February might be the dead of winter, but in Ottawa it’s become our time to show each other and the world that our scene is not just very much alive and well but (for now) one of the best kept secrets in the world. While the size and scale of MEGAPHONO and the amped-up NAC Presents series serve as anchors, not simply drawing on our local talent pool but bringing in top acts from across the country, what we’re experiencing goes way beyond any single festival, series or venue.
Not a day goes by at the Ottawa Music Industry Coalition where we’re not given the heads up about a locally-organised music happening that involves local artists. More days than not it’s in the neighbourhood of a dozen events involving multiple local artists at a mix of established and DIY venues. Seeing this groundswell of activity is the surest sign that our musical community is growing quickly.
Plus, we know everything we’re seeing is still just a fraction of the whole. There’s a whole house concerts scene out there keeping many folk artists afloat, pop-up dance parties in Hull, and hip-hop shows in basements dotted around the city.
There is a flip-side to all this activity. With so many options, it can be difficult for artists to draw the audiences needed to make individual shows viable. But, as with growing the scene, developing new audiences is a challenge best tackled together. It means taking every opportunity to tell your friends, family, classmates and coworkers about the cool new band you saw on the weekend, playing local music loudly and with pride, and getting to the gig early enough to cheer for the openers.
If those who aren’t currently connected to the scene are going to get it, they need those of us who are to help show them the way. Otherwise, we’re asking them to go on a treasure hunt without a map. Our LOVE LOCAL MUSIC campaign and the playlists that go along with it (check lovelocalmusic.ca for details) is really just the start. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably already got a favourite local band. The next step is making sure everyone else in your life does too.