Megaphono festival looks to push the city’s music industry to the next level

Photo by Rémi Yuan

A new music showcase is looking to put Ottawa on the musical map.

The inaugural Megaphono festival took place Feb. 3–5 to show off local musical talent and grow the city’s music scene. It attracted industry delegates from Los Angeles, New York, Montreal, and Toronto.

It was music to the ears of Mayor Jim Watson, who cut the ribbon—in this case, a ceremonial spool of audio tape—to kick off the event at City Hall.

“Our city boasts an incredibly talented and diverse set of musicians, and I am glad to see the community getting behind them to help get them the exposure they so richly deserve,” he said.

The festival aimed to present a variety of music to fans and give artists the knowledge to help them succeed. With a combination of music and panel discussions about the industry, it was a little less Bluesfest and a little more SXSW.

“I think it’s actually a turning point for Ottawa” said Erin Flynn, station manager at CHUO who hosted a panel on radio programming.

“It’s fair to say we’re in a boom,” she said. “There’s lots of really exciting new music coming out, a lot of active artists, a lot of growth happening.”

The showcase came about as a result of efforts by local label Kelp Records, both of whose showrunners are University of Ottawa alumni. Jon Bartlett holds an MBA in international management, while Lesley Marshall majored in communications with a specialization in media studies.

The festival emphasized a goal of growing Ottawa’s music scene further so that talented artists stay in the city and still hit it big.

“What generally happens is people create this music and do all this stuff and then … they move to a larger market where they think they can make it,” said Flynn. “There isn’t that mid-level industry available here.”

Often many artists feel the need to go to larger Canadian  cities such as Toronto or Vancouver for access to better connections at major record labels.

Megaphono looks to change that. Panels featured topics such as finding agents and managers, getting airtime on the radio, and licensing music for television. There was also a panel by members from local favourites A Tribe Called Red regarding the export of Canadian music.

The festival featured live performances by local acts Fet.Nat, Petra Glynt, Michael Rault, and other up-and-comers.

“It’s a great place to discover bands that are about to be discovered,” said Flynn.