City of Edmonton revitalization money helps downtown music, musicians and venues

Live local music is beginning to return to downtown Edmonton where it will play an instrumental role in helping to turn back the effects of the pandemic. 

“Music has a major economic impact in bringing folks to downtown,” said Jessica Marsh, Director, North Bird Creatives. 

“It’s incredibly important for the vibrancy of downtown, especially for any kind of tourism strategy,” she said. “And it’s an integral part of Edmonton—we’re known as a festival city.”

Marsh was part of a team—including West Anthem and partners at the National Music Centre and Alberta Music—that used $69,000 in funding from the City of Edmonton’s Downtown Vibrancy Strategy Fund to create the Downtown Music Vibrancy Relaunch Grant. 

One-time funding went to 12 events to support shows in the downtown area leading up to the summer festival season in 2022. Priority went to those recipients who could put on an event between April and June and who relied on their music as a main income stream.

“There’s so much value in art, and to have artists be able to live and make a living here really contributes a lot back to the economy,” Marsh said. 

 The Backyard in full swing back in summer 2022:

Space to connect

The Backyard’s music series, For the Love of Downtown, received $25,000 from the Downtown Vibrancy Strategy Fund.

Every Thursday evening last summer, local acts were brought in and given the chance to shine. Performers made music. People in the audience made memories. 

All in the heart of downtown Edmonton.

“Artists, as much as anyone, suffered in the pandemic, there were no acts, no gigs, no performances they could do,” said Peter Stetsko, owner of The Backyard, near 101 Street and 104 Avenue. 

“So to be able to take that full $25,000 amount and contribute it 100 per cent to local musicians and artists, for us, was a very feel-good thing that we could do.” 

Stetsko said downtown vibrancy comes from unique businesses and unique offerings in the core, but it comes from another source, too.

“It comes from people,” he said.

 “It meant being a part of trying to make downtown a welcoming and exciting place to come to,” said Rob Clarke, owner of The Common, of the Street Car series.

Cheers to downtown!

It was people, a lot of ‘em, who rode the streetcar atop the High Level Bridge  over the North Saskatchewan River on the way to live shows at The Common on 109 Street at 99 Avenue. 

The Street Car series was supported by the Downtown Vibrancy Strategy Fund.

“We are very community based, and we love being where we are,” said Rob Clarke, owner of The Common. 

“It’s hard to see how hard downtown was hit during the pandemic and the state it was left in,” Clarke said. “To help bring more foot traffic and more excitement into our area was really great. It meant being a part of trying to make downtown a welcoming and exciting place to come to.”

Clarke said live music venues leave lasting impressions on Edmontonians and visitors. 

“People could bank on [shows] being something they wanted to share, an experience that would represent the city and downtown.” Clarke said.

The Downtown Music Venues Grant, which offers up to $5,000 to live music venues downtown, is taking applications.

Continuing support for Edmonton’s music scene 

In addition to helping support local music, musicians and venues in downtown Edmonton, the City’s Downtown Vibrancy Strategy Fund has in part helped to: 

◉ develop, in partnership with Explore Edmonton, a Nighttime Economy Strategy, which includes identifying necessary supports for various industries and businesses such as live music venues

◉ assist live music venues downtown with funding to support operations through the Downtown Music Venues Grant, which offers up to $5,000 ($30,000 total available). Applications are still open at

◉ award $32,500 to a project led by Explore Edmonton and Alberta Music, featuring two concerts downtown leading up to the JUNO Awards

Downtown is one of the key places in Edmonton where so much good comes together—festivals and events, arts and culture, and accessible, well-activated public spaces. 

And people. And music.  

The City of Edmonton is hard at work to support the rhythm in the heart of our city. 

Editor’s note: Night Vision’s Downtown Defrost 2022, held last April and funded by the Downtown Music Vibrancy Relaunch Grant. Downtown Defrost 2022, held by Night Vision Music, showcased a variety of DJs and was funded by the Downtown Music Relaunch Grant.