City re-ups for $25K fund to boost local music industry

Ottawa Bluesfest
Bluesfest is one of many popular live music events in Ottawa that normally attract thousands of spectators each year. File photo

With live shows silenced due to the pandemic, local musicians now have access to more emergency funding.

The Ottawa Music Industry Coalition announced Thursday that the City of Ottawa has invested $25,000 in the latest edition of a fund for local artists called the Ottawa Music Development Fund. The money will go to musicians whose livelihoods have been upended by the COVID-19 crisis.

"The OMDF has provided the opportunity to show how our musicians each contribute to elevating Ottawa’s music scene as a whole,” said Jamie Kwong, executive director of The Ottawa Music Industry Coalition.

The fund will offer grants ranging from $250 to $3,000. The program aims to help musicians cover everyday expenses as well as stage live-streamed and pre-recorded concerts online and work together on projects.

“We’re proud of our continued support of local musicians through the Ottawa Music Strategy and the Ottawa Music Development Fund,” Mayor Jim Watson said in a statement. 

“COVID-19 has challenged our artists, and we hope these grants can strengthen our local industry and bring live local music back to our residents.”

Non-profit organization

The fund was originally launched in 2019 as part of a three-year, $300,000 “music strategy” endorsed by city council. The plan is designed to cut red tape and fund advocacy groups in an effort to better promote local artists and the businesses that cater to them.

Formed in 2015, OMIC is a non-profit organization that works with the city to promote the local music industry and run programs and seminars to help musicians and music-related businesses boost their skills in everything from accounting to booking shows.

While live venues are currently closed as part of a provincial stay-at-home order imposed to help curb the spread of the coronavirus, the industry is normally a significant contributor to the local economy.

According to a draft report prepared by research firm Nordicity last year, the industry employed the equivalent of 3,600 full-time workers in the National Capital Region in 2019 and generated more than $115 million in economic activity. 

The study estimates that in a typical year, Ottawa residents shell out nearly $140 million on tickets to live performances and spend an additional $90 million on merchandise such as T-shirts at live events.