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OVG and Loft Entertainment acquire Canadian Music Week

Oak View Group (OVG) and Loft Entertainment have announced the joint acquisition of Canadian Music Week (CMW), Canada’s leading industry conference and music festival founded in 1983.

CMW, which runs this week (1-8 June) in Toronto, is led by founder and president Neill Dixon, who yesterday (3 June) announced his retirement from the organisation after 42 years.

Following the acquisition, OVG and Loft say they plan to “expand programming, enhance venues and offer unique engagement opportunities for artists and fans” so that CMW remains a “cornerstone event in the global music industry.”

At the same time, both firms are “committed to preserving the festival’s heritage while introducing fresh, dynamic elements that reflect the evolving music landscape.”

Canadian Music Week will continue to be headquartered in Toronto, with dates and details for the 2025 festival forthcoming.

OVG, the Los Angeles-based venue development, management and hospitality company led by Tim Leiweke, made its first foray into Canada in 2021 with the Hamilton Arena Project, which recently broke ground.

The firm says it is “deeply committed to investing in Canada [and] has been active in the market for over two years, forming strategic partnerships with prominent brands, including Canada Basketball, Great Canadian Gaming, McCain, GFL, Sports Interaction, ADP, and Diageo”.

“Neil’s vision has set a high standard that we are eager to uphold and expand upon”

Tom Pistore, president of OVG, said: “Oak View Group is delighted to expand our investment in the Canadian market and partner with Loft Entertainment in acquiring Canadian Music Week. This acquisition, along with our Hamilton Arena Project (which recently broke ground), aligns perfectly with our mission to elevate live entertainment experiences across the globe. We look forward to leveraging our expertise in venue management and conferences to take CMW to new heights. Together, we aim to deliver an unforgettable experience that celebrates the vibrant music culture of Canada and beyond.”

Loft Entertainment is a Canadian entertainment company helmed by industry veteran Randy Lennox, who formerly ran Universal Music Group Canada and Bell Media.

Commenting on the CMW acquisition, Lennox adds: “We are incredibly proud to bring Canadian Music Week into the Loft Entertainment Media family in partnership with Oak View Group,” he stated. “CMW has a rich history of championing music and artists, and we are committed to building on that legacy. Our vision is to enhance the festival experience, creating new opportunities for artists and attendees alike, while maintaining the core values that have made CMW a beloved event.

“As Neill Dixon steps into a well-deserved retirement, we honour his remarkable dedication to making CMW the influential event it is today. His vision has set a high standard that we are eager to uphold and expand upon.”

CMW was launched in 1983 by David Farrell and his wife Patricia Dunn-Farrell–then co-publishers of the weekly Canadian music trade, The Record. It began as The Record Music Industry Conference and was modelled on competitor RPM Weekly’s “Three Days in March” conferences in the late ‘60s and ‘70s.

Dixon’s marketing company Chart Toppers was initially hired in 1983 to book speakers, and organise panels for the annual event. Over the next few years, the convention morphed into Canadian Music Week, and Dixon became a co-partner a couple of years after it began

This year’s CMW is expected to draw some 3,000 delegates and host over 300 performing artists at 25 venues.


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Canadian Live Music Association appoints new board

The Canadian Live Music Association (CLMA) announced a new board of directors at its fifth annual general meeting on Thursday 10 October.

The association, headed up by CEO Erin Benjamin, shared the year’s achievements, including its retirement of the former Music Canada Live brand and relaunch as the CLMA.

“Our new name and brand clearly reflect who we are and will strengthen our ability to advocate on behalf of our sector, our amazing members and deepen relationships with our many valued partners,” commented board chair Jesse Kumagai at the meeting.

The newly elected 2019-2020 board members are Sam Baijal, artistic director of Ontario’s Hillside Festival; Kerry Clarke, artistic director of Calgary Folk Music Festival; Tao-Ming Lau, founder of Blue Crane agency; entertainment lawyer Miro Oballa; and Katy Venneri, director of the Juno Awards.

“Our new name and brand clearly reflect who we are”

The CLMA thanked outgoing founding board members Jean Wilkinson (APA), Neill Dixon (Canadian Music Week), Tom Kemp (Feldman Agency) and Michael Hollett (NXNE) for their contributions.

Over the year, the CLMA engaged in issues including secondary ticketing, safety and security at live events, harassment and bullying in the workplace, artists’ career development and the future of grassroots music venues.

In March, the Canada Arts Presentation Fund received a CAN$16 million boost in funding from the federal government, in a move lauded by the CLMA.


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O Canada: market report

Canada’s economy has led G7 nations in growth in 2017, and that momentum seems to have carried over to the live music industry to a large degree.

“It’s robust,” says Jim Cressman, president of Pentiction, British Columbia-based Invictus Entertainment Group, which books and promotes 500-700 concerts per year at multiple venues. “The right artist at the right price almost always does predictable business.”

Though no national study has yet been done on the live music industry, an economic impact analysis of the business in Ontario – Canada’s most populous province and home to the music hub of Toronto – illustrated how important it is. The Live Music Measures Up study showed that the industry was responsible for 20,000 full-time equivalent jobs in 2013 and that spending by live music companies and the tourism activity generated by music festivals together contributed just under C$1.2billion (€0.8bn) to Ontario’s gross domestic product.

Those numbers have likely increased, and can be extrapolated across the country, according to Erin Benjamin, executive director of Music Canada Live, which was created in the fall of 2014 to advance and promote the live music industry’s many economic, social and cultural benefits.

The concert industry received an extra boost in 2017 due to Canada’s sesquicentennial, as communities across the country often included live music in their celebrations of the nation’s 150th birthday.

While the Canadian recording industry has benefited from national sources of funding – including the Canada Music Fund, the Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent on Recordings (FACTOR), Radio Starmaker Fund, VideoFACT, PromoFACT and the SOCAN Foundation – and broadcasters being legally obliged to play a minimum amount of Canadian content, the federal, provincial and municipal levels of government also provide grants for events and festivals where live music is a major component.

“That support really makes the Canadian music business the envy of the world, quite frankly,” says Jack Ross, who heads the newly opened Canadian office of the Los Angeles-based APA talent agency along with Ralph James.

The concert industry received an extra boost in 2017 due to Canada’s sesquicentennia

But that’s not stopping Music Canada Live and its more than 125 members – including concert promoters, festivals, presenters, venues, agents, ticketing companies, industry associations and suppliers – from advocating for policy advancement and increased funding, public awareness and research.

“Live music hasn’t effectively told its story with a united voice, and it’s my job to do that,” says Benjamin. “When we’re truly united by this association, whether it’s with me or ten executive directors from now, we will be the most powerful piece of Canada’s music industry because of the connection between artists and fans.”

Shawn Sakamoto, vice-president of Lethbridge, Alberta-based live event production and management company Sakamoto Entertainment, would like to see Canadian content regulations introduced to the domestic live music sector, which he believes has suffered due to “monopolisation of the touring market by entities such as Live Nation” and other multinational companies. He advocates Canadian artists being added to national tours by international performers in order to give them further exposure.

Confidence in Canada from American companies was shown this summer when, after LA-based United Talent Agency closed its Canadian office, APA and LA-based Paradigm Talent Agency both opened up shop in Toronto. They join the Feldman Agency and Paquin Artists Agency as Canada’s largest, while several smaller domestic agencies are also active.

“That competition is going to be a good thing for Canadian artists, and it will be a good thing for the music industry overall,” says Ross.


Continue reading this feature in the digital edition of IQ 74:

CWM 2016: Review and Live Music Awards winners

Over 2,900 delegates and 120,000 music fans from 30 countries attended the latest Canadian Music Week (CMW), which wrapped its 34th edition on Sunday.

This festival component of this year’s event featured 833 artists performing in over 40 venues across Toronto, while a total of 499 guests spoke at the conference, at the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel. CMW 2016 also saw the debuts of both the Music Cities Summit and the Live Music Industry Awards, the latter of which recognised the achievements of music festivals, live music venues, artist agencies and music programmes, both Canadian and international, and included a special ‘Legends of Live’ award, presented to Toronto country-rock band Blue Rodeo.

This year’s country focus was on the United Kingdom (with a “special focus” on the Republic of Ireland), with British artists participating including Holly Macve, Nina, Throwing Shade and Tusk. France will be the focus country in 2017.

Other high-profile performers included Tori Kelly, Skepta, Eagles of Death Metal, Bob Mould and Collective Soul.

Elsewhere, the International Festival Network (IFN) gave attendees the chance to meet face to face with some of the world’s leading festival coordinators, promoters and talent buyers. More than 40 festival representatives from across the globe travelled to he IFN, including Glastonbury and The Great Escape co-founder and creative director Martin Elbourne, Folk Alliance International executive director Aengus Finnan and Festival International de Jazz de Montreal’s Maurin Auxemery.

A full list of Live Music Industry Awards winners is below:

International festival of the year
Glastonbury Festival

New kid on the block (best new festival)
Wayhome Music and Arts Festival (Oro Medonte, Ontario)

Family programme of the year
Winnipeg Folk Festival (Winnipeg)

Small festival of the year (6,000 and under)
Interstellar Rodeo (Alberta and Manitoba)

Medium festival of the year (6,001–15,000)
Field Trip Music and Arts Festival (Toronto)

Major festival of the year
Osheaga Music and Arts Festival (Quebec)

Not-for-profit festival of the year
Festival d’été de Québec (Quebec)

Green operations festival of the year
Hillside Festival (Guelph, Ontario)

Best teamwork in an arena
Air Canada Centre (Toronto)

Best teamwork in a soft-seat theatre/performing arts centre
Massey Hall (Toronto)

Best teamwork in a major club (1,000+ capacity)
Commodore Ballroom (Vancouver)

Best teamwork in a medium club (300–999 capacity)
Mod Club (Toronto)

Best teamwork in a small club (under 300 capacity)
The Drake Underground (Toronto)

Agent of the year (Canada)
Rob Zifarelli, United Talent Agency

Manager of the year
Joel Carriere, Bedlam Music Management

Road warrior of the year (best tour manager)
Louisa Key (The Tragically Hip and more)

Production manager of the year (festival/concert)
Vanessa Arscott (Plan V/Wayhome and more)

Canadian independent regional promoter of the year 
Collective Concerts (Toronto)

Canadian festival buyer of the year
Erik Hoffman, Live Nation (Vancouver)

AV production company of the year 
Christie Lites

Brand/music programme of the year
Red Bull Sound Select

Breakthrough touring artist of the year
Alessia Cara

Music city of the year (international)
Austin, Texas

Music city of the year (Canadian)

Legends of Live
Blue Rodeo

International agent of the year
Neil Warnock, United Talent Agency

Licensed to Play award
Harbourfront Centre