Reflection on Musical Culture in Toronto


In the Greater Toronto Area, the current modes of transportation are effective but still severely limit the convenience and efficiency of people’s movement to and from the city. As more residents move to the suburbs, it is critical to revamp an interconnected transit system. In order to improve these issues of transportation, we suggest several solutions. Our first strategy would be to provide connections between transit systems. Customers who use services such as the TTC, YRT or Go should be able to easily transfer between each service in a cost effective manner. Next, we propose a discounted transportation fare for customers who attend major musical events in the city. Lastly, we thought to construct a monorail in the downtown area in order to reduce noise pollution and provide easier accessibility to the downtown core and surrounding areas.

Local Music

Problem: In a big city it is difficult for local artists to compete with international names and artists who receive more attention. There is a lack of exposure of smaller artists to the community and thus a lack of community support because of lack of funding, few promotional options, the size of the city, and non-mainstream musical tastes that can be difficult to sell except to niche audiences.


  1. Implement a mandate that requires international acts to be preceded by Canadian (regional or national) artists as the opening act
  2. Mandate that all music radio stations play at least one song Canadian song every three songs with a variety of artists and song selections not to be replayed more than once an hour. And like not all Justin Bieber please
  3. Make it easier for smaller artists to share performance spaces with bigger names that draw more attention such as Yonge-Dundas Square in order to promote local talent and legitimize their work
  4. Create more local music festivals dedicated to promoting local talents with one main headlining act but with several surrounding local acts


There are multiple barriers to accessing music in Toronto including ticket pricing, hours of operation and liquor laws. Limited access is a problem because it excludes various age groups, classes and races from participating in music in the city.

 This problem can be addressed in a variety of ways. Ticketing pricing can be reduced via a decrease in owner’s rental fees so that the venues can maintain more affordable pricing for their customers. Perhaps venues could implement a weekly event without cover charges.  Hours of operations should be extended to include day time hours so that those who do not go out at night, including seniors and children, can participate in events. Finally, venues should have more all ages events. This can be achieved though less restrictive liquor laws. A wristband system could be implemented to prevent the sale of alcohol to minors.

Public Space

The issues that are currently present surrounding the ideas of music and sound in public spaces has much to do with the excessive noise “after hours” in the city. Complaints take place from residents due to the noise levels after 11pm. Another issue has to do with publically playing music aloud in the community (aka buskers), which is sometimes frowned upon or creates issues within community members.

Our recommendations would have to do with making the city more accommodating to those who choose to experience music into the late hours without any grievance and disturbing of those around them. Some of these specific recommendations are as follows:

  • Designated entertainment district separate from housing sections of the community
  • Soundproofing venue structures
  • “Busker friendly” areas of the city where grants will be appointed to public music artists (rather than them paying fees to play publically)
  • Designating a day and time for buskers to be able to play freely without any hesitation of grief from community (i.e. “Busker Wednesdays”)


There are daily events that are going on in the city of Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area that not everyone are informed of. This lack of awareness and knowledge creates missed opportunities for those who were not informed. To address this problem of not enough promotion of the musical events in the city, we propose the creation of a free mobile application that is compatible with smartphones and tablets. With this app, users are able to trace where events are located, the date of the event, age limits (if any) as well as the performer. Users are able to search by venues, dates, location and times. Users are also able to make posts of recommendations, suggestions which will increase the attendance at venues. Another form of promotion that would be beneficial is having promotional ads in public spaces. For example, have poster ads being displayed in Dundas Square, Eaton Centre, Union Station. Other forms of promotion may include ads in the newspapers such as the Toronto Star, radio ads, and through social media such as FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram. From these recommendations, we hope more people will be aware of upcoming musical events in Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area and strengthen Toronto’s musical culture.

Music Festival

By having a large musical festival somewhat similar to one like Cochella, Osheagio and Lalapalooza in Toronto it can represent our diversity of local talent by giving them an opportunity to play on the same stages as international talent.  It will also attract musical fans from all around the world to come to our city and discover both local and national talent.  The use of the numerous large scale venues across Toronto and the Greater Toronto Region such as Downsview Park and Molson Amphitheatre would be beneficial as those attending the festival who do not live in the city can take in the city of Toronto.


In the GTA, the music industry suffers from inadequate funding in two areas: business and professional music industry. Business-wise, it is difficult for entrepreneurs to open up new businesses and obtaining loans and to maintain a business through economic fluxes. In the professional music industry, up-and-coming artists do not have adequate resources to start their music careers and live below the poverty line. In order to remedy these issues, we propose three recommendations:

  • government grants of $5000 for those who wish to open a music venue
  • lower rent fees to encourage lower costs for the public and will sustain the surrounding music venues
  • government-sponsored recording facilities to support new and local artists. 

Cultural Diversity

An issue in Toronto’s musical culture is the lack of cultural diversity expressed through music in different venues. In order to solve this problem, we believe that each venue should have its own personality by having the same genre of music pertaining to certain cultures or countries that would distinguish it from other more mainstream venues. Another way to address this issue would be for venues to establish different cultural theme nights for different days of the week, which would feature different styles of music, perhaps in various languages, thus attracting more culturally diverse crowds. 

Noise Control

In the Toronto area, people are unsatisfied with the extreme levels of noise pollution. In an effort to improve this, we propose to insulate buildings in order to contain and keep out sound. This is done in order to preserve the experience of people in the area. As well, we suggest that the City of Toronto establishes a certain time of the night when music should be lowered. After 11pm, the volume of music should be reduced in order to control the amount of noise pollution in the city.  

 Conserving Musical Heritage

The issue that we found with conserving heritage sites in the city was that the Heritage Act only protects the building itself and not its initial musical purpose.  In order to try and preserve these significant historical musical sites, we would recommend extending the Heritage Act beyond the physical building itself and ensuring that future inhabitants continue to preserve and extend the musical momentums of the site. Not only would this be strictly confined to the same genres that it was historically known for but also allow growth and development in contemporary music.

Music District 

We believe it is important to have certain areas within the entertainment district that allow for certain personalities or preferences to come together based on musical tastes and preferences because of the ways that it allows each to express their own passion and desire within each individual music stream. This will allow for the city to have a more diversified and vibrant music scene without the issue of lack of selection or inclusion for those who do not coincide with the hegemonic music industries most commonly popular in today’s day and age. Such solutions will include things like certain streets and districts designated to specific genres of music, as well as designated areas and such designated to such other cultural values such as drinking, smoking, etc.

Ensure the survival of Small Venues

Toronto is filled of music venues of different sizes with different capacities; however, small venues are at risk of closure due to an inability to compete economically with big commercial venues like the Air Canada Centre and the Rogers Centre. This is partially due to the inability of small venues to host big name acts. In effect audiences are denied the opportunity to have a more close and connected experience with the artist.

A resolution to this problem would be to promote the smaller venues and bring in bigger names by changing the regulations for international artists to enter Canada. 

Regional Development/Music in the Suburbs

The main issue here is the lack of suburban musical scene compared to Toronto musical culture. In this case, we developed a series of strategies, such as a system that rotates major events that are currently based in Toronto. For instance, the free Beyonce concert that originally would be based in Dundas Square and move it to different cities of the GTA. In addition, construction of new venues in suburbs that will attract other cities in the GTA by promoting it in the same way they do for Toronto (ex. Bars, clubs, concerts, festivals etc) 

Map of music venues and rehearsal spaces in Toronto from a report published by the Martin Institute in 2011.

Map of music venues and rehearsal spaces in Toronto from a report published by the Martin Institute in 2011.