Oshawa’s own Music Week

Photo by Tiago De Oliveira

Music Business Management student Jennifer Archibald is one of many organizers of this year's Oshawa Music Week event.

The Music Business’s annual event, the Reel music festival, is changing its name this year to Oshawa Music Week.

“We want to make it more inclusive,” Kyle Wilton, a student in the Music Business program says. “That’s the real goal.”

Music Business Administration is a Durham College two-year diploma program that teaches students how to manage the behind the scenes of performances and tours like booking venues, negotiating contracts and marketing.

There’s also a third year for the program called the Music Business Management which has an advanced diploma.

Both programs take part in the music festival each year.

This isn’t the first time the festival has had a name change either. The festival has been rebranded over the eighteen years it has been running, according to Tony Sutherland, an MBM professor who runs the event with the students.

When Sutherland first started teaching in the then Entertainment business administrative program, they already had an annual event put on by students but it wasn’t like the Oshawa Music Week.

“One year from the next, the event would have been anything from put on a play, do a press conference, do a record release, it could have been any number of things,” Sutherland says.

“I was really ambitious and really naïve when I first came,” Sutherland says. “So we booked bands, we booked venues from Pickering to Peterborough, I kid you not.”

“It was crazy, it was amazing. The students rose to the occasion,” Sutherland says. “They just killed it.”

It was a week-long event, similarly structured to the current music week, with live local bands, multiple venues and student run.

“We’d throw parties on Sundays just to celebrate we had done this and I think on Mondays no one was ready to come to class … or do anything for the next week,” says Sutherland.

Originally the event was called Durham Music and Film expo (DMFX) before it was changed to Rock ’n’ Reel says Sutherland.

In 2002, along with the music showcases, they had film components too. Guest speakers, like make-up artists gave talks, short film critics by industry members and 24-hour film festivals.

“I wanted students to understand that the two were related and they can leave here, use the same skills in music as they can in films,” Sutherland says.

In the early 2000’s, the program went through some changes itself. The program started to focus more on the music industry side of entertainment.

“It was so exciting, students were so excited and I think a big part of it at that time too was many of the students were interested in the music industry,” Sutherland says. “Students really wanted to hear about the music industry and we had a couple of profs here that were really excited about music industry,”

“It’s a sexy business.”

In 2007, the then Entertainment Business Administration program was renamed the Music Business Administration program. Despite being the music business program now, they still kept the film components to the festival.

In 2010, the name was changed to the Reel Music festival because some felt Rock ’n’ Reel wasn’t inclusive enough of other genres of music.

“What we were running into with Rock ‘n’ Reel is that some students felt alienated,” Sutherland says. “When you use the word rock, you tend to, you know when people identify themselves, if they are a jazz artist they are not a rock artist or if they’re a hip hop artist they are not a rock artist.”

“So we thought, let’s rebrand this thing.”

The Music Business students held a contest for the community to pick a new name and logo for the event. They had around 25 submissions for the name and eight submissions for the logo. In the end, the Reel Music Festival won out.

The name came with a few problems. After they did the rebranding, they found out that an American Brand had the same name.

So, if you googled the Reel Music Festival, the American link would come up first.

The program and event has also moved away from having film components, so including the reel just didn’t make sense anymore.

The students picked up on this, and when they came to Sutherland about ideas for the festival this year, Sutherland says, they suggested a name change.

“The students asked me ‘Why not change it to something local? Maybe something like Durham Music Festival? Oshawa Music Week?’” Sutherland says.

The idea was inspired by the Toronto music event, Canadian Music Week, says Sutherland. They decided to make it Oshawa Music week because “we’re in Oshawa after all.”

The program is hoping to get the City of Oshawa on board with the event since they’ve rebranded.

“We want to start to partner with the city itself,” Kyle Wilton, a student in the Music Business program says. With the name change, Wilton says, that they can better reach the community this way.

Sutherland says Oshawa is rebuilding, and they want to be a part of that.

“There’s lots of stuff here in their Culture and Heritage Plan and the arts is a big part of it, music is a big part of it. So we want to be a big part of what they are doing and we want them to know we are here to help them move that forward,” Sutherland says.

Along with the rebranding, students have added in new events like international music, which will take place on the Oshawa campus in The Pit and an award show.