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Photo: Trevor Pritchard (Apt613 Flickr Pool)

Calling #ottmusic makers: City of Ottawa is licensing songs for the 311 phone line—deadline Mar. 29

By Greggory Clark on March 8, 2021

Started five years ago as a simple initiative to get local songs playing on the City of Ottawa’s 3-1-1 phone line, the municipal #ottmusic program now offers an opportunity to more songwriters than ever before.

The original Music on Hold program paid licensing fees to 25 artists for use of their music on the 3-1-1 lines. In response to the ongoing pandemic situation, the City of Ottawa will license a record high 35 songs this time around. The selection is made by an independent jury of musicians and industry professionals from the Ottawa area who review all submissions and recommend songs based on artistic merit, diversity, community involvement, and lyrical content.

Over the years, 3-1-1 callers have likely been surprised to hear Scattered Clouds, The PepTides, Blakdenim, Rap Legend Jesse Dangerously, Seiiizmikk, LeFLOFRANCO, Harea Band, and Asuquomo on the line—to name a few of the 104 artists featured to-date. Some of the most prolific #ottmusic songwriters include Jah’kota, Kimberly Sunstrum, Ben Globerman, Pony Girl, Mary Bryton, and Moonfruits, each of whom were selected for the program in multiple years since 2015.

While we haven’t heard of artists “making it big” after being discovered on the City of Ottawa phone line, it happens that 3-1-1 fields more than half a million calls annually… likely more since the pandemic started to affect Ottawa. Based on the $200/song licensing fee, we estimate the program (est. 2015) will have paid more than $30,000 to local songwriters by the end of this year.

To add to that reach, the #ottmusic program has included a digital streaming component in recent years. The City Sounds playlist is a Soundcloud feature updated annually. Unlike the #ottmusic on hold opportunity, City Sounds is a free and voluntary opportunity i.e. does not involve a licensing fee. If your song is not selected for the 3-1-1 music database, you can still ask for it to be promoted in the City Sounds playlist.

Locally-based musicians (living within 150km of Ottawa) are eligible to submit original music to either/both the #ottmusic on hold or City Sounds playlist using this application form. This year’s deadline is Friday, March 29 at 4pm.

Visit for guidelines and information about how to apply.