What’s in a name? There might be one small change this year, but Bluesfest promises to be as good as ever


This summer, Bluesfest is celebrating its 30th anniversary and, incidentally, taking on a slightly different name at the same time.

“The problem that we have is that, after 30 years, everyone asks, ‘What’s different this year?’” festival executive director Mark Monahan told OBJ. “And on the 30th, it’s really no different.”

But those looking closely at this year’s marketing materials may have already noticed one small change. 

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For over a decade, the music festival has been advertised with a title sponsor and known as RBC Bluesfest. But this year, the festival will simply be called Ottawa Bluesfest, with an updated logo featuring the number 30 to mark its anniversary. 

According to Monahan, the change came from RBC, which decided it wanted to shake things up when the time came to sign a new agreement between the two parties. 

“In their previous agreement, (RBC) had title to the festival, but they didn’t have title to the main stage,” said Monahan. “When it came up for renewal, they re-signed for another five years and they really felt they wanted the title of the main stage instead.”

From July 4 to 14 at LeBreton Flats, when big name artists like 50 Cent, Mötley Crüe and Nickelback come to the city, they will be taking to the RBC Stage. 

For most festival-goers, it’s a minute change, said Monahan: “I think a lot of people have just referred to it as Bluesfest, to be honest with you, over the years.”

Despite the change, Monahan said Bluesfest’s relationship with RBC remains strong. 

“Their financial commitment is as great as ever,” he said. “It wasn’t a financial situation. It was more just a preference of what they wanted to have as their main visibility.”

Justin Schurman, regional vice-president of business financial services at RBC, recently congratulated the Bluesfest team on the 30th anniversary of the festival in a post on LinkedIn.

“RBC is proud to welcome so many amazing headliners to the RBC Stage this summer at Ottawa Bluesfest,” he wrote. “This builds on our 13 years of partnership with this leading live music event in the nation’s capital — one of my favourite events of the summer for sure!”

Bluesfest has expanded to cater to a variety of musical sensibilities over the years, said Monahan. 

This year’s lineup will feature a number of artists playing Ottawa for the first time, including Tyler Childers and Maroon 5. Also making an appearance will be Neil Young. 

“(He’s) the person that we’ve tried so many years to get,” said Monahan. “I don’t think he’s played Ottawa in about 15 years. He’s obviously an iconic Canadian as well as an international star, which I think will be huge for us.”

After hitting the 30-year milestone, Monahan said one goal for the festival going forward is to bring in more programming that engages local businesses and the community. 

“Part of the whole financial model is to enlist the support of sponsors and partners that will help support the festival,” he said. “This is a big thrust of ours going forward — developing ways that any business in Ottawa can participate in, whether large or small. We are really working towards developing some meaningful programs that not just the RBCs of the world can participate in, but the smaller businesses as well.”

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