groups pre­sented their agreed-upon pri­or­i­ties and got an update from city staff re­gard­ing on­go­ing is­sues like the noise by­law and the Agent Of Change prin­ci­ple. If the tan­gled web of poli­cies, by­laws, com­mit­tees and sub­com­mit­tees sounds overly com­pli­cated, here’s an ex­plainer on where the is­sue stands and where it might go this year.


Noise has al­ways been a fac­tor in venue sur­vival. The noise by­law has been un­der re­view by Mu­nic­i­pal Li­cens­ing and Stan­dards since March of 2015, and staff pre­sented pro­posed changes to TMAC at the De­cem­ber 4 meet­ing. (The noise file was al­ready an im­por­tant part of TMAC’s 2016 mu­sic strat­egy.) The most sub­stan­tive of those changes would see noise com­plaints to the city mea­sured from the point of com­plaint rather than the source of the sound. Also pro­posed are clearly de­fined noise thresh­olds where pre­vi­ously there were none (thresh­olds for mea­sured sound vary de­pend­ing on the time of day), which take into ac­count a neigh­bour­hood’s “am­bi­ent sound.


We pre­vi­ously re­ported on TMAC’s en­dorse­ment of the Agent Of Change prin­ci­ple and how its adop­tion would be a huge step to­ward pro­tect­ing live mu­sic venues. The city seems on board with this ini­tia­tive and will present rec­om­men­da­tions to city coun­cil in the sum­mer. Es­sen­tially, when­ever an ap­pli­ca­tion for a new de­vel­op­ment is re­ceived, the city plan­ner will in­form the de­vel­oper of any venues within 120 me­tres of it. The city’s Mu­sic Of­fice will then have an op­por­tu­nity to com­ment on the ap­pli­ca­tion. The new noise by­law rec­om­men­da­tions will work in tan­dem with the Agent Of Change policy so that de­vel­op­ers of new prop­er­ties within that 120-me­tre ra­dius will be re­spon­si­ble for in­cor­po­rat­ing noise at­ten­u­a­tion mea­sures into the fi­nal de­sign.


Back in Novem­ber the city qui­etly an­nounced its sup­port of a new wa­ter­front mu­sic hub via a $200,000 award to The Remix Project for its new lo­ca­tion at the Daniels Wa­ter­front City of the Arts de­vel­op­ment un­der­way at 162 Queens Quay East. TMAC and Toronto in gen­eral have a long and sto­ried history of try­ing to cre­ate a mu­sic hub, but thanks in part to Mu­sic Of­fi­cer Mike Tanner’s lead­er­ship, the idea of in­vest­ing in al­ready ex­ist­ing mu­sic spa­ces and com­mu­ni­ties rather than build­ing some­thing new from scratch seems to be gain­ing ground. In 2018, ex­pect to see the city in­vest­ing in more hubs like the Remix Project.


The Com­mu­nity Out­reach work­ing group’s main fo­cus is taking over the so­cial me­dia ac­counts started by former TMAC co-chair An­dreas Kalo­gian­nides to com­mu­ni­cate what’s go­ing on at TMAC and what’s been ac­com­plished thus far. Fos­ter­ing bet­ter com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween TMAC, the city and the mu­sic com­mu­nity is the goal.


The City Part­ner­ship work­ing group has out­lined four out­comes for 2018: Cre­ate more op­por­tu­ni­ties for Toronto mu­si­cians out­side the GTA, at­tract more peo­ple to Toronto for mu­sic, at­tract more peo­ple to cre­ate, and iden­tify best prac­tices from other cities. The lat­ter means TMAC will be re­view­ing its part­ner­ship with Austin; there’s still no con­crete sense of what that part­ner­ship does or how it can help us. Non­profit org the Re­spon­si­ble Hos­pi­tal­ity In­sti­tute has also in­vited Toronto to take part in an in­ter­na­tional study of night­time econ­omy man­age­ment.


At the De­cem­ber meet­ing, Jeff Co­hen of Col­lec­tive Con­certs (and co-owner of the Horse­shoe) pre­sented the Venue Pro­tec­tion work­ing group’s list of ac­tion points for 2018. They mostly re­hash pri­or­i­ties TMAC has al­ready iden­ti­fied (cre­at­ing venue load­ing zones, mu­sic venue cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, fi­nan­cial sup­port for a Mu­sic Canada Live study), and of­fer few ac­tion­able steps.

The ac­tion points ap­par­ently came out of con­sul­ta­tions with the mu­sic in­dus­try and from a re­cent open in­dus­try fo­rum held at Lula Lounge. That fo­rum pur­posely ex­cluded dis­cus­sion of DIY venues, which or­ga­niz­ers Co­hen and Jesse Ku­ma­gai said are an is­sue unto them­selves. Though the work­ing group promised to hold a DIY-spe­cific one, the fact that the group crafted its ac­tion points with­out con­sul­ta­tion from that com­mu­nity seems to sug­gest that such con­cerns are a low pri­or­ity in the year ahead.


One for op­ti­mism: the venue pro­tec­tion and sus­tain­abil­ity work­ing group is work­ing closely with the city’s plan­ning depart­ment and the TOCore project (cur­rently work­ing to en­sure cul­tural spa­ces and mu­sic venues are rec­og­nized and con­sid­ered in city plan­ning). That hope­fully means TMAC will be more in­volved in shap­ing policy. That’s nec­es­sary to speed things up and cre­ate con­crete re­sults.

As well, ac­cord­ing to Coun­cil­lor Michael Thomp­son, who was in at­ten­dance at the last bud­get, TMAC will hope­fully have fi­nan­cial re­sources al­lo­cated to it in the next bud­get. And that means they’ll be able to put their money where their mouth is. mu­sic@now­ | @there­was­nosound

The Cadil­lac Lounge is “wind­ing down” as owner Sam Grosso looks for a buyer.

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