British Columbia

Victoria's new music strategy aims to make B.C.'s capital a world-class music city

The COVID-19 pandemic, the rising cost of living and evolution of the way we access music and the arts has put a strain on local artists, but a new music strategy aims to help.

More mid-sized venues, infrastructure to support late-night events, music hubs all suggested in plan

More mid-sized venues are one of the recommendations in the Victoria Music Strategy report. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

B.C.'s capital city has developed a 'music strategy' to help foster the local music scene and ultimately help Victoria become a world-class music destination. 

The COVID-19 pandemic, the rising cost of living and evolution of the way we access music and the arts has put a strain on local artists, in particular, musician Oliver Swain said, young artists in the early part of their careers.

"It's just hard to make ends meet," Swain told On the Island host Gregor Craigie.

"What we're seeing is a lot of [musicians] draining into the main centres, whether that's Vancouver or Toronto in Canada, as the industry becomes more and more competitive."

Swain and other local musicians were included in the report through surveys, open houses and roundtable discussions to find out what they believed was missing in the community. 

Research was completed by an organization that specializes in analyzing local music scenes — Sound Diplomacy — which has come up with strategies for major music cities such as London, England and New Orleans. 

The company found that  liquor licensing processes are confusing, ride-sharing and late-night dining options are few and far between and there is no centralized source of information for music events for both artists and consumers to access. Additionally, a lack of mid-sized venues is holding the city back in terms of music and entertainment events. 

It suggests using dormant or underused spaces for events, expanding late-night transit, helping musicians with grants and creating music hubs that promote Indigenous artists and other marginalized groups.

"It was complex because there are some things that the City of Victoria doesn't have jurisdiction over," said Kathryn Calder, the chair of the committee.

"We also have 13 municipalities and we're a regional area, but we experience music in different places."

Swain said he's particularly interested in the creation of some sort of music hub for the city.

"[A hub] can be everything from music studios to rehearsal spaces to even just like helping artists get together with photographers and other people who can look and build out that aspect so that when we do have places in the spaces and the festivals, we've got artists who have materials that they can use to then expand their audience," he said.

On a similar note, Calder wants to see the implementation of a music symposium.

"The symposium is an idea of how to get people together to create professional development for emerging artists so that they can become skilled in other ways other than just playing their instruments," Calder said. 

"Professional development, knowledge about entrepreneurship, all these things that go into being a professional musician or being in the industry. It's going to be great to partner up and really bring some of those things together in a cohesive way."

With files from All Points West and On the Island

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