Ottawa councillor to take notes from Montreal’s music scene

Some musicians leave Ottawa for more music- and culture-oriented cities like Montreal.

This week, an Ottawa city councillor is travelling to La Belle Province to find out why.

Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper is joining the city’s planning and arts and culture staff for a day-long trip on Thursday to figure out how Ottawa can foster more music venues.

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Montreal is more successful at hosting concerts in non-traditional locales like cafes, said Mr. Leiper. By contrast, Ottawa is “bubbling below the radar.”

“We’ve got some great festivals. The talent is amazing. We’ve got world-leading talent. We don’t seem to have as many venues as we need to showcase it all,” he said.

The trip is timely, as City of Ottawa staff will launch a new study on cultural venues and also review the noise bylaw. These two studies go hand-in-hand, according to Mr. Leiper.

“Venues tend to imply tensions with residents around noise. We’ve got this opportunity as we’re looking at both.”

The group will meet with Tourism Montreal, the city’s planning staff and visit cultural venues. Mr. Leiper plans on studying other musically inclined cities later this year.

While he said he did not win the election based on promises to boost Ottawa’s music industry, the issue has become a side project for the avid concert-goer.

He participated in a music panel at this year’s Megaphono festival and organized a separate talk on Ottawa’s music scene of the 60s, 70s and 80s. He also encouraged council to recognize the city’s music industry as an economic development priority.

Mr. Leiper’s trip follows a Kelp Music report from last year, which concludes that Ottawa has the potential to be a music city, similar to Austin, Texas, home of the famed SXSW music festival. Today, that city’s music industries generates $1.6 billion in economic output and 18,000 jobs.

The report also says Ottawa lacks in the “key types of music companies” like labels, publishers, managers and agents. But Mr. Leiper says labels will be attracted by a larger mass of audiences, venues, music journalism and artists who choose to launch their careers in Ottawa. 

This story originally appeared on on March 7.

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