Just when a handful of invited detractors on the Why NXNE Sucks panel were griping about the 45-day radius clause imposed on artists performing at the Toronto music festival (June 18 to 22), publicists for NXNE and Canadian Music Week had already written up the press release that the restriction had been lifted.
Michael Hollett, president and managing director of NXNE, confirmed to Billboard that he and CMW president Neill Dixon — who this year moved his long-standing festival and conference from March to May — decided Thursday night to remove the radius clause, “allowing emerging artists greater leeway to perform locally while still being considered for both 2015 festivals,” says the release.
Faced with the close proximity of CMW, NXNE introduced a 45-day radius clause for the 2014 festival to keep their lineup fresh and unique. This was not revealed until after the application process and artists who had agreed to play CMW were not able to play NXNE. While many in the music industry understood the need for the radius clause — particularly so artists could maximize their draw — the move also generated controversy.
“It hurts the baby bands” was a common complaint.
A Change.org petition, started by Weird Canada, secured 3010 signatures to abolish the 45-day radius clause for local and emerging artists.
“After taking note of opinions expressed online, and following productive meetings with CMW president Neill Dixon, NXNE has decided to eliminate the blanket radius clause for 2015,” the press release states. “The two festivals believe that through greater cooperation and communication, they can better serve all venues, artists, and music fans in Toronto while at the same time preserving their respective identities.”
“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,” said Dixon.
“We are so fortunate to have such an engaged and vocal music community,” said 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.”
At the Why NXNE Sucks panel — moderated by Shaun Bowring (The Garrison) and featuring Paul Lawton (Ketamines, Slagging Off), Daniel Seligman (Pop Montreal), and Aubrey Jax (BlogTO) — Hollett, NXNE co-founder Yvonne Matsell, festival director Christopher Roberts and director of operations Mike Tanner sat in the audience listening to the criticisms without defending themselves.
“I thought it was a great panel,” Hollett tells Billboard. “I'm really humbled by how much even critics care about NXNE. I heard some great points at that panel. I was happy just to listen that day. I talk enough as it is."
The main topics were the radius clause, the use of Sonicbids to apply (which charges both to join and submit), the increased wristband price, the denial of media accreditation to key music bloggers, and a call for greater transparency (despite the fact that NXNE is a for-profit company).
No one from NXNE let it be known that two of those criticisms had already been addressed.