Lounge owner pushes for Victoria to hire music advocate

Lounge owner pushes for Victoria to hire music advocate

On the heels of the City of Vancouver's announcement that it will be hiring a music advocate, a Victoria venue owner is encouraging local government to take similar actions to save the city's music scene.

Renee Crawford, owner of the Copper Owl music lounge, fears that Victoria's rising cost of living is driving local musicians away, while its isolation on Vancouver Island is discouraging musicians on the mainland from making the trip across the Strait of Georgia.

"We need to keep the musical climate diverse and that ecosystem on the cutting edge of what's happening in Canada and the United States," Crawford said to Jason D'Souza, host of All Points West.

One way she proposes to achieve that is to create a position within the city that is responsible for evaluating the current musical ecosystem and addressing its challenges.

Crawford says Victoria is facing a lot of the same challenges as Vancouver, such as affordability and a lack of reasonably priced rehearsal and performance space.

She said it's easier to book a musician with a big following who can fill a 600-seat venue, but it's the smaller, emerging artists who suffer. She adds that either the venue or the artists often have to pay out-of-pocket for the travel fares — money they rarely make back.

"I think that we're going to lose more musicians. As costs rise across the board, we'll start to see different venues closing," said Crawford.

"What is at risk is losing a really vibrant music scene."

Victoria's agenda includes the music scene

Last December, Victoria city council approved Create Victoria, an arts and culture master plan that includes a look at the local music industry. They intend to develop a regional music advisory board responsible for looking at the region as a whole and identifying its challenges. From there, the city plans to create a music strategy specific to Victoria.

"An outcome from that strategy could be a music officer in the city of Victoria … or for the island," said Darb Erickson, Victoria's arts, culture and events liaison. 

He said many of the artists who have fled Victoria due to the affordability crisis have landed in Montreal, where they have formed their own little community. 

"If we want to continue to have a vibrant scene and to really support people who are doing creative things, they need to be able to live here," said Erickson.

"It's important that we keep our artists here."

Erickson said the musical advisory board will be created by the end of 2018.

Read more from CBC British Columbia