Jon Bartlett is a man of many hats – musician, music label founder and all-around Ottawa cheerleader. It’s not surprising his latest venture – Megaphono – was created to put Ottawa and its musicians on the North American music map. “I’ve been living in Ottawa for 15 years now, never have I seen so much good music output.” Last year alone, Ottawa musicians put out something like 180 albums according to Ottawa Showbox. “Yet,” says Bartlett, “we’re still an island. I wouldn’t assume that anyone in the music business in Montreal or Toronto, let alone New York City or L.A. know how great the music scene is here.” That’s why he, and partner Lesley Marshall created Megaphono, a music showcase festival that features up and coming and established musicians from Ottawa, Gatineau and Eastern Ontario.
Inspired by M for Montreal and other like-minded musical showcases, Megaphono takes a business approach to music. Its goals are lofty: connecting musicians with people that book musicians, exploring the idea of working in music in Ottawa, and bringing in music industry people from elsewhere – NYC, LA, Toronto and Montreal – showing them what our city has to offer… on one of the coldest weeks of the year.
Bartlett made it clear that Megaphono isn’t another entry into the Ottawa musical sweepstakes, but admits picking February to launch the inaugural showcase made sense because it didn’t have to compete with other festivals locally, and similar music showcases internationally.
The event, taking place between February 3 and 5, features shows all over the city (Bartlett and Marshall made a concerted effort to host events in as many venues as possible) as well as panels with record labels booking agents, music publishers, musicians and other heavy hitters in the North American music industry.
“Everything has been set up to give these guys from out of town a 3-day musical adventure in different neighbourhoods and venues.” While the showcase is an opportunity for outsiders to get to learn what Ottawa has to offer it’s also an occasion for Ottawa’s many music scenes to cross-pollinate. There’s an interesting mix of bands playing in each venue – for example The Peptides are sharing the stage with Flight Distance, while the Steve Adamyk Band is playing with Theaternia at the Diefenbunker no less!
Here’s a teaser of who else is playing:
On a more academic front, musicians/researchers Andrew Vincent and Kwende Kefentse will be presenting the results of Connecting Ottawa Music – a research initiative funded by the Ontario Music Fund. Eight hundred artists and fifty companies were surveyed about the state of the music industry in Ottawa, comparisons to other cities were made, dozens of interviews were conducted. The early results show that the city is engaged and that there is momentum around the development of a stronger music scene. The recommendations of the report will be around building a music strategy for the city – building resources within the city apparatus and bring together musicians.
If I haven’t stated it already – all of the events that are part of the showcase are open to the public. Festival passes are available for $75, day passes vary between $20 and $40, and tix to individual events are also available. If you’re a musician, go check it out, you’ll probably learn something. If you love this city, go check out what it has to offer. This will be tons of fun.
We are giving away a pair of tickets for the show on Wednesday, February 4 featuring Soru, Yao, Pony Girl and The Mackenzie Rhythm Section. The show takes place at Avant Garde Bar (135 1/2 Besserer Street), doors at 9pm. To enter, send us an email with “Megaphono” in the subject line. We’ll pick a winner by random draw at noon on Tuesday Feb 3. Good luck!