City moves to support 2020 buskers program with a COVID-19 plan to deliver online performances

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Buskers may be returning to downtown Barrie this summer, although perhaps not in a physical sense.
If council approves a staff report adopted by general committee last week recommending a continued partnership with the Ontario Musicians Cooperative, Inc. (OMCI), a non-profit-organization, performances will be delivered online, with a scheduled and advertised delivery plan, according to the report prepared by Amanda Dyke, cultural officer.
“This may involve specific private performances that are coordinated with restaurants, businesses, charities, or other community organizations that are highlighting online experiences. OMCI continue(s) to licence all live performances through the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN) so that members can collect royalties,” reads the report.
If distancing and isolation measures are lifted sometime during the summer, buskers may return to perform on downtown streets and at other community spaces.
“Health and safety protocols for these performances would align with provincial and municipal standards and policies. This could include connecting artists to performance opportunities through the Patios Everywhere Program.”
Before March 26, 2018, the Emerging Musicians Program was called the Street Performer Program. A stated goal was to capitalize on the success of the existing program to help launch musical careers. For several years, the City had supporter a buskers program to add a musical note to the downtown, and support new talent.
“While the program was well received, there were challenges in terms of compensating the performers for times when foot traffic did not generate sufficient gratuities, and in ensuring that the performers were covered by insurance while they performed on municipal property,” reads the report.
“The partnership with OMCI served to elevate the existing street performer program by focusing on emerging musicians and offering skills development in addition to busking time, insurance coverage through the co-operative, marketing and booking support.”
The cooperative was successful in obtaining Canada Summer Jobs funding for 2018 and 2019, and used $203,230 to hire 49 full-time employees. It has applied for 2020 funding, intending to hire as many people from Barrie and surrounding area. The City is funding the program to the tune of $9470.
“Individuals who met the audition criteria but were not eligible for employment were permitted to busk downtown and received all other benefits of the program. In addition to musicians, OMCI were able to employ young people in communications, human resources, web and social media and festival/production support roles in 2019,” reads the report.
Contributions from the Downtown BIA and the approved City of Barrie Cultural Development Budget covered the costs of marketing and identification assets for the program, as well as speaker fees and some showcase concert costs. Performances were held from June to September, with musicians performing busker-style in the downtown every evening from Tuesday until Saturday, and in the afternoons on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Program highlights included:
• Over 500 hours of musical performance delivered in the community for the enjoyment of both residents and visitors.
• Emerging Musician Showcase on August 24 drew over 1,000 people to Meridian Place for a concert, meet and greet and autograph signing by program participants
• Engagement at festivals and events such as the Craft Beer and BBQ Festival, Canada Day, Kempenfest, Culture Days, Celebrate Barrie, Barrie Jazz & Blues Festival, Promenade Days and more
• Each artist received up to 175 hours of industry development and highly transferrable skills training over the course of the summer
• Many of the program’s musicians are studying music at college or university in 2020
• The program expanded to include Simcoe County, Orillia, and some Grey County and York Region areas, offering many opportunities for participants to expand their market outreach and grow their networks.
“The Emerging Musicians Program and the Ontario Musicians Cooperative, Inc. are unique, Barrie-created entities that have enhanced the music industry ecosystem in Barrie and beyond by serving as incubators for musical artists and other young creatives,” reads the report.
“The existing 2020 Emerging Musicians Program budget of $9,470 is highly leveraged by partnering with OMCI and delivers impacts beyond what could be achieved by the City on its own. In addition to delivering a program for street performers to activate the downtown, the partnership with OMCI delivers sector specific, quality training and skills development to program participants and beyond.”