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Folk Music Ontario votes to become a national organization

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Guitar in Woods

The members of Folk Music Ontario have voted to turn the country’s only English-language provincial folk music organization into an organizaton serving all of Canada.

FMO passed a special resolution at its annual general meeting on Nov. 23 to incorporate as a national arts service organization.

It was the final chapter — for now at least — in discussions that began in 2019 between FMO, Folk Music Canada and the Canadian Folk Music Awards.

Folk Music Ontario began in the 90s as a small caucus of festival presenters and grew exponentially under the leadership of its first executive director, Erin Benjamin. Its annual conference is the only annual gathering of the Canadian folk community and has, on and off over the years, been the defacto gathering place for the Canadian roots industry. FMO also established the Songs from the Heart Awards, which recently morphed into the Ontario Folk Music Awards.

Folk Music Canada, meanwhile, began its life in 2000 as Folk Alliance Canada, essentially a volunteer-run national arm of Folk Alliance International. It established a separate identity and priorities in 2009 and was perhaps most effective on the export development front.

By the late 2010s, FMO was $100,000 in debt, and the challenges facing the music business even before the pandemic — mainly the fall-out from collapsing revenues due to online streaming — had plenty of people thinking about how to save money.

After merger talks began in 2019, FMO held a townhall at its annual conference to discuss the idea, and the 75 people or so in attendance seemed to recognize the benefts of the proposal — a pooling of scarce resources, fewer membership dues to pay, better advocacy — but they also raised concerns that will need to be addressed by the newly reconstituted FMC, such as ensuring that Ontario interests don’t continue to dominate the agenda.

The passage of Thursday’s motion means that work can now begin.

FMC will transfer its assets to FMO, and file for dissolution.

The Canadian Folk Music Awards, which were launched in 2005, did not take part in the merger and remain a separate entity.

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