News / Ottawa

Nashville, Austin, New Orleans ... Ottawa?

A new task force will examine how Ottawa can capitalize on its music industry and try to stem the tide of talent leaving for other markets

Anishinaabe musician Brock Lewis leads visitors in a traditional round dance during National Aboriginal Day

Alex Abdelwahab/Metro

Anishinaabe musician Brock Lewis leads visitors in a traditional round dance during National Aboriginal Day

In a recent study of six comparably sized Canadian cities looking at the number of musicians, music businesses, and venues operating, Ottawa ranked last.

But a local group hopes that can be changed with the creation of the Ottawa Music Task Force.

The task force, made up of individuals from a variety of backgrounds — from musicians like Bear Witness from A Tribe Called Red to city councillors like Jeff Leiper — will examine what can be done to change the music culture in Ottawa.

“One of the things that’s really clear is that, bar none, we have some amazing talent in the city,” Leiper said. “But one of the problems is that often times they do feel they need to leave.”

The group aims to “develop a bit of a road map for where Ottawa can go as a music city,” said Andrew Vincent, executive director of the Ottawa Music Industry Council.

While Ottawa has a wealth of talent, its music scene tends to cluster around festival season and big events like Bluesfest and Cityfolk.

“What we’re looking for is a year-round music ecosystem,” Vincent said. “We’ve got a lot of the building blocks, but maybe we don’t have all of them.”

Part of the problem, noted both Vincent and Coun. Leiper, is that it is difficult to solve the more intangible problems, such as how to get people excited about a city’s culture industry.

The task force is already involved in a number of projects, including a venue study that is expected “early next year,” according to Leiper. It is also hoping to produce a number of recommendations concerned with noise bylaws, parking regulations, and permit bylaws.

In all, Vincent is optimistic that the task force will help improve Ottawa’s reputation as a hotbed of musical talent: “I think that people do get there’s great music going on.” 

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