NXNE: Canadian Music Execs Talk Toronto Memories and Reveal Where They Do Business

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Neko Case and A.C. Newman of The New Pornographers perform in concert during day 2 of FunFunFun Fest at Auditorium Shores on Nov. 8, 2014 in Austin, Texas. 

This month, Toronto will be buzzing with entertainment. The NXNE music festival, June 17-21, has 500 artists performing in clubs, theatres and outdoor spaces. The eclectic multi-arts festival Luminato runs June 19-28 in a range of venues including parks, galleries and an arena, and the TD Toronto Jazz Festival is on from June 18 to 29 featuring more than 350 concerts in over 40 locations. That's a heck of a lot of shows.

Amid all this city-wide activity, top name artists and on-the-rise acts will be feted at the televised MuchMusic Video Awards, June 21, where thousands of fans will gather outside Bell Media's Queen Street headquarters on the shut-down street to watch the trophy handouts and performances on a massive stage.  The following evening, June 22, a tamer more sophisticated affair takes place at the Westin Harbour Castle for the SOCAN Awards, honoring songwriting, composing, and music publishing achievements.

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So with all this activity and so many visitors to Toronto, Billboard asked some Toronto-based music executives to name their favorite spot to do business and also got them to reminisce about their favorite musical memory.  Here are their answers.

RILEY O'CONNOR (Chairman, Live Nation Canada)

Where is your favorite location to do business in Toronto and why?

I have two places. Out of the office, for many years now it's been Le Select Bistro, a real French-style bistro. The staff are always very engaging and when you want to have a business meeting, they leave you alone. They only bug you when they think you need something. It's a great atmosphere to conduct business because the food is great and people want to have a conversation there. And then my office because it's just a great setting on the waterfront. In the summertime, you're looking out at water and boats. I have a balcony off my office and I can go sit out there and conduct business and you get a panoramic view of the skyline. So it always opens up a conversation for people. 'Hey, what a great place to be.'

What's your favorite musical memory that took place in Toronto?

Something that was transformative was Fishbone at the Masonic Temple in the early 90s because I saw an audience react in a way that I hadn't experienced before. Very engaged. The band was inspired by the audience reaction. Torontonians always had the moniker put on them that they were laidback and waited 'til the last moment of the show [to erupt] for encores; well, this was full-on from the opening bars of the song. It was just a frenzied crowd and then the band became almost maniacal on it. It was one of the most intense shows I've ever seen.

Le Sélect Bistro, 432 Wellington Street West

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​JEFF CRAIB (President, The Feldman Agency)

Where is your favorite location to do business in Toronto and why?

I've had hundreds of meetings at the Queen & Beaver with everyone from promoters to every genre of artist. It's on the same street as the Feldman office. Upstairs is like sitting in a living room. I just had a meeting there with Corey Hart and [Warner Music Canada president] Steve Kane about their new artist Jonathan Roy. Corey flew up from Nassau and we had drinks and hung out for a couple of hours. He's like, 'This is the coolest place.' 

What's your favorite musical memory that took place in Toronto?

Give me two. One thing that was cool, that I think will become even cooler, is I took [artist] Francesco Yates and his dad to see Hedley at the ACC [Air Canada Centre] and did the whole walk around, so he could get [an idea of] the backstage, then walked down the ramp, walked him out to front of house, and stood him in there from when everything started to happen. And I could just see him processing, 'That's me. I'm going to be on that stage in here.' He was saying nothing; he was just staring at everything that was going on. It's pretty cool to see some kid digest it all. The other one is the SARS concert [July 30, 2003] at Downsview Park in north Toronto. When I really think about it — from traveling from downtown to the backstage on a secret train route with The Isley Brothers to seeing all the acts to standing on the lighting tower, post-Rush, looking at a 360 degree view of 450,000 people while AC/DC was playing, that one wins.

The Queen & Beaver Public House, 35 Elm Street

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RANDY LENNOX (President/CEO, Universal Music Canada)

Where is your favorite location to do business in Toronto and why?

I do at least a day a week at the Soho House. I'm there all day back to back and enjoying the meetings there.  I love that when I need a private meeting, I can have it and when I'm in a more networking mood, there's no better place in the city for it. For example, I was having lunch with the Arkells and Mumford & Sons was having lunch at the next table and across from a bunch of film guys. So there's that, which I enjoy when I'm in the mood for it, and then there's also privacy if you need it because it's four levels.

What's your favorite musical memory that took place in Toronto?

Marcus Mumford decided to play a show at Lee's Palace. They now play Air Canada Centre and Molson Amphitheatre. They first played here in '06, I think it was, and they wanted to come full circle.  I stood there on a Good Friday, with business friends and some personal friends and I just went, 'This is it. This is why I'm standing here.' This is one of those moments you remember, like the Police at The Edge or all those tales we've told of those special nights when there were 14 people in the audience. It was that kind of a night. They were that amazing. And Marcus himself commented after the show that it was one of the top three shows they've played in the history of that band.

Soho House Toronto, 192 Adelaide Street West

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ERIC BAPTISTE (CEO, the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada/SOCAN)

Where is your favorite location to do business in Toronto and why?

The SOCAN building. It's a building that was not, until recently, vibrant with music. We made lots of changes and now we have, nearly on a monthly basis, SOCAN members performing there.  It's a bit off the beaten track, but so are the major record labels. Universal, Warner and Sony are not downtown; we're not downtown either, but it's a very good music venue. We're very proud of our offices. We've put in place rooms where creators can work together, can work on their music; it's not a studio or series of studios but it's not just a music business administration office. It's more and more a building where you can see creativity in action. Some of our members enjoy performing for our staff during lunch break time. It's an amazing location to connect the members and the publishers with 100 to 150 people that work in the offices of SOCAN.

What's your favorite musical memory that took place in Toronto?

I can tell you two things: one is probably going to be expected from me. We had an amazing awards show, the SOCAN Awards show, in June last year, with people like Gordon Lightfoot, Carly Rae Jepsen, Serena Ryder, Stephan Moccio being honoured and a few very good performances in front of the music community in Toronto. All the people who are anyone in Toronto were there and it was amazing. Maybe on a more personal level, since I moved to Toronto in 2010, one thing I remember very well because this is a very iconic Canadian band that I never saw before — Rush at the ACC [Air Canada Centre]. I don't remember when it was, probably 2011. Was really a great achievement for me to be able to see Rush in their city.

SOCAN, 41 Valleybrook Drive

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JOEL CARRIERE (President, Dine Alone Records/Bedlam Music Mgmt/Dine Alone Foods)

Where is your favorite location to do business in Toronto and why?

We have two favourite spots we like to do business that is outside of our office.  The first is House on Parliament in Cabbagetown and the other is Hogtown Smoke in the Beaches.  Both are removed enough from the core of downtown that we are usually not interrupted by our peers, colleagues or competitors.  The food, booze, staff and environments are perfect for how we like to get business done.  Both places are casual, not pretentious, positive environments that lend well to talking shop and brainstorming ideas.

What's your favorite musical memory that took place in Toronto?

For 25 years I have been coming to Toronto for concerts; the last 10 I have lived here and grown our companies in Toronto.  I fortunately have an endless amount of amazing moments so it is impossible to narrow it down to one favorite moment. I remember watching Attack in Black open for Alexisonfire at The Opera House several years ago.  I was sitting in the balcony with some of our co-workers and Alexisonfire.  Attack in Black played perfect, so perfect that at one point I just started tearing up. I was watching this young band shine and move every single person in that room.  I remember looking over at Dallas [Green of City and Colour/Alexisonfire], who was also wet-eyed, and we just nodded at each other.  We knew that we were witnessing something special; we were a part of watching greatness.  That was one of many amazing moments Toronto has given me.

House on Parliament, 454 Parliament St.

Hogtown Smoke, 1959 Queen St. East

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MICHAEL COTEAU (Minister of Tourism, Culture & Sport, Ontario)

Where is your favorite location to do business in Toronto when you meet with people from the Music Office or members of the music industry, and why?

I don't necessarily have meetings with people in the music industry. If I do, they usually come into our office or at the legislature I'll meet them. We'll use our venue. I've been to a few different places with the sector to make announcements. We went with the Premier [Kathleen Wynne] to a wonderful venue, at Coalition [Music] in Scarborough. I've been there a few times. In fact, when I was first appointed Minister I dropped by to say hello and to see the creativity of young people making music. It's a beautiful church retrofitted to support artists and if you go inside the building, it's a huge activity of just life -- music. It's a hub where people collaborate, work together; artists that have never met each other are collaborating, writing things together and I would hope that that it would almost be like a microcosm for what we're trying to do for the Province of Ontario, where we can build a sector where everyone can feel that there's collaboration; there's ways to network; there's grants to access to get support, and where people are contributing to the development of Ontario identity.

What's your favorite musical memory that took place in Toronto?

I'm 42 years old and in Toronto, my favourite musical memory is back in the late 80s as a young boy seeing Big Daddy Kane, Biz Markie and KRS-One come to Flemington Park. These are pioneers in hip hop. To me, it was absolutely wonderful for them to come into our neighbourhood and to perform at a local community centre. These guys are kings in hip hip culture and being a little boy, and they came into my neighbourhood and performed, to me, it's extraordinary.

Coalition Music, 1731 Lawrence Ave. East

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CHRIS TAYLOR (Founder/Partner, Taylor Klein Oballa LLP and Founder, Last Gang Entertainment)

Where is your favorite location to do business in Toronto and why?

I like my office. The coffee's fresh. The speakers are good. If you're going to speak about music, you should be able to listen to it at the same time. Our offices are in Liberty Village. We have awesome 24-foot ceilings. It feels like a greenhouse some days; we get lots of great sunlight. We're got music playing on the Sonos system and lots of great artwork up on the walls and it's a great environment for creativity and business.

What's your favorite musical memory that took place in Toronto?

My favorite musical memory was in and around 1992 at the Apocalypse nightclub which was on College, next to the Mod Club, where I got to see Toots & the Maytals for the first time. I was in a reggae band of my own [called One]. I idolized him. I knew all his songs from front to back and seeing him made me cry. Yeah. I got my photo with him and everything. I love Toots.

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TIM LEIWEKE (President/CEO, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment)

Where is your favorite location to do business in Toronto and why?

Soho because Soho has that vibe to it. To me, it feels like a music place. It's not too corporate-like; it's not too staid; it's not too business-like. And to me, Soho reminds me of why we all love music. So it's kind of an emotional experience, not just a restaurant or bar. I like going there for music. Funnily enough, I keep on running into all the acts though -- they either stay at the Ritz or the Four Seasons and I seem to see them all there anyway.

What's your favorite musical memory that took place in Toronto?

For me, I'm a pretty massive fan of the Eagles, still to this date and when they came here during the last tour, to hear how good those guys still are, how well they play together, sing together, how committed and passionate they are about the music and the Air Canada Centre is an amazing venue for music' cause it's tight. So even though it has a 20,000-seat capacity, concerts in that building sound fantastic because the building goes straight up and not out, so you kind of still sit on the music. That means that you don't lose the noise. And I think that was probably one of my favorite events. I know we caught a lot of grief for honoring Bon Jovi, the band [for the inaugural ACC Hall of Fame induction], but to see the number of dates they played here in this marketplace is incredible, and then I went to Taylor Swift at Rogers Centre and [promoter] Louis Messina is a very good friend and just seeing the emotion and the passion from that young woman, and how she controls and can take a room that big and it was hers, was like she was in a living room. I was just blown away by how a musician today can capture a room and make it that small and intimate and, quite frankly, that's an awfully big hall.