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Toronto lawmakers to debate venue protection

Inspired by London, Austin and San Francisco, councillors Josh Colle and John Filion are seeking to both protect existing music venues and make it easier to open new ones

By Jon Chapple on 04 Nov 2016

Toronto skyline

Toronto's skyline, as seen from the harbour

Taking inspiration from Music Venue Trust in the UK, which in March secured government support for the protection of British music venues, two Toronto city councillors have launched a campaign to protect their city’s venues and streamline the procedure for the opening of new ones.

In a new motion, dubbed Protecting Live Music Venues in Toronto, councillors Josh Colle and John Filion ask Toronto City Council’s general manager for economic development and culture, chief planner and executive director of city planning to:

  • Develop a coordinated strategy to preserve existing live music venues in the city of Toronto
  • Designate senior staff members in the city planning, municipal licensing and standards and Toronto building divisions to act as liaisons with the city’s film and entertainment industries staff to provide advice to individuals or organisations wishing to establish music venues
  • Examine changes to regulatory frameworks to encourage the establishment of both traditional and temporary (pop-up) new live music venues in Toronto; such examination to include whether such venues could be included in employment land use categories
  • Review strategies which have been successfully used in other jurisdictions, including financial incentives, to support live music venues
  • Create an inventory of live music venues currently operating in the city of Toronto
  • Consult with the Toronto Music Advisory Council and other industry stakeholders on [the] above

“Being home to countless live music venues and music festivals, the city of Toronto is North America’s third largest and Canada’s largest music market, having an estimated economic impact of at minimum $700 million per year,” Cllrs Colle and Filion write. “However, the City of Toronto’s rapid gentrification and redevelopment could negatively impact its live music industry.

“Toronto should follow the lead of cities like London, Austin and San Francisco by taking proactive steps to protect its existing live music venues”

“Between 2007 and 2015, the city of London, United Kingdom, lost 35% of its live music venues. This tremendous decrease is believed to be the result of a number of issues, mostly relating to development, gentrification and rising property taxes, caus[ing] live music venues to close their doors either because they could not afford their increased rent or because their properties were sold to developers. Those venues that were able to survive this redevelopment were then crushed by stricter licensing standards enacted because of complaints made by people living in newly built residential areas near their properties.

“All of these development-related factors contributed to the closure of many of London’s iconic music venues, thus impacting the city’s grassroots music scene and, ultimately, the United Kingdom’s booming music industry. In light of these issues, London established the mayor’s Music Venues Task Force, which aims to halt the decline of live music venues in London, both by setting forth a rescue package to protect existing venues and by promoting the creation of new venues.

“Cities around the world – including London, Melbourne, San Francisco […] and Austin, [Texas] – have explored the use of tax incentives, heritage designations, zoning changes, noise mitigation measures, reducing red tape and many other strategies to preserve and encourage robust live music scenes.

“In light of these pressures on its live music scene, the city of Toronto should follow the lead of cities like London, Austin and San Francisco by taking proactive steps to protect its existing live music venues and encourage the establishment of new venues.”

The motion will be considered by Toronto City Council next Tuesday (8 November).

Ontario, the province of which Toronto is the capital, was hailed as a “live music powerhouse” by Music Canada in January, with revenue from live music topping $628 million in 2013–14.


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