Sunday April 09, 2017

If you want to keep the local music scene alive, start shows earlier

Juno award-winning Toronto band The Strumbellas are one of many acts that have played the cozy stage at the iconic Railway Club in downtown Vancouver.

Juno award-winning Toronto band The Strumbellas are one of many acts that have played the cozy stage at the iconic Railway Club in downtown Vancouver. (Steven Luscher/Flickr)

Listen 4:02

In cities across Canada, local live music venues are struggling and in some cases closing.   

Toronto is considering a proposal to extend the hours of liquor licensing as a possible solution, but Mar Sellars argues moving concerts to earlier time slots might have a bigger impact. 

The other week I had a +1 on the guest list for a show featuring Dude York from Seattle and Paws from Glasgow. The set times were listed as 11:30pm and 12:30am on a Wednesday night. Let me be clear. I was offering a free ticket, but I couldn't find anyone to go with me. I even asked a 25 year old friend who works at VICE and she politely declined. She said it was too late for her. If it's too late for a 25-year-old working in music media, no wonder music venues are struggling in cities like Toronto and Vancouver. - Mar Sellars

Sellars, who has been playing in bands and promoting or attending shows for almost two decades, says when she goes to see a band during the week she knows she's noticed they're rarely at capacity.

"Most Canadians go out on the weekends because most people in Canada work Monday to Friday," she says adding that if you go back to the same venues on a Friday or Saturday night, they're much busier.

In Sellars' view, that business model isn't sustainable.

With rising rent costs, music venues and bars need audiences and patrons seven nights a week, not just on the weekend nights. - Mar Sellars
Mar Sellars

Toronto's Mar Sellars thinks earlier concert times would improve attendance to small live music venues and help stave off the trend of closures. (provided)

Instead, she suggests venues in Canada should take a cue from those in Japan or the UK, who have created a live music culture that still allows people to get to bed by 11pm and work the next day.

And she argues there's the added benefit of attracting a more diverse audience too.

"Commuters could catch their last train home, students with early morning classes wouldn't be falling asleep at their desks, and parents could pay for babysitters."

To Sellars, it shouldn't be too difficult of a shift given most major sporting events, live theatre, and arena concerts typically start at earlier times.

No one should have to be exhausted to enjoy live music - Mar Sellars