The life of a career musician can vary drastically, depending on the scene that surrounds them. Typically, musicians are hard-working folk who have to juggle many different skill sets and roles to keep working, and having a solid and supportive home base is a big part of maintaining stamina in what can be a challenging career. Establishing and maintaining a following, booking fairly-paid gigs, networking, and collaborating can prove to be difficult in some larger centres as the oversaturation of musicians trying to work in the field can create a hostile and competitive environment. Add to that the expense of living in the city and all of the logistical costs of getting you and your gear to and from a venue that pays peanuts, and you’ve got a recipe for burnout. Some cities are great to tour to, but are they a solid place to build your platform? There are several reasons why I choose to call Prince George home, and the fact that I am able to work steadily as a musician and label owner (and still have the resources to tour and tap into other scenes) are high on the list.
Prince George is home to smaller, independent venues that house some of the best local and touring live music. The great thing about this is that booking those gigs doesn’t require an ‘in’; local venue owners are generally very accessible and easy to reach. Prince George’s Mad Loon Entertainment books at several venues around town, one of which is the Prince George Legion (affectionately referred to as the “Peege Leege”). The Legion hosts music one to three nights a week and you will find a healthy mix of folk in the crowd, from university students to Legion members to other musicians and artists within the scene. Omineca Arts Centre also provides a great room, as well as Art Space (the top floor of a multi-use building housing a bookstore, cafe and more). The Prince George Playhouse is great for soft-seat events, and there are many great restaurants and cafés that hold live music events as well.
One of the best attributes of Prince George’s music scene is that artists generally support each other. You’ll find folk artists out supporting rock shows and vice versa, and competing events cross-promoting to help boost the evening for everyone. The crab bucket mentality that comes from desperately clamouring for gigs and opportunities is next to none here because everyone’s got space to find and create their own opportunities.
The gig economy is a reality for musicians (and many other fields, these days), which means that income might vary from month to month. This can be scary, but especially so when you are eking out a $1500 rent check for your bachelor apartment, or your roommates are depending on you to come up with your share. While rent and mortgages are still a thing in Prince George, they are drastically lower than that of larger centres, meaning more room to breathe, financially speaking. The general cost of living here is comparatively low, which allows for more time and resources to put back into the art in your heart!
Combine these reasons with the fact that any place in town is no more than a twenty minute drive away, downtown venues are riddled with loading zones (hello gear transfer!), and there are great locally-owned music stores to keep you stocked (Aidyl at Sound Factory will take good care of you), and you’ve got the makings for a solid base to build your platform from.
PS: We still have the age-old problem of not-enough-drummers. If you are a drummer you will work lots. Move to Prince George!