Should Your Band do Concert Tours in Canada?

Canadian Governments are waking up to the “business” of music, and are funding a major retrofit for musicians working in Canada. Here’s a summary of some of the major Canadian music markets and venues.

Should Your Band do Concert Tours in Canada?
Canada is waking up to the business of music.


First, what is a Music City? 

It’s increasingly common terminology used by artists and performers, but now has migrated into the political language. It describes a community with “a robust music economy that is actively promoted by the city”.

Economics and Music Tourism are the main drivers, but because any size community can be a Music “City”, there is wide diversity.  But first, the heart of the program are the artists, musicians and performers who work, live, and perform in these communities. And, these cities need to setup the musicians for success with recording facilities, rehearsal spaces, and music education, all fostering  an environment for a vibrant arts scene that will attract music lovers from home, and around the world. 

It seems the Canadian Government is waking up to the value of these programs, and have been injecting many millions of dollars to set up the infrastructure. 

Partnerships are being formed between cities that see value in joint promotions and resource-sharing. Potential Music Cities are including this project in their agendas, and panels are appearing in major cities throughout the world.

It’s becoming apparent that a “Music City” has more than simple culture to offer, as it comes with economic benefits. Think “music tourism”. Politicians, it seems, are now interested. 

Across Canada, from Halifax to Victoria, cities are exploring how to become a successful Music City.  Vancouver, often considered the trailhead for launching a Canadian concert tour, is waking up to the idea. The city has recently approved a funding of $400,000 for music performance projects. 

  • 7,000 full-time jobs in the music & related fields, across B.C. last year
  • Over $600,000 total income
  • $800,000,000+ to the BC Econonomy’s GDP
  • 6,000 total recording artists
  • And, just behind Toronto & Montreal, Vancouver is  the third largest live music industry in Canada (and growing at a faster rate). 

And there’s more. 

Creative BC is executing $300,000 in Vancouver Music Fund grants for creative endeavours for the indiginous artist . The programs includes:

  • Demo Program: Demo recordings for emerging musicians
  • Video Program: Support for music videos.
  • Industry Catalyst Program: Supporting projects for Vancouver’s music ecosystem 

Big name talent continues to come to Vancouver, often to launch the first leg of the tour with upcoming shows including Celine Dion, Smokey Robinson, Ozzy Osborne, and more. 

And just a hop over the Rockies to Calgary, there is a bubbling music scene with the city springing $191,000,000. (yes, million) for their newest music venue. It’s a performance hall; it’s a music museum, and the intent is to lure music tourists from around the world.

Studio Bell in Calgary AB
Calgary’s new & grand music venue, Studio Bell with costs of almost $200 million.

Biggest Music Cities in Canada.

In no particular order, and from west to east, here’s some major Music Cities in Canada:

Vancouver, BC

Concert Tours in Vancouver Canada
Vancouver audiences have a long love affair with stadium shows.

Vancouver, with its westcoast energy, continues to be a draw for bands touring Canada, especially stadium gigs. The city does have a reputation for a more a challenging reception (American performer, Mitzi Gaynor, once said that she started every tour in Vancouver, Canada, “If our show works in Vancouver, it’ll work anywhere”). That, along with the geographic logistics, makes Vancouver the trailhead for many bands touring across Canada. 

Stadium gigs in Vancouver offer some of the best performance venues for large scope concerts. 

BC Place
Capacity: 54,500

Rogers Arena
Capacity: 18,910

Commodore Ballroom
Capacity: 990

The Commodore Ballroom, a historic Art Deco music venue, is one of the most popular music locales in Vancouver. While it does not hold the audience capacity of some of the bigger stadiums, it’s the perfect sweet spot for a certain band niche. 

The dance floor, when not filled with seating, is world famous for its unique sprung-floor  characteristics which absorbs impact from tired dancers’ feet.

The historic Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver BC is a great band venue.
Vancouver’s historic art deco Commodore Ballroom nightclub with their sprung-floor.

Calgary, Alberta

Yamaha electronic drums at Studio Bell, Calgary Alberta.
Studio Bell in Calgary is the new hub for musicians in Western Canada.

A trip to Calgary is justified if only to visit the new “Studio Bell National Music Centre”. This venue, built at nearly $200 millions dollars, is a hub of the Calgary music scene, and will soon bring Calgary to the forefront of national music cities.

Toronto, Ontario

Toronto could be one of the most established music scenes in North America.  It has spawned music superstars like Drake, The Weeknd, Blue Rodeo, and Juno Awards winner Serena Ryder. It’s a hot music scene, with big audiences, and a nice place to finish a Canadian music tour. 

Top 5 Major Concert Venues in Toronto, Ont.

Rogers Centre
Capacity: 50,000
(Toronto Blue Jays)

Air Canada Centre
Capacity: 50,000
(Toronto Maple Leafs)

Massey Hall
Capacity: 2,752

Sony Centre for the Performing Arts
Capacity: 3,200
(Elton John, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin ,and even Liberace)

Molson Canadian Amphitheatre,Roy Thomson Hall
Capacity: 16,000 with nearby TD Echo Beach outdoor venue with another 5,000 capacity.

Montreal, Quebec

Over the past few years, Montreal has been getting a lot of attention for its growing music industry. With its European undertones, Montreal is sometimes considered the cultural centre of Canada and boasts one of the healthiest music industries in Canada. 

As one of their coolest cities to gig, The International Festival of Jazz in Montreal is a global draw for jazz musicians around the world. Jazz / fusion bands, like Snarky Puppy, a collective of monster jazz players from New York and 3-time Grammy Award winners, usually include Montreal in their international band tours. 

Snarky Puppy at Montreal Jazzfest
Snarky Puppy at Montreal Jazzfest
Jazz legend, Oscar Peterson, statue in Montreal, Quebec.
Jazz legend, Oscar Peterson, was born in Montreal, Quebec and is regarded
by many as the greatest jazz pianist & composer of all time.

Ottawa, Ontario

Ottawa, the capital city of Canada, continues to enjoy a smaller, but healthy music industry. For bands touring Canada, it’s a strategic stop for gigs along the Toronto/Montreal corridor. 

Ottawa Bluesfest music festival
Crowds fill downtown for the Annual Ottawa Bluesfest

The annual Ottawa Bluesfest attracts thousands of music lovers to downtown Ottawa. The festival has thrived over 25 years, and has become the largest blues festival in Canada. In more recent years, lineups have included mainstream rock and pop acts, as well.

Bluesfest music festival in downtown Ottawa Canada.
Ottawa, the capital of Canada, hosts the annual BluesFest.

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