Regional Music Spotlight: Ontario

May 23, 2015


Music Association Name: MusicOntario

Location: Toronto

What are some of your region’s musical highlights from the past year? 

It’s impossible to list them all, because there have been so many. One of the most notable highlights is the Ontario Music Fund (OMF). The fund provides $15 million per year in support, and will have the greatest impact on our artists.

The OMF, which was implemented two years ago and became a permanent source of funding in the province last week, has led to many companies, associations, and artists undertaking new initiatives.

We’ve been busy prepping for the Pan Am / Parapan Am Games, which happens July 10-26, 2015 and August 7-15, 2015. As part of the events, 38 days of live music are planned for the Ontario Celebration Zone. A huge cross-section of genres and artists from all over the province will have great opportunities to perform for international audiences.

The province also recently launched the Ontario Live Music web portal, which will strive to be a one-stop shop for exploring live music across the province—for the government to formally recognize the economic, social, and tourist importance of the live music scene is really wonderful. In turn, there has been a boom in festivals around the province, which is hugely beneficial for the local economy and artists. While the portal is only in its beta stage, it’s going to continuously be populated with new content and information that is accessible to members from anywhere with a mobile device and a WiFi connection.

Were there any challenges?

With any new programs, such as OMF, there are also growing pains, especially as companies learn how to navigate the application and reporting processes. But that’s a small consideration when you consider how many jobs will be created, how many artists will get exposure, and how many companies will grow through this crucial funding.

What are some of the accomplishments made by MusicOntario, specifically, in the past year?

MusicOntario has had some significant changes over the past year. Rick Fenton, former Executive Director at BreakOut West, was hired as the new Executive Director for MusicOntario, Emy Stantcheva came on as Marketing & Events Coordinator, and Rosalyn Dennett just joined the team as Membership Services Coordinator.

A big focus last year was researching the kinds of professional development initiatives needed in major music markets across the province. We did this by gaining feedback at a series of town hall meetings in Ottawa, London, Toronto, Hamilton, Guelph, Kingston, Kitchener/Waterloo, Peterborough, Burlington, Barrie, Windsor/Sarnia and St. Catharines and Niagara. The resulting Community Development Research Report (CDRP) outlines what resources—both educational and physical—each market and community is lacking. This is going to be the framework for upcoming programming and showcasing.

Who are some of the Ontario acts that should be on Canada’s radar?

It’s staggering how many Ontario acts are on the rise in Canada and internationally. MusicOntario is proud to have a large number of them among our members—whether it’s as an individual or through labels, management, etc.

Many Ontario-based acts took home trophies at this year’s JUNO Awards in Hamilton, such as reggae fusion band Magic!, R&B singer-songwriter The Weeknd, folk act Bahamas, and alt-rockers July Talk, among others.

Poor Young Things at CMWPoor Young Things performing at Drake Underground as part of Canadian Music Week. Credit: MusicOntario. 

MusicOntario represented well during showcases at Canadian Music Week with stellar sets by Toronto-by-way-of-Calgary outfit Secret Broadcast, and Thunder Bay’s Poor Young Things. Just last week, we were also at The Great Escape 2015 in the U.K., showcasing HIGHS, CAIRO, K.I.D., and the Arkells.

Two-piece act K.I.D. and their track “I Wish I Was Your Cigarette.”

“Come To the Light” by the Arkells, who also took home two awards at the 2015 JUNOS. 

We are constantly featuring emerging acts through our showcasing initiatives, as well as in our newsletter and on our website. This month’s featured members are rising hip hop artist Tasha the Amazon, who has been turning heads for her on and off stage antics, such as walking a live tiger through the streets of downtown Toronto; and BEAMS, a seven-piece ensemble based in Toronto that mix a healthy dose of country folk with avant garde.

One of Toronto’s rising rap stars Tasha the Amazon, and her track “Let it Go.”

What do you want the rest of Canada to know about the Ontario music scene/industry?

Ontario is often looked at as a little closed off or elitist. But the reality is that our acts, our industry and our companies represent a huge variety of artists and professionals from across Canada. It’s a very inclusive community in that respect, and offers a lot of diversity in terms of influences and styles.

What are you looking forward to in 2015?

The Country Music Association of Ontario (CMAO) will hold its 3rd Annual CMAO Awards Show on May 25, 2015, at the Flato Markham Theatre.

Among the full list of nominees, Peterborough country star Tebey leads the pack with six nominations, including Single and Album of the Year. St. Catharines native Tim Hicks follows close behind with five nominations and Jason Blaine, Runaway Angel and Small Town Pistols each come in with four nominations each.

Tebey’s “Now I Do.”

MusicOntario is excited to really branch out into communities outside of Toronto and begin to develop roots there. We know that, while many companies are based in Toronto, there are a lot of vibrant, thriving communities throughout the province. We hope to find ways to partner with some of these music communities to increase resources, awareness and education opportunities.

And, of course, there are tons of major summer music festivals, such as Toronto’s NXNE, Field Trip, and TURF, that not only showcase our artists, but also bring music lovers from across the country to visit Ontario. Other notable festivals across the province include: Ottawa Bluesfest, Hillside Festival in Guelph, Wolfe Island Music Festival in Kingston, Mariposa Folk Festival in Orillia,  Scene Music Fest in St. Catherines, Boots & Hearts in Bowmanville, Supercrawl in Hamilton, and there are so many more.

Any other Ontario industry news?

We are always sharing industry news and updates through the MusicOntario, CIMA and Music Export Canada newsletters, which are great (and free!) resources for all levels of industry professionals.


—Compiled by Emy Stantcheva, Marketing & Events Coordinator at Canadian Independent Music Association (CIMA) & MusicOntario

For all of the latest updates from MusicOntario, go to or follow them on Twitter @MusicOntario.

About the Author

Julijana Capone

Originally from Winnipeg, Julijana is NMC’s senior publicist and the managing editor of Amplify. In addition to her role at NMC, she is the founder of Light of Day Publicity, a company she formed to promote the work of emerging Canadian artists.

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