North by North East radius clause no more

June 20, 2014


In case you haven’t heard, NXNE introduced a new policy to musicians performing in the 2014 festival. A 45-day no-play radius clause was instilled, making it a contractual agreement that artists performing for NXNE were not allowed to perform anywhere within their market (Toronto) in the 45 days leading up to the beginning of the festival on June 13th, 2014.

As of Friday, June 20th, 2014, NXNE in conjunction with Canadian Music Week, has decided to lift the clause and allow musicians to play in the days leading up to the festival.

The radius clause proved controversial, spurring outcry from musicians and patrons alike. In an original statement regarding the radius clause on NXNE’s website, it is described as a way to promote and generate more interest in the musicians slated to perform.

“We’re a curated festival that takes a lot of time to listen to a lot of bands. We choose our favourites to play and, as a result, we want these artists to get the largest amount of exposure they can at NXNE. We also believe music fans and the rest of the industry want to see different things – not just the same band over and over again.” – NXNE, posted February 2014

However, general consensus showed this radius clause would do more harm than good, especially to local and emerging musicians. Those who performed in CMW’s music festival this year were not allowed to play NXNE this week. This is allegedly due to CMW’s date change. Originally, Canadian Music Week happened in March of every year, not earning itself the label of “competitor” with NXNE. However, CMW dates were changed to the first week of May this year, potentially encroaching on NXNE’s territory.

It appears both NXNE and CMW have reached peaceful negotiations, sending out a press release with the news of the axed radius clause.

“We are so fortunate to have such an engaged and vocal music community,” says NXNE’s Michael Hollett. “Unintended consequences of our policy were pointed out. We are making changes that address these issues – changes that don’t hurt up-and-coming bands, and yet still protect the integrity of NXNE’s lineup.”

After the public outcry and negotiations between the two festival magnates, the decision was made for better business.

“We are happy to see this issue resolved for the strength of the local community and artists building their careers. We look forward to both of the festivals co-existing in 2015 and continuing to grow Toronto as ‘the’ music destination,” says Neill Dixon, president of Canadian Music Week.

The largest amount of outcry came from independent artists and their fans who were removed from the NXNE line up for breaching the radius clause, not only because of CMW, but because of free shows, fundraisers and small local events. Arts and culture publication, Weird Canada started an online petition for NXNE to abolish the radius clause. The petition has reached 2, 951 signatures as of June 20th.

It remains to be seen what kind of support and cultivation local and emerging artists will receive in future years from the festival, but the good news is they won’t have to deal with a month-and-a-half long hiatus from performing in Toronto.

© Megan Rach, Music Vice

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