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Andrew Mosker, president and CEO of National Music Centre and also the co-founder and chair of West Anthem.National Music Centre

What role can music play in bolstering a city’s economic growth? According to a study by West Anthem, a group that seeks to promote the province’s music ecosystem, it is a huge source of untapped potential.

The 10th global edition of the Music Cities Convention is scheduled to take place concurrently in Edmonton and Calgary from Feb. 9 to Feb. 11, 2022 – hosted by West Anthem, the National Music Centre (a Calgary-based non-profit) and Alberta Music (the province’s music industry association). The event will highlight the ways in which music can provide communal, economic and cultural benefits to cities that invest in their local music ecosystems.

The Globe and Mail spoke to Andrew Mosker, president and chief executive of the National Music Centre and also the co-founder and chair of West Anthem, about the Music Cities Convention and its importance.

What is a music city?

It is a city that has prioritized music as a core strength. One that has a policy and plan in place to further the ecosystem. It’s a place that engages music as part of the city’s identity. A music city has economic and social benefits: job creation, cultural development and, in some cases, business development opportunities for artists and businesses that are involved in music.

It’s a place where music is championed by the city and its citizens.

You’ve seen it a lot with film and television, in different jurisdictions around Canada: Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal – those are strong film and television communities because those cities have prioritized film and television and have systems and policies in place to further film and television.

Studio Bell in Calgary is home to the National Music Centre, a non-profit based in the city, and features concerts and music exhibits.Gavin John/The Globe and Mail

What do you think cities in Canada can do to support the music industry the way they do for film and TV?

I think cities could create benefits to support places for artists to live and also for artists to play.

They could support live-music venues, which have obviously struggled a lot during the pandemic to sustain themselves. Cities could offer these venues tax incentives so they continue to operate in a sustainable way.

Insurance rates have gone up considerably because of the pandemic and this has caused a lot of strain on the operation of small live-music venues. So I think that’s another way in which the city can get involved.

Investment subsidies are another way that a city could support the growth and sustainability of a vibrant live-music economy. Through its tourism department, its economic-development department and its arts-development department, the city could also invest in music from a branding perspective and say that “We prioritize music.”

How many Music Cities Conventions have there been in the past?

It depends where. Music cities exist all over the world, but it’s a fairly new phenomenon of the last 10 to 15 years. Music cities in the U.S. have been thriving for many years – Nashville and Austin are obviously two of the more famous and well-established ones.

Toronto has really made investments toward becoming a music city, and the province of Ontario has made significant investments in that regard as well. Around the world, we’re seeing music city movements occurring in South America, in Europe and in parts of Asia as well.

I would say the convention itself is a fairly new occurrence within the last 10 to 15 years. I’ve attended one-day conventions myself in Toronto as part of Canadian Music Week, prior to COVID, and in the United States as well.

The upcoming gathering in Alberta is the first time that Music Cities Event, the organization with which we are working, has ever staged a convention in Canada.

But it has produced several Music City Conventions in the United States, in Asia and in Europe over the last five to 10 years.

What issues are West Anthem, the National Music Centre and Alberta Music addressing?

I work with West Anthem and the National Music Centre. Alberta Music is the music industry association here in the province of Alberta. So all three of us have come together as partners because we believe in working closely together to strengthen the Alberta music ecosystem in new and innovative ways.

We think that the evolution of what’s happening in Alberta in particular has been something that we’ve watched very carefully since about 2014.

And when we were building the National Music Centre, we noticed that there was a conversation about music that was happening in Alberta that was more focused on long-term opportunities, given the fact that Alberta has been evolving its economic, social and environmental footprints.

We felt that there was a great opportunity for music to move up higher on the public-policy agenda than it’s ever been because Alberta is looking at more intentional ways to diversify its economy.

Music can help with the evolution of Alberta’s brand nationally and internationally as a music-friendly place.

This interview has been edited and condensed

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