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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 13, No. 9


by Wah Keung Chan / June 4, 2008

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Twice over the last two months, I have had occasion to reflect on the founding of La Scène Musicale, the non-profit charity that publishes La Scena Musicale (LSM), La SCENA, The Music Scene Ontario and SCENA.org. On April 14, my Alma Mater, Vanier College, dedicated its 10th Annual Big Band Benefit Concert to me. I was honoured and touched by the tribute, which was capped with a surprise performance by Oliver Jones. Last month, Canadian Heritage held a call for opinions on their revamped Canada Periodical Fund, which aims to replace the existing Canada Magazine Fund and the Periodical Assistance Program. In preparing for my speech for Vanier College and the brief for the Canada Periodical Fund, I was able to look back with pride on our organization’s accomplishments

Since 1996, La Scena Musicale has been one of two music magazines to independently pioneer the controlled-circulation arts magazine model of publishing. The motivation for La Scena Musicale to adopt this model was and is to promote music (and the arts) by making it accessible through the power of the written word. This mission fits the notion of mediation of the arts, which is one of the priorities of the Canada Council and most recently, was supported by all levels of government at the November 2007 Montreal Cultural Summit. With few exceptions, most traditional arts magazines have small circulations. As I wrote in my editorial following the Summit, governments should be encouraging and empowering arts magazines to increase their distribution in order to promote arts and culture.

When we began publishing in 1996, many funding agencies confused our publishing model with the Urban Weekly model, and deemed us ineligible, fearing that they would open eligibility to urban weeklies. While it is true that we derive most of our revenues from advertising (about 85%), the ad-to-page ratio is much different. Urban weeklies are commercial enterprises and operate on 75% advertising. Our magazine has always favoured the creation of quality content and we initially set a 50% advertising limit, but in practice our ad ratio is only 36%. Just last month (April 2008), the Ontario Arts Council (OAC) also made controlled-circulation arts magazines eligible for funding, setting the ad limit at 40% and also allowing magazines with more than 30,000 copies to apply. We hope other arts councils will follow suit.

Looking back over the last 12 months, there are also more signs of encouragement. Last June, LSM was awarded honourable mention at the 2006 National Magazine Awards for our critical profile of Kent Nagano (LSM Dec. 2006). Editorial excellence is always our priority and I was honoured when maestro Paavo Järvi told me last July, after reading his LSM profile, “you are the only one who understands me.” In July 2007, we concluded our fiscal year with a balanced budget, thanks to belt tightening and donations from the Board of Directors. In September 2007, we expanded our mission to promote the arts by launching the new La SCENA multidisciplinary arts magazine. With its new, perfectly bound format, and the ability to get the exclusive interviews (Gradimir Pankov, Denys Arcand, Simon Brault, Michaëlle Jean and Jean-Daniel Lefond), La SCENA has already proven itself to be a respected and relevant contribution to the arts in its first year. We have also added two members to our board, Gilles Cloutier and Holly Higgins-Jonas, who are bringing new energy to fundraising (watch for announcements of a Choral Gala Extravaganza on February 14, 2009), and we will be launching a new Advisory Committee. We have also had the support of musicians, many of whom joined us as LSM Ambassadors by directly making a donation. Since July, we have also engaged a dedicated French copy-editor (first Michèle Gaudreau and now Alain Cavenne) to improve the quality of our texts, which we hope will improve the chances for LSM to finally receive government grants. Lastly, we are proud that our website SCENA.org continues to be a world leader in classical music publishing and news, especially since January with the launch of our regular blogs. Watch for more improvements for 2008-2009, including revised scheduling for the magazines to appear earlier for our subscribers.

Promoting and defending artistic culture is at the heart of our organization’s mission, and this is the recurring theme of this issue. Both cover interviewees, Michaëlle Jean and Jean-Daniel Lefond, as well as Jean-François Lapointe speak passionately about the importance of artistic culture. Our coverage of the state of classical music on radio in Canada shows that the battle must continue. Our 12th annual Festival Guide expands our leading coverage of classical music festivals to include Canadian arts festivals. The abundance of programming shows that live artistic culture is alive and well across Canada.

Wah Keung Chan

Founding editor

La Scena Musicale / La SCENA

Version française...

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