Ottawa music industry leaders optimistic about 2024

Despite the challenges of the music scene shaken by the pandemic, the Ottawa Music Industry Coalition experienced a year of growth in 2023.

Article content

When the City of Ottawa hires a nightlife commissioner, a move expected this year, that person would be wise to spend more time with the self-described “weirdos” of the Ottawa Music Industry Coalition than with the bureaucrats from the mayor’s office.

The city’s goal is to support activity on the local scene in a way that drives economic impact, and OMIC, a nonprofit industry organization with hundreds of members, has been in the trenches of that activity for nearly a decade.

Advertisement 2

Article content

Article content

In an interview with Ottawa Music Industry Coalition (OMIC) Executive Director Melanie Brulée and Susan Odle, the coalition’s new board chair, the two women, who are also singer-songwriters, shared their points of view. view on the state of Ottawa music. industry, the challenges of the ongoing post-pandemic recovery, and a forecast for the future, including ways a nightlife commissioner can help.

Launched in 2015, the OMIC was created after Megaphono, the Ottawa music conference now on indefinite hiatus, published a report on the local industry, recommending the formation of an “industry-led” body.

The report also suggested the creation of a municipal music strategy, which emerged in 2018, and the appointment of a “dedicated contact person” in the municipal government, which is the intended position of nightlife commissioner.

Other cities have similar positions within their municipal governments, Brulée noted, but the difference in Ottawa is that the OMIC was established before the nightlife commissioner role and, because it is member-driven, reflects the needs of the community.

Advertisement 3

Article content

“In Ottawa, the task of bringing the community together is less top-down and more bottom-up,” Brulée said. “We’re not going to create a scene, we just need to see it, support it and put energy in its direction.”


Despite the challenges of the music industry shaken by the pandemic, OMIC experienced a year of growth in 2023. Membership grew to more than 400, representing artists, venue owners, promoters, technicians, festival operators and more, while an increase in corporate sponsorship supported initiatives. such as the City Sounds summer series, which booked local artists to perform free outdoor concerts throughout the city, and Songs from the Shed, a twice-weekly daytime concert series on Sparks Street.

In total, OMIC paid a record $125,000 in artist fees, Brulée said, plus another $70,000 to event-related service providers such as photographers, sound engineers and graphic designers. There were networking events, town halls, mentoring opportunities and professional development workshops.

“The domino effect is real,” Brulée said. “We’ve been able to pay people fairly for the shows we run, which is really important because there are a lot of opportunities in the music industry that don’t pay well, and we don’t want to crush that. Grassroots things still need to happen.

Advertisement 4

Article content

“But if we can have well-paying shows, artists are more likely to be able to play other things. All activity matters.”

A highlight of 2023 was the fourth annual Capital Music Awards, where the Angelique Francis Band was declared Ottawa Group of the Year during a sold-out event at the Bronson Center Music Theatre. More people showed up, including the mayor, more awards were given out, more artists performed, and it was all recorded for broadcast on RogersTV.

“That was a beautiful thing that brought together multiple communities of beautiful weirdos who wouldn’t necessarily know how to access each other if it weren’t for networking events like that,” Brulée said. “That’s how you get real, creative ideas.”


Post-pandemic challenges are similar across the live music sector: show attendance is difficult to predict, especially as new COVID variants emerge. Touring and promotional costs continue to rise. Many skilled technicians landed 9-to-5 jobs during the pandemic and never returned to the gig economy, leading to a behind-the-scenes workforce shortage.

Advertisement 5

Article content

Ottawa’s scene is grappling with all of those factors, plus the reality that most live music activity is centered in the city center, but with the population dispersed over a wide geographic region, public transportation Reliable is essential.

Personal safety is another concern that could prevent someone from going out to see a show, especially if they are heading to the ByWard Market area, where some business owners have seen an increase in crime.

For artists, their development also has a limit in Ottawa, Odle observes. “We are seen as an agricultural city for the creative arts,” she said. “We develop a lot of talent and we watch it go.”

One solution to that dilemma is to expand the infrastructure around live music by encouraging managers, agents, publicists and other entertainment professionals to set up shop in the country’s capital.

“We want to build in a way that is sustainable to keep people from leaving in the first place, and then hopefully attract talent and generate buzz,” Brulée added.


Looking ahead, Odle and Brulée are optimistic. For starters, the city’s OMIC funding was not only renewed without much pressure, but also increased to $200,000 a year for a term that extended through 2026.

Advertisement 6

Article content

At the same time, the board has some well-connected new faces representing a wide range of industries, from Calian Group CEO Kevin Ford to lawyer and jazz singer Antoine L. Collins. Odle doesn’t lack business intelligence either. As an author and tech entrepreneur, she believes the business community can have a huge impact in advancing the music industry.

“One of the ideas we talk about a lot is the concept of integrating music into the fabric of the city,” Odle said. “It helps us think about every step we take and foster the right connections in the local business community and different arts communities.”

OMIC plans to continue seeking feedback from members, hosting events to gather it, and collecting data to measure the economic impact of live music. A membership option for fans is also in the works that could help develop audiences.

What’s more, they’re looking forward to making a connection with someone at City Hall who doesn’t have their hands full with anything else.

“It’s not going to be an easy solution, but it’s good that there’s a human being pushing and consulting with the community,” Brulée said. “If we want to have a thriving nightlife economy, I think that person is going to have a lot to do with traffic, and I see them looking at safety in communities.”

Advertisement 7

Article content

Odle adds: “I really think the exciting thing about the road ahead of us is that the lid is off. It’s about transparency. We are on the ground floor and this is only going to get better. “We should all be optimistic about the future of music in 2024 for the city of Ottawa.”

[email protected]

Do you want to stay up to date with what’s happening in Ottawa? Sign up for Ottawa Citizen’s arts and life newsletter: Ottawa, Out of Office, our weekly guide to eating, listening, reading, watching, playing, hanging out, learning and living well in the capital.

Recommended by Editorial

Article content

Leave a Comment