Dave Bidini: What the Future Holds for Music In Toronto
Music and journalism are two industries that have struggled to stay afloat in Toronto for decades. Multiple local newsrooms are left understaffed due to budget cuts while numerous music venues have shut down. While some wait for these industries to recover, there are aspiring individuals like Dave Bidini, writer, and musician of the band “Rheostatics”, who wish to give back to this struggling city in a different way.
Bidini started a non-profit community newspaper called “The West End Phoenix” only a year ago, and the circulation continues to grow. He has built this newspaper, reminiscent of the grassroots culture residing in Toronto’s west end communities, with a colourful roster of Toronto creatives to support his venture. The newspaper features an extensive list of contributions including writer Michael Healey, journalist Eman Bare and novelist Claudia Dey, along with heavy patronage from Margaret Atwood.
While The West End Phoenix continues to grow, Bidini’s goal isn’t just to have a local newspaper circulate Toronto but to inspire a younger generation of journalists. In order to help revitalize a city that sits in a limbo of progression for musicians and writers alike, Bidini is one of the few people who are taking that take on a leading role to improve this landscape.
Emerge Music: You mentioned career mistakes being your biggest lesson, would you say self-criticism and dealing with negative criticism shapes you as a journalist?
Dave Bidini I think you have to be a vessel that really hardens yourself to any kind of criticism. There’s a lot today about other voices and engaging with readers. For years there was no engagement with readers, the only engagement that a writer would have is if they met them at a bar to grab a drink. You have to be so confident in your voice and your opinion that you can’t let your readership effect it. I think a reader wants the writer to do the work so they don’t have to. That’s kind of the epidemic of social media, unfortunately.
EM: Do you think that doubting yourself amidst working as a writer carries over into your music career?
DB: Yeah. When you’re in a band you have to be able to take input and criticism, especially when you’re working on a song. There has to be a little bit of give and take. I think that becomes true when it comes to being edited; you have to be able to let your editor edit without you being so stubborn that you won’t let them do their work. In any capacity where there’s photography, film or writing, you need to have people around you that you trust that can criticize your work and be open to that criticism.
EM: Where do you see Toronto’s music industry heading in the next few years?
DB: It’s hard to say. I don’t think anybody really knows. So many places are closing and venues are getting shut down. You don’t just want to have the larger venues that some bands can play. You need to also have a strong middle, whereas now it’s either one or the other. There’s a lot of underground and all-ages places that usually pop-up and close or there are big venues for bigger artists; there’s not much of an in-between. People will always play but you also have to have a ladder in from of you to know what steps to take in order to get to where you want to be.
EM: Is there anything that young people can do now to prepare for the future that might help the music industry?
DB: I think it starts with our city and it definitely starts with a bit of council. You have to free up places so that people can put on shows. We have a bylaw where you are in your own right to file a complaint about noise if it’s at an excessive level. People can file a complaint once the noise is too loud or call the police. This is part of the reason why there aren’t much small music venues because we need to free up spaces where musicians can just play. It’s even things like trying to get a permit in the park, which is a challenge in itself. I think that we should all be engaged, as long as we all speak up and participate, there should be some kind of change.
EM: For the music industry to grow, what is the one essential thing that my generation can do now in order to finally make some progress?
DB: I think it’s organizing a resistance to traditional draconian bylaws that are constantly governing how musicians can make music in this city. It takes a very close-knit and activated group to tackle this where everybody could benefit. If one person starts lobbying their local government, then it would influence others to do so as well.