The City of Kitchener hosted its inaugural Musician Development Forum on Jan. 26, 2023 at Catalyst Commons. The forum was presented in partnership with Centre in the Square, The Boathouse and The Registry Theatre.
Bob Egan, film, music and interactive media officer for the City of Kitchener, said the forum was created for local musicians to learn from industry leaders in music marketing, promotion and placement.
“I believe that the real strength of Kitchener is that we have an amazing array of very accomplished, passionate musicians in every genre. My job is to try to bring that to the fore, so I wanted to have an event that would benefit these musicians and they’d find value in,” Egan said.
Egan regularly meets with other city music and arts officials across Southern Ontario to discuss issues affecting artists. Using the group as a sounding board, Egan identified two issues brought up by local musicians.
“Number one is marketing. How do they define themselves to stand above the crowd to attract more followers and more listeners?”, Egan said.
“The second issue was money. Musicians don’t make money from streaming, and touring is becoming more expensive. They want to know what other income streams are available,” he said.
One potential new income stream is music placement in film and television production. Egan reached out to contacts at the City of Toronto Music Office, and they recommended Michael Perlmutter, one of Canada’s leading music supervisors.
“He’s placed music in over 300 movies and is the president of the Guild of Music Supervisors, Canada. This is the group that represents people that place music. I was able to get him on the phone, and we found out we know a lot of people in common. He’s very passionate about what he’s doing, and he’s thrilled to come out and speak,” Egan said.
Steve Waxman, another of the forum’s speakers, shared his insights on how musicians can define their brand and carve out an audience.
Waxman has worked in the music industry for almost 40 years, including 25 years at Warner Music Canada. After leaving Warner Music in 2020, he started his agency to help young Canadian talent brand themselves to succeed in Canada and worldwide.
“His whole philosophy is that yes, you have to connect with your audience. But audiences have no shortage of artists and music to connect with. The music is just part of it. Musicians now have to develop their brand and values and find audiences that align with those,” Egan said.
The Musician’s Forum is a continuing part of the city’s efforts to support local artists through grants, education and other opportunities. In 2021, the city awarded $14,000 to 14 local musicians through the Create + Connect program to help connect with audiences during the pandemic. In 2022, the city partnered with House of Friendship, Centre In The Square, Communitech and Cook Homes to provide training and equipment for young music producers.
“These events are the first steps in a much longer process. These are opportunities for regular communication between my office, the industry and our local musicians. We want to share the stories of local artists who have wildly succeeded against the odds, how they did it, and what you can learn from them,” Egan said.
Bringing local musicians together serves another purpose—helping build stronger relationships in the community. Egan said that the relationships he’s developed over his decades in the industry enable him to bring industry leaders to Kitchener today.
“So much of success is built on relationships and networking. It’s who you know, referrals, and vouching for other people. Obviously, you have to produce great music that’s true to yourself. But you also have to get out there and build relationships and friendships. It’s just essential to any kind of business,” Egan said.
For more information about the Musician’s Forum and speaker information, visit the City of Kitchener’s website.
Alex Kinsella is a freelance content marketer and writer based in Waterloo Region, Ontario. He's behind the TL;WR newsletter–Waterloo Region's weekly events newsletter. He's worked with some of Canada's most well known tech companies in roles including customer success, development, product management, PR, social media and marketing. Alex has contributed to publications including BetaKit, Grand Magazine and more.