Thinking about the future of music venues? We want to hear from you!
The Reimagining Music Venues survey is part of a research project by Wavelength Music and the University of Toronto School of Cities to explore how music spaces can be made more sustainable and equitable. Complete the Reimagining Music Venues Survey and get entered into a $500 prize draw! Open to all live music arts workers, audiences, and musicians. It only takes 15 minutes and can make a huge difference!
Music venues are more than just a room with a stage. They are community centres, cultural incubators, economic drivers, and vessels for our collective memory. As demonstrated in Wavelength artistic director and project co-lead Jonny Dovercourt’s 2020 book Any Night of the Week: A D.I.Y. History of Toronto Music 1957-2001, clusters of small music venues incubate original emerging artists, becoming the leading edge of musical movements, and changing the urban fabric of the city, as seen in Yorkville in the 1960s, and Queen West in the ’80s and ’90s.
Yet music venues can also be inequitable, exclusionary, and unhealthy. Few are owned or operated by BIPOC entrepreneurs. Access to coveted performance stages is often given to privileged genres and communities. And venues’ economic dependence on alcohol sales can create an environment with negative consequences for mental health and addiction.
Live music venues in major cities such as Toronto were already facing existential threats prior to COVID-19: gentrification, rising rents, development pressures, dwindling audiences, and the urban exodus of the artists they serve. Many venues have closed their doors permanently under the pandemic. Though the vaccine rollout means an end to the crisis may be in sight, there is an opportunity for a “Great Reset” within the live music venue ecology as well.
This research project will explore new models for the organization, operation and programming of Ontario music venues, in order to make them more sustainable and equitable. These spaces may need to be re-envisioned as a public good, on a par with parks or museums– and may need to better incorporate outdoor public space. As the live music sector is large and diverse, the focus will be narrowed to discuss small (under 300 person capacity) venues that primarily support new and emerging artists in Toronto and other Ontario cities, while finding the commonalities between these spaces across a wide range of genres, communities and backgrounds. Stakeholder interviews will be held with Toronto and Ontario-based artists, venue operators, and DIY presenters, as well as with their international peers, while data analysis will examine long-term trends in elements ranging from genre programming and representation to audience behaviour and geographical distribution.
This research project will use Toronto and Ontario as case studies as targets for recommendations, but will be applicable to other regions and countries, showing that this province is a global leader in the creative industries. The result of this research will be a detailed report. Potential beneficiaries include: municipalities across the province (as well as nationally and internationally), property owners and developers, for-profit concert presenters, existing venue owners/operators, and aspiring DIY organizers and artists.
This project is supported by the University of Toronto School of Cities, Ontario Creates, FACTOR, and Canadian Heritage.
Poster design by Derek Ma