Mayor John Tory unveils plans to bolster Toronto's music scene

Mayor John Tory unveils plans to bolster Toronto's music scene

Mayor John Tory said he wants city hall to play a bigger role in Toronto's music scene in his opening remarks at the Canadian Music Week's Music Cities Summit Friday morning, and said among other things the city is planning a week in February that would do for music what Winterlicious does for restaurants.

While citing big-name artists like Drake, Alessia Cara and Shawn Mendes as some of Toronto's success stories, the mayor acknowledged that the closure of several live music venues has caused concerns in Toronto's music community.

"We're at our height of music success but the Toronto area has always been a place where artists and musicians have had global reach," Tory told the summit. "I know some in this audience may be skeptical of my positivity as live music venues are closing, but venues are opening too."

Tory cited last year's opening of Baby G on Dundas Street West, the reopening of The Hideout at College Street and Bathurst Street, as well as the recent revamps of The Great Hall, Massey Hall and the El Mocambo, as signs that the city's live music scene still has a pulse.

"I'm optimistic that over the next 12 months, we're going to see wins for the industry on live music venues," Tory said. "Nobody in the world has the diversity that we do on our music elite list. We also have more live shows happening on any given day in Toronto than almost any other city in North America."

Rising rents a concern

Toronto music venues, however, have expressed concerns that despite the support of the local government, rising rents still remain a major obstacle in staying in business.

"People are getting kicked out of everywhere, because condo developers are buying up everything. Nothing is affordable," Justin Oliver, a former owner of the now shuttered Holy Oak, told CBC Toronto.

"Rent control exists for residential people, but for a business, if the landlord wants to raise the rent by $300,000 or $1 million, once the contract is done they can do whatever they want."

Coun. Josh Colle, the chair of the Toronto Music Advisory Council, who was also with Tory when he delivered his opening statements to the summit, previously told CBC Toronto that the city is looking at financial incentives and changes in the regulatory framework to make it easier for music venues to operate.

More city music events

Tory didn't go into details on how the financial concerns of the venues would be addressed in his statement, but said there will be more city-led music events, a February music week in the vein of Winterlicious — an annual culinary festival involving Toronto restaurants that the city helps to organize and promote. 

Tory also said music will now play a bigger part in the city's planning process.

"The creativity, the joy, the talent that music brings to a big city lies at the heart of what makes Toronto dynamic and innovative," Tory said. "I am absolutely committed to the music industry and playing the part city hall is meant to play."

The mayor also said in the past two years city hall has made changes to build connections to the city's music industry, such as amending postering bylaws so venues aren't fined for posters they didn't put up, using local artists for 311's hold music and adding a new music-in-the-parks permit category.

"We're still facing some issues, issues that are all a result of a successful city," he said. "We need to work at it year after year to make sure Toronto's music scene remains one of the best in the world."