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Networks and place in Montreal’s independent music industry

October 23, 201323 October 2013


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This academic article examines how Montreal’s historical and cultural attributes influence the development of networks among musicians and other workers in the city’s independent music industry. The study is based on 46 interviews with musicians and industry workers not affiliated with major labels.

The interviewees indicated that “knowing the right people” and having a wide range of contacts were “vital” to their career development. For independent musicians, networking can help them “mitigate the risks of low-paying and unstable employment” by diversifying their sources of revenue between different music opportunities (i.e., playing in a variety of bands as well as opportunities outside of performing and recording). Furthermore, interviewees indicated that “aesthetic experimentation is facilitated by frequent face-to-face exchange”.

According to the study, one of the key place-based factors shaping Montreal’s music industry is bilingualism. The French nature of Montreal helps limit the penetration of major labels in the Quebec market. Tight English-language and French-language communities in Montreal foster feelings of commonality, which in turn “encourage the formation of a supportive infrastructure – both informal and formal – that brings together local industry actors and provides them with space, networking prospects, funding, and other benefits”.

The authors cite a study that found that, contrary to the wide and fairly open networks in Montreal’s music community, Toronto musicians collaborate within tighter, more closed networks, due to strong competition for paid work and the relative lack of supporting organizations.

The study concludes that “a convergence of place-specific attributes can be critical in enabling the emergence of networks that sustain a local, independent cultural scene”. Linguistic and ethnic specificities help define local cultural scenes. As such, distinct sub-cultures and support networks should be maintained, but efforts should also be made to “build bridges across potential divides”.

The authors argue that all levels of government should integrate place-based analysis and network dynamics into their cultural policies.

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