Toronto Music City

Mayor John Tory made headlines this week by announcing improvements to the City of Toronto’s relationship towards its music industry and musicians.

At an event held at Christie Pitts this week, Tory spoke about his plans to launch a new arts initiative aimed at cutting ‘red tape’ for Toronto’s already vibrant music community.   The initiative includes, “Arts in the Parks,” a program delivered in cooperation by the City of Toronto and Toronto Arts Foundation.  The program is designed to better allow art installations and concerts, and include performances of dance, music, theatre and film, as well as community-engaged work and temporary art installations in city parks.  Also, the free “Arts and Music in Parks” permit announced, will aim to ‘streamline’ the process for small-scale art and music events that take place on one day, and are presented by grassroots organizations, artists and musicians.  “This new permit is an example of concrete steps we are taking to turn Toronto into a music city. This was based on advice we received from musicians themselves through Toronto’s Music Advisory Council and the Great Heart Festival, who had difficulty navigating bureaucracy at City Hall,” said Mayor Tory. “I want to continue to show our commitment to the city’s arts and music communities, and this new permit underscores this.”

The launch exhibited some of Toronto’s up and coming musical talent, including performances from Quique Escamilla and Ten Kills the Pack.

Historically, Toronto has had a colourful and esteemed reputation as a breeding ground for successful musicians.  Big name artists who have either gotten their start in or used Toronto as a springboard to help grow their careers, include Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Prince, Rush and the Tragically Hip; while more modern names include Drake, The Weeknd, Walk off the Earth and July Talk.

Spawning, fostering, and producing musical talent is a skill Toronto – because of its cultural diversity – seems to have a knack for and is something Mayor Tory has keenly taken notice of.  Tory, who during his election ran on a platform of better support for Toronto’s Arts and Cultural communities has countlessly referenced Austin, Texas’ music industry as a blueprint he admires and wishes Toronto to shadow.

Austin, known for its robust music scene, internationally acclaimed artists, venues, and festivals, and well-known live music show and festival, “Austin City Limits,” has grown and produced its own big name talent, such as Willie Nelson, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Janis Joplin.  Tory who met early last year with Austin’s Mayor, Steve Adler, to embolden the two cities ‘music city alliance’- initiated during the Ford era – referenced Austin and SXSW as the world’s largest festival and music industry — something of a cross between Nuit Blanche and the wild side of New Orleans.  He also acknowledged the possibility of opening up Toronto streets to live music during festivals like ‘Canadian Music Week’ and NXNE as being beneficial to the city and its economy as a whole.

So, what do you think of the colourful direction Mayor Tory is taking our city in?