The Death of Edmonton’s Indie Music Scene?

On Thursday, November 12, 2015 a meeting hosted by the “Edmonton Arts Council” took place at the Armoury.

One bittersweet note, is that in attendance were a lot of people from the local indie music community whose venues don’t exist anymore.

Not sure if they were there to vent, or as part of a “hopeful” (if also skeptical) desire to hear something about a “plan” for keeping the indie music venue community alive in Edmonton.

In my opinion, one of the things that has contributed to the downfall of the scene in E-town is no “plan” or “area” for the music as a distinct “district”.

For example, Granville island has been designated as a rather eclectic artsy community – with independent businesses being the only allowed shops and venues.

No chains, no mega-conglomerates. Face it, in order to have an actually vibrant “scene” you need the small independents who are brave / off-center enough to have everything from a local band, spoken word or guy juggling potatoes on their stage.

It seems (other than the hastily concocted “104 St. entertainment district”) that our downtown “plan” consists of a new 711 every 5 or 6 blocks or so (enter the latest on 112 and jasper, and soon-to-be 119th St.) and sooo many bars.

Corporate businesses and franchises seem to be the order of the day.

Again, in my opinion, to have a vibrant local music scene (or “any” music scene actually) there needs to be an actual plan.

After 20,000 people see a game at the downtown arena, they aren’t going to be sticking around. They will want to get in their cars and get out.

We need an area “out of” downtown – maybe like 124 street, or perhaps the many industrial buildings north of the arena, or in “the quarters” to be designated as available for small locally-owned venues.  Indeed, a place that can become a local “walking” area – head to a coffee joint, then out for a drink to hear some music etc.

Fear not big business – there would be plenty of opportunities for local developers to “put their name” on areas and buildings.

However it has to be regulated – in that only non-chain, local businesses and venues are allowed – doesn’t matter if it’s music, or shops selling local products.

It’s nice if the Edmonton Arts Council wants to give you a grant, it means nothing if there is no place to “go”.

Edmonton wants to be a big, cosmopolitan city with a reputation in the arts community – but if there’s no place in the grand “plan” for small local venues then the local scene ceases to exist.

Make no mistake – it’s currently on life support.

As proven in Granville Island, and with the spaces in Edmonton, there is plenty of opportunity for that to happen – there just needs to be a plan, and it has to be implemented, and controlled.

Otherwise, with only a few venues left, we’d better be prepared for 711’s and Starbucks everywhere.


My name is David but my online nick almost everywhere is Altabear. I'm a web developer, graphic artist and outspoken human rights (and by extension, mens rights) advocate. Married to my gorgeous husband for 12 years, together for 25 and living with our partner of 4 years, in beautiful Edmonton, Canada.

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