Hot on the heels of SXSW, Canadian Music Week begins today in Toronto. Started in 1981, this industry event attracts over 900 bands from countries across the world. But what types of bands go there, and what locations are best represented? Together with Zara Matheson and Shawn Gilligan, we took a look at the geography of Canadian Music Week.
In examining the types of bands that descend on Toronto for Canadian Music Week, over 200 artists describe themselves as independent or “indie,” while another 66 artists are singer-songwriters. 406 of the 988 artists, or 41%, classify themselves as rock, compared 33 artists who identify as rap, and 52 artists who are country.
Canadian Music Week boasts a tremendously long line up of artists, where are they coming from? While it can be expected that Toronto and other Canadian cities would be well represented at this event, it is apparent that efforts are underway to make Canadian Music Week an international affair. The event itself features an International Marketplace which is described as, “a provider of key services to international delegates and as a physical space for networking with others from Canada and around the world.” The Marketplace also provides a key space for artists looking to network with industry officials.
The map below examines the North American content represented at Canadian Music Week, before going on to examine the international content of this event.
North American Artists by Metro
First, we can look at the location of artists from Canada and the United States by metropolitan area. Overwhelmingly, Toronto has the largest contingent of artists at Canadian Music Week, with a whopping 398 artists. Close behind are Montreal (55) and Vancouver (50), which is nearly double that of the New York metropolitan area (27). Close behind are Ottawa (22), London and Halifax (both with 17), Hamilton (16), and Calgary and Winnipeg (with 14 respectively). All of these Canadian metros are above the Los Angeles metro area (11) or the San Francisco metro area (6).
We can see that the largest metros in Canada (Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver) have the highest number of artists. These are areas that have developed into creative, artistic areas that provide a great environment for artists. These areas have the most music festivals and concerts, reinforcing an environment where music and creativity can flourish. We can also see that there are great spinoffs of the regional metros. There are many acts from suburban areas outside of Toronto and Vancouver, as we seem to be seeing the creation of musical and artistic CMA’s as opposed to just cities.
There are also a large number of artists coming from smaller cities in Nova Scotia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. This large number might be attributed to the increased exposure for many of these artists. This is a far distance for an artist to travel with all of their equipment, but if the area in which they live does not provide the tools to become a successful artist, the prospects of performing in front of talent agencies in a large creative city is attractive. What we also can see if that the spinoff does not seem to factor in to the smaller cities such as Winnipeg and Halifax.
One interesting finding is when looking at Halifax. Halifax has one of the largest numbers of artists performing at the festival; surpassing larger cities such as Edmonton, Hamilton, Winnipeg and Calgary. Factors to explain this could be a large amount of support for the development in cultural and musical amenities in Halifax. Other considerations could be the location of the event itself, with distance and trip costs also playing a role. As such, attending the event could be more attractive in terms of trip costs for someone from Hamilton or Winnipeg, but we can see that there are still more artists from Halifax. This once again displays the interest that artists from Halifax have in developing their craft.
We can also examine the location of artists from outside of North America. Australia (20), Spain (18) and England (17) lead the list, followed by Ireland (8), Portugal and South Korea (6 artists each). In turn, this is followed by the Netherlands (5), and then Scotland and Wales (4 artists each). The remaining countries have three or fewer artists from their country.
Interesting is the large number of artists from Australia. Countries such as Japan, Germany, England, Brazil and etc all have larger overall populations, but less artists are from those countries (attending the festival). Australia is one of the furthest countries from Toronto Canada. The travel time and costs therefore would most likely be some of the highest in the world, yet most international artists are coming from Australia. This either means that Australian artists really want to make it big, are encouraged greatly in Australia to travel and display their music or the type of music that the prevalent artists from Australia have been known to benefit from coming to the Toronto music festival.
What is a bit surprising though is where these artists are from. Many of the artists are from the same genre and from similarly developed countries. A possible explanation for this is that may be difficult for artists in developing countries to travel to this event. What is also surprising is that while the festival is diverse, the greatest ethnic groups in Toronto are not represented. There are no artists from Jamaica or other Caribbean countries, no Indian or Sri Lankan artists, no Pilipino artists, no Chinese artists, and only one African artist.
Canadian Music Week and SXSW
While it is apparent the event attracts a certain sound, Canadian Music Week also hopes to attract artists who attend SXSW. For example, events at the International Marketplace are encouraged for the opportunity to follow-up in person with contacts that were made at SXSW, with a clear emphasis placed on the value of making industry contacts in person.
Indeed, while there was a contingent of Canadian talent at SXSW, with Montreal represented with 15 bands and Toronto with 10, we also found several examples of international bands who attended both music festivals. For example, Big Scary from Melbourne, Australia, Dorian from Barcelona, Spain and Reptile Youth from Copenhagen, Denmark, attended both SXSW and Canadian Music Week. While Canadian Music Week has yet to gain the same status as SXSW, the two events may be increasingly linked, providing Canadian –and international – talent the opportunity to get their big break.