Nightlife on ELM Street

Edmonton’s groundbreaking live music initiative at a glance


Spearheaded by musician Thom Bennett and supported by the Edmonton Arts Council, as well as advisors like Tommy Banks, the Edmonton Live Music Initiative (ELM) is a three-pronged approach to establish new venues, keep them open and help them thrive.

The first point includes establishing one or two “Live Music Districts,” and naturally, committee members are strongly considering a chunk of downtown for that designation.

The second part involves allowing music venues to stay open an extra hour, until 3:00 a.m., to help venue owners earn more and offset the cost of hiring a band. It’s been proposed that alcohol tariffs would be lowered for venues that close before midnight, allowing venues to keep more of the money that would normally go to government.

The third part to ELM is launching a marketing campaign to promote local music. “There is a huge talent pool in Edmonton and no audience engagement,” says Bennett. “I’ve been doing this 20 years, and there used to be a lot more.” Through these efforts,
ELM will build a web portal serving as a prime resource to bands, venue owners and other music professionals.

The initiative is the first of its kind to get endorsements from two levels of government—municipal and provincial—and so innovative that Bennett has been invited to speak about it in Toronto and Brighton, England. It’s inspired by some of the factors involved in creating Edmonton’s golden era of music.

Although some industry people have been critical of Edmonton Live Music Initiative’s strategies—some believe money is better spent on subsidizing the venue’s rental fees, equipment costs and renovations—it’s going ahead as planned.

The Yards’ Guide to Live Music: Stages, People and Issues

This entry was posted in 2016 Summer, Issues.

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