At the last meeting before Christmas, Kingston city council approved funding for the establishment of the city’s music strategy.
$200,000 in funding will be allocated from the capital budget to establish a music office and support music programming in the city for the year, with the majority of funding covering the salary of the music officer and likely one staff member.
Acting Director of Arts and Culture Services Danika Lochhead says partnership with Tourism Kingston could also potentially open up more funding avenues for music in Kingston.
The strategy hopes to improve living and working conditions for musicians and industry workers while also better leveraging Kingston’s existing music scene as a piece of the city’s tourism tapestry.
“This Music Strategy builds on the rich activity already taking place within the city’s borders; it celebrates Kingston’s past successes, addresses where there is room for improvement and cohesion, and ultimately paves a coordinated path forward towards a shared vision: for Kingston to be recognized as a hub and incubator for musician development, music careers and a strong music scene, where music is ubiquitous and can be seen and heard by all,” the strategy reads.
Establishing a music office is really step one for the city’s music strategy, it will act as a guide for the city and inform music related decisions, working alongside a community working group to build a growth strategy for the city’s music scene.
The music officer will be the main point of contact for navigating City Hall and municipal policies, and in Q1 2025, will lead a pitch to be made for further funding to support the music scene in future years.
In the little over a year since the project began, Lochhead says there was a lot of engagement and participation in the process from the community, speaking to the active interest from musicians and music workers in getting this right.
She said elements of the music strategy like a mid-sized music venue are priorities that are longer term goals, but creating more opportunities for musicians locally is something that is an immediate goal.
“Finding and creating new performance opportunities for local musicians, opportunities for professional development, networking, and sort of access to broader industry, I think are things that we need to prioritize immediately in year one,” Lochhead said.
“The mid sort of longer-term pieces are the infrastructure pieces.”
Those infrastructure pieces could be physical gaps identified like rehearsal spaces for musicians, more music-first venues, and a mid-sized venue, or less tangible like establishing consistent fair wages in the music industry.
Michael Broadhead, a local musician and representative of the Union of Professional Musicians Local 518, is encouraged by the strategy identifying pay standards as key needs, as well as increased funding and paid opportunities.
He says however it’s really still unknown how that will be achieved, and a lot of that will be dependent on who the city hires in the music office.
“A lot of the issues they outline are accurate to what I would say are issues in the community, I think what I would say is that it lacks details of how it’s going to actually hit the ground,” Broadhead said.
“A lot of it I think is incumbent upon who gets hired to do the job and who ends up in the room because there is kind of room for interpretation on a lot of things.”
Nordicity, the consulting firm that Kingston enlisted for over $80,000 to help put together the city’s strategy, said Kingston’s appointed music officer should be someone trusted by the music community and familiar with city policy, their contribution to the role will help shape Kingston’s musical priorities.
They will have a lot of say in Kingston’s choices as a music city, and Danika Lochhead says they’ll be responsible for checking in with both the city and the music community’s working group to make sure the strategy is implemented successfully and supports those that it’s meant to.
“The main checkpoint and a sort of accountability piece for the music officer will be both to the city through regular reporting on work plans and key performance indicators that are identified and embedded within the Kingston music strategy,” Lochhead said.
“There’s going to be a broad representation through this community-based working group that is going to ultimately help to oversee the successful implementation of the Kingston music strategy going forward.”
To ensure they’re being represented as part of the strategy however, members of the music community will have to make an effort to be heard.
The music community is relatively scattered, and musicians, venue owners and others impacted by a music strategy won’t necessarily agree on all priorities.
Michael Broadhead said it will be imperfect and take some time for everyone to feel supported, but the city should make an effort to make sure the wide range of musicians in the city feel supported by a music strategy.
“Due to that kind of like independent contractor way of functioning it’s a web of smaller connections as opposed to networks,” Broadhead said.
“I think the thing that the strategy is going to have to make sure that they recognize in the implementation is that they’re going to have to find a way to find all these people and actually connect with the whole community if they’re going to have the consent of the community.”
He says while there should be some grace given as the city wades into new waters with a music strategy, those overseeing it should always remain focused and prioritized on supporting the musicians that keep the local scene thriving.
“I think the most important thing that the city could be doing is making sure they never lose sight of that its job in this respect is to support those that have been working professionally in the community, recognize them the people that are the you know, the keepers of the tradition,” Broadhead said.