The Ontario Independent Music Archive hopes to provide a permanent, online home for hard-to-find independent recordings.
A new online database called the Ontario Independent Music Archive (OIMA) will allow music by independent bands from across the province to live in perpetuity. At least, that’s the goal.
While it may still be a long way away from having every independent recording in Ontario music history, OIMA—which had its official launch party at the Garrison on Friday night—is growing rapidly, with new bands being added almost daily. Right now, the tracks available for free streaming through the archive’s website number in the hundreds.
Archive co-founder Jonathan Martel first came up with the idea several years ago, while in university.
“I was studying 20th Century history through the lens of popular culture, and I found that there was almost nothing on Canadian music,” he said. “British and American music, there was tons, but nothing Canadian.”
Martel wound up getting in contact with Mario Circelli. In addition to having spent several years as the station manager of London-based campus radio station CHRW, Circelli had created an online archive of music from that city. Together, the two founded the Music Association of Canada. In 2011, the MAC and the National Campus and Community Radio Association received a Trillium Grant to start building OIMA. Circelli says it’s important to start building the archive now, since so much of the relevant music is out of print or recorded on media that degrades over time.
“So much of this great music is on formats that are going to be lost eventually,” he said. “I was in a band, we didn’t have a lot of money, so we recorded live off the floor, direct to cassette. So over time, all this music on cassette and eight-track—eventually, that is going to be lost.”
Laura Dymock is one of the project’s curators. She’s been tasked with tracking down artists and convincing them to put their music on the site. (All the music on the site is licensed through Creative Commons.) She says that so far, most of the artists she’s approached have been fairly enthusiastic.
“I thought there would be a lot more reluctance and hesitation and ‘What is this?’” she said. “For sure there was some of that, but I was surprised by the number of people who were like, ‘Here, take my whole catalogue.’”
Eventually, Martel says he’d like the archive to expand beyond Ontario.
“My ultimate goal is to go cross-country and preserve every single piece of music that’s ever been recorded by a Canadian group,” he says. “I want this to be online, so it’s never lost, and 50 or 60 years from now, somebody can go and look up a band like Simply Saucer. It’s ambitious.”
Circelli agrees. He considers OIMA’s ultimate mission to be making sure that independent recordings are around for future generations to enjoy.
“I want the younger generation—people like my son, who’s 17—to be able to get into this stuff,” he says. “We’re always going to be able to hear Michael Jackson and Van Halen, but what about The Shuffle Demons?”
This post originally listed the archive co-founder as Jonathan Martell, but it has been changed to Jonathan Martel.