Thoughts On NXNE & The Local Toronto Music Scene

We're not entirely sure how much we're going to be writing about North By Northeast this week. Because, frankly, they don't want us to. This year, the festival seems to have made the decision to turn its back on many local music blogs, denying media passes to outlets who've covered NXNE in the past — places like Mechanical Forest Sound, Sticky Magazine and us here at The Little Red Umbrella

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"We need to keep the value of entry high," the festival's new director, Christopher Roberts, claimed during a Twitter dust-up with Weird Canada's Aaron Levin. (Roberts has since deleted those tweets, but they're screencapped here via blogTO). It's a strange explanation for the new decision to shut out blogs who have already had a positive relationship with the festival for years. (We, for instance, have covered NXNE with media passes every year for almost a decade now, stretching all the way back to our SoundProof Magazine days.)

You can add the newly restrictive media accreditation to a long list of controversies surrounding this year's festival, including doubling the price of a wristband and a bigger-than-ever-before "radius clause." Now, if you play NXNE, you're not allowed to play another gig in Toronto for 45 days before the festival. And that, of course, hurts local bands more than bands from out of town (who were unlikely to be playing here anyway). In return, they get paid little or no money — most bands are given the choice of $100 for the entire group OR wristbands to attend the festival. And while bands would normally be able to add music writers and photographers to their guestlists, for NXNE shows most bands don't get a guestlist at all. The bizarre result is that local blogs are actually being actively discouraged from covering local bands at NXNE as opposed to their other gigs. And that's far from the worst of it. The Toronto folk group Birds of Bellwoods played a charity show in support of the homeless more than a month ago — in response, NXNE has kicked them out of the festival.

Weird Canada has now launched an online petition against the 45 day radius clause. And it's all enough to leave Chartattack wondering "Is NXNE losing touch with the Toronto music scene?" As Aaron Levin tweets: "hope @nxne doesn't state support for local arts in grants".

And that strikes us as the real issue here. It's easy to dismiss the crackdown on accreditation as a bunch of self-important music bloggers getting all worked up in their mothers' basements over their own sense of entitlement. But the end result is going to be fewer local blogs writing about great local bands. And that's just one of several new policies that seem designed to make the festival less accessible, less friendly to artists, and less supportive of the local Toronto music scene.

And that, to us, seems like the exact opposite of what North By Northeast should be about.


Update: Chartattack reports that NXNE has announced they'll be dropping the blanket radius clause for next year.
 

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You'll still find our NXNE preview edition of our "Songs You Can Dance Around Your Apartment To" podcast here.

Posted by Adam Bunch, the Editor-in-Chief of the Little Red Umbrella and the creator of the Toronto Dreams Project. You can read his posts here, follow him on Twitter here, or email him at adam@littleredumbrella.com.

Photo: Army Girls, one of the local bands playing this year's festival — and thus banned from playing any other show in Toronto for 45 days (by Adam Bunch)


3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yet another example of how inept Toronto seems to be at organising successful music festivals and events. Hopeless!

Kristine Maitland said...

And for the record, NXNE *knew* that Birds of Bellwoods was going to be doing the charity gig BEFORE they signed them on (BoB told them when they sent their proposal). So not only is this 45 day radius clause crap ... it is also bogus since NXNE could have easily not booked BoB in the first place given BoB's full disclosure. Seems to me that NXNE got caught in their own loophole.

Anonymous said...

Buying Shots for Bands I know wasn't accredited either

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