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Toronto is host to some world class music festivals with the top three being CMW (Canadian Music Week) May 6-10, NXNE (North by North East) June 13 – 22, and IW (Indie Week) Oct 15 – 19.


NXNE in it’s 20th year is one of the top music festivals of not only Toronto, but Worldwide. Canadian Music Week is another top worldwide festival that is hosted in Toronto which moved this year from March to May, causing a whole lot of discussions pitting CMW (Canadian Music Week) against NXNE as which one is better.


Indie Week only in it’s 11th year compared to NXNE (20 years) and CM (35 years) is a much smaller festival (250 bands compared to 850+) but focuses strictly on emerging artists world-wide and also hosts music industry conferences which is being branded as “indie101”. A film festival “Reel Indie Film Festival” was added last year with John Densmore (drummer for The Doors kicking it off as a keynote speaker).

Both CMW and NXNE consists of a music business conference, music festival, film festival and comedy programming. Both are trying to cover all angles. By having CMW move to just a month before NXNE, many people have been asking the question, which festival will be better? How will the timing affect the other? Should they two festivals merge into one mega-festival?

Indie Week taking place in October and being smaller stays away from the comparison and the ongoing battle.

SO my question is this – why does it matter so much? NXNE this year added a “radius clause” which meant that if any acts performed at CMW they would not be able to perform at NXNE. This stirred up a hornets nest. People are either against it or for it – either way people are talking and wondering which festival will be better this year.

Is it a good thing to keep the programming different at each festival or is it a bad thing to force acts to choose which festival to be a part of and limiting them to only be able to participate in one festival instead of both?

My stance…

Why can’t we just let the people who run their own festivals run them the way they want? I am sure both festivals will be a huge success, both will deliver stellar performances and an amazing experience. Will a festival of this size be able to have every event go off without a hitch, no. Will the attendance be amazing for every show, no. That’s reality. How about we focus on the fact that any  festival that brings in people into the city, helps the local economy while giving emerging acts a stage to play on in front of music fans and industry a good thing. Nothing is guaranteed so every event has the chance of having good and bad to it. For some bands they will have a packed room and go away saying it was the best thing ever and others will play in front of the staff and curse the festival. It can’t be helped – these things happen.

In running a festival myself I know that in hindsight you always wish there were some things done a little differently but you cannot control everything no matter how much lead up and planning you work on. In fact just yesterday I was informed of NXNE venue switches for tonight! Stuff happens, we all deal with it and move on.

It seems so many people are focusing on what could be and what might not be instead of just letting the festivals happen and trying to experience it for what it is. Why not just go see bands – even if you one;t know them – and maybe… just maybe you’ll discover you’re next favourite act? If you are at a bar and are not into the band just go to the next. That’s what the wristbands and passes are for – club hopping. I find a lot of people are just into seeing what they know instead of taking a chance by seeing what they don’t know.

Sure sometimes the wristbands and passes may seem pricey – but nothing is free and it costs a lot to put these festivals on and why shouldn’t the organizers try to make some money for all of the hard work put in to making it all happen. So many people work on these festivals and often a lot of overtime and unpaid hours goes into making it happen so the festival goer only sees the show and not all of the potential disasters that were averted.

My hats are off for all of the staff, volunteers and organizers that continually deliver world class festivals to Toronto. It;s not easy and a lot of the times, the people are involved are there because they are passionate about music. Why else would we put ourselves through so many sleepless nights, stressful days, and unappreciated efforts? We just love it when that band from another country is killing it onstage and people are going crazy for them – that moment is when it all makes sense and we all know why we do this.

So for everyone talking about which festival to attend or not, which one is better or not, worth it or not… maybe just go and have a great time supporting something that brings a lot to the city and the music community knowing that we are lucky to have events like this in our city. Many cities don’t have festivals that compare. Also knowing that by supporting each festival they can only get better each year.

So with that said…. what bands are you going to see this week?

Let me know by leaving a comment at the bottom of this page – who should I be seeing??





Lemmy - Motorhead in Dublin on Halloween

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