Canadian Music Week kicks off its 30th festival tonight. But is it showing its age?
Yes, this could be the first CMW in recorded history that won’t have coat checks or cursed umbrellas hindering intrepid concertgoers, and there’s a pretty great film docket and comedy lineup to boot. But for those who watched as a few anticipated acts cancelled their appearances or failed to show up at all, or who are still recovering from SXSW, or who are simply saving their money for NXNE, vigour for the fest could be waning in the event’s 30th year.
So, how do we feel about Canadian Music Week? Torontoist asked some local music writers, bloggers, and lovers to share their thoughts.
They have real trouble attracting any kind of talent to play it, and what they do get they stack onto a single lineup such that there’s one show that everyone tries to get into and dozens that no one bothers with. This year, an astonishing number of international acts have cancelled appearances after being announced—not sure what to make of that. I feel obliged to cover it but am hardly excited. There was a time that CMW and NXNE were on about a level playing field but NXNE has gotten astronomically better and CMW…has not.
I’ve had to delete so many bands I was genuinely keen to see from my calendar that it’s hard to get remotely excited. And moving it from before SXSW to after is an inexplicable logistical pain in the ass. I touch on this in my festival preview post from last week. but the fact that they’ve not made comment on their website or Twitter about one of their ostensible headliners—Childish Gambino—cancelling his show, and that Jeff Beck is still listed in the big graphic on the artists page despite cancelling over a month ago is telling.
Assistant Editor, Tribute Magazine, Freelance Writer for AOL Spinner
It’s so easy to jump on the jaded hate-wagon but come on.… It’s still a huge opportunity for tons of bands to get exposure and love and an international business conference for the industry.
President and Founder, Toronto Music Industry Association
In my opinion, Canadian Music Week is an integral part of the music industry of Toronto as well as Canada. Venue festivals/conferences such as CMW are chances for the music industry to come together, meet, collaborate, and enjoy an enormous amount of live music. It also offers a chance for us to show off our venues, our talent, and our city to people from all over the world. It’s a permanent part of my yearly schedule.
Mostly it’s just annoying that it butts up against SXSW, which would be fine if it seemed like they were taking advantage of booking bands touring back from that festival. But judging by the lineup, that can’t be the idea. Maybe it’s a conspiracy to burn out journalists that have to cover both?
Mechanical Forest Sound
CMW is extraordinarily draining because of the merch/corporate slant. There are so many bland bands that want to become cogs in “the industry” that it’s painful to try and sift through them to try and find something interesting to see. (For proof, look at my troll through a sampling of artists’ bios.)
It also seems like a big scam inasmuch as they’re peddling $75 wristbands for bands that you either a) can’t get into or b) could go see around town for 10 bucks or less during the other 51 weeks of the year. More rambling in my festival preview.
Regular contributor to NOW Magazine
I think it’s worth getting excited over any festival that gives local and international artists a chance to perform. CMW/CMF might not have as many “big name” acts but I think it can function as a nice throwback to the lost art of “discovery”! I’ve got a show, or multiple, every night of CMW that I’m really looking forward to. It’s a nice mix of local and not-local acts too: The Get By, Cold Specks, Dabrye, BADBADNOTGOOD/Lunice/Zodiac, Spoek Mathambo/Cadence Weapon, Nicolas Jaar, and Georgia Anne Muldrow.
The Panic Manual
[I] have no idea why they would put it after SXSW, when most people are tired from seeing shows.
There isn’t a huge difference between the two, so I’ve never quite understood why so many people seem to prefer NXNE. Generally, both events have great conferences with similar keynote speakers and workshops, and the quality of bands that play are of the same level. I love both festivals for the same exact reasons. I get a week of nonstop amazing live music and fun parties, and I get to see all the bands I love play during that short time. There’s also a really great music documentary film festival attached to both, that seems to be getting get stronger each year.
If everyone is talking about what a great place for music Toronto is right now, it’s because of what happens at festivals like CMF. It may never feel as significant as the bigger festivals south of the boarder, but within Canadian music, it will always be an important time for discovering emerging bands. Bands I can’t wait to see play CMF this year are Teenage Kicks, Attagirl, The Dirty Nil, Pat Wright, Poor Young Things, Cold Specks, Wildlife, Topanga, The Sweet Mack, Zeus, Eight and a Half, The Darcys, Bright Lights Social Hour, and Jane’s Party.
Freelance Music Writer/Polaris Juror
It’s not a festival for music fans as much as it’s one for the industry. It’s not very well organized either, and, in the places that it is, it’s hyper-managed to the point that incredible performers will get like, 25 minutes and then get the hook. The first time I did CMW I had a lot of fun, and some of my friends—who were from Toronto and who had been in the industry longer than I had—referred to that year as an anomaly. I was like, “No, you guys are jaded, etc,” but they were right.
Roundletters/Static Zine Editor-In-Chief
It’s still relevant in the sense that it’s a music festival and that’s always needed whether it’s for the music industry or fans. People are still greatly benefiting from it whether they enjoy it or are making money off it, and isn’t that good? I’ve seen a ton of people on Twitter saying they’re really excited about it. Sure the lineup’s not great this year to our standards, but it’s a fest and I think it’s good we can still even have two big ones let alone a ton of small ones in this city. It has decreased in relevance this year in the sense of putting it after SXSW, the lineup’s not as big, and NXNE has definitely revved it up.
Photographer/Static Zine Managing Editor
NXNE has started to do things that make the festival feel special—big shows at Y&D Square, Booze Cruise, utilizing smaller indie venues, etc. The best thing about CMW are the in-stores at Sonic Boom.