VANCOUVER — Michael Bublé says British Columbia has the potential to become the “Nashville of Canada,” and a new $15-million government grant will help foster a thriving local music industry.
The Metro Vancouver-born crooner joined Premier Christy Clark on Thursday to announce the B.C. Music Fund, which aims to help emerging and well-known artists with production, distribution and promotion.
“Truly, it’s never been tougher to develop a career as an artist,” Bublé said. “Thanks to you, premier, people who want to pursue a music career here will be able to do so and not have to leave home, which is pretty incredible.”
The announcement was part of the launch of a new Music Canada report, “B.C.’s Music Sector: From Adversity to Opportunity,” which argues the province is filled with talent, but its music industry is in serious decline.
The report makes 26 recommendations, including appointing a municipal music officer to serve as a liaison with industry and advocate for music tourism, land use planning that takes into account the need for new music venues and removing liquor-licensing red tape.
Bublé said Nashville brings in billions in music revenue and the onus is partly on established artists like himself to promote B.C.
“To be honest with you, they don’t know yet. They haven’t met us yet,” he joked, referencing one of his hits and drawing laughs and groans from the crowd.
The event was attended by B.C.-based music stars including Nickelback lead singer Chad Kroeger, talent manager Bruce Allen and rocker Matthew Good.
Clark recalled her own fond musical memories, including going to see punk rockers D.O.A. at her first concert and watching Bublé sing at a mosque when he was 16.
She said the $15-million grant from the province will support the creation of the fund, which will be managed by Creative B.C. and include money for music education, live venues and touring.
“If we can become the L.A. of the world for film, why can’t we become the Nashville of the world for music?” she asked.
Clark said the fund could grow or change in the coming years, depending on how well it works. In contrast, the Ontario Music Fund was established in 2013 as a three-year, $45-million grant program and was later made permanent.
Juno Award-winning indie artist Dan Mangan asked Clark how the money will be disseminated to emerging artists, to which the premier responded that Creative B.C. would offer more application details soon. Mangan said after the event that he would like to see a substantial amount of the money go toward touring and recording.
“We have no program in place yet to help people record albums in this province, which is crazy. Every province in the country has it and we don’t. We’ve been a bit of a laughingstock,” he said. “Let alone the housing cost, B.C. has been a very hard place to live and be a musician and make a living in the last number of years. [The fund is] good. I just want to see it spread out across a number of platforms.”
In Victoria, Nick Blakso of Atomique Productions, the Victoria company behind events such as Rifflandia and Rock the Shores, welcomed the fund. “This is a huge moment for an industry that is typically overlooked,” he said.
It isn’t clear at the moment how the funds will be paid out, to whom and for how long, but the financial commitment is there — and that’s a positive first step, said Blasko. “I feel good about its capacity to get to the right places,” he said. “For this to turn into a permanent fund makes perfect sense.”— With a file from Mike Devlin