When I applied for permanent resident in Canada under an immigration category mostly suited for artists and creative industry professionals, I knew I would have to press the “reset” button in my life and start over again in a country where I knew no one. And in a city that sometimes frightens me with its fame of “city that fun forgot”.
But Ottawa is far from being the biggest issue… and it’s not the city that fun forgot either. It is, however, a place where newcomer artists must work hard to get people to know them and build a following from absolute zero. It wouldn’t be different in Montréal or in Toronto. As it was extremely tough in Rio for me, and I never made it there.
The infamous “Canadian Experience Barrier” doesn’t apply to arts in general, since the arts are very personal and unique. And based on self-employment. And that’s where we come to the biggest difficulty: self-employment! Life is far from stable and you struggle to pay your bills and break the poverty barrier.
It also takes a while for you to learn the magic word: “GRANTS”… and then learn how to successfully apply for a grant.
Everything depends on the magic of getting people to know you and start to follow you. After a long time, you book a date in a local bar… then nobody comes. You participate in collective projects, people don’t give a damn about you. You’re just a newcomer who came from a remote country they know very little about and have little real interest in learning about… You know it’s a shame for them, but they’re the audience and they bring money.
It’s a big struggle, for sure. And you have to win it.
Get people to know you exist and play that music they need to get to know.