Returning to Halifax for its 35th-anniversary, the East Coast Music Awards (ECMA) takes over venues across the HRM from May 3-7. According to the ECMA’s CEO Andy McLean, it is not only an opportunity for audiences to see some of their favourite acts from around the region but also to discover something new.
If you’re a music fan, this is a great opportunity to go see some of your favourite acts, but also to discover something new. – Andy McLean
“Discovering a new artist and then sharing with your friends is still one of the most valuable and rewarding things that you can do,” he says.
Making it easier for diehard music fans to take in their favourite artists or discover new ones is the Weekend Warrior wristbands, which provide access to all of the ECMA’s TD Connected Concerts festival showcases at bars, clubs, and evening stages from May 4-6.
“The wristbands mean you don’t pay cover at any of the venues during the ECMAs, so you can club hop,” says McLean.
To help plan, the ECMAs will launch a new app on April 21. “You can program your whole EMCA experience, which means you can try something new or a new genre,” McLean says. “That’s the beauty of this kind of event. It’s a wonderful way to go out and sample a bit of everything that’s going on.”
McLean also sees this year’s EMCAs as an opportunity for music fans to reconnect with live music.
If you haven’t been out to live music very much and you think the virtual experiences are good, then go back and have a live experience. It’s even better.
“If you haven’t been out to live music very much and you think the virtual experiences are good, then go back and have a live experience,” he says. “It’s even better.”
With the pandemic putting a wrench into many musicians’ livelihoods over the past few years, the ECMAs also provide an opportunity for artists to reconnect with audiences. With the uncertainties introduced because of the lockdowns and an industry still reeling from its effects, events like the EMCAs are more critical than ever.
“It can be a difficult road for musicians,” says McLean. “The pandemic, in a lot of ways, was a massive reset. Some found it difficult, and some had to rethink what their career trajectory was. The ECMAs are here to help.”
With the live and online hybrid model now a distant memory from the ECMAs in Fredericton last year, McLean says the move to a fully live offering in 2023 will go a long way in the industry’s recovery.
“This year, we’re fully back and engaged, and people are so excited to come out and do business, make new friends, make new fans, and be back playing music live,” he says. “It is an opportunity to bring everybody together and remind them that they’re not alone, that there is a community supporting them.”
And while the awards, to be handed out in two ceremonies on May 4 and 7, are the ECMA’s biggest draws, there are plenty of other events, including the return of the ECMA Fan Fest on May 6.
“This year, we’re closing down Argyle Street from Prince to Sackville with a free music stage featuring the likes of Kellie Loder, Neon Dreams, JRDN and Dee Dee Austin,” says McLean. “Plus, there will be opportunities for fans to meet and greet the artists and interact after their performance.”
Further along Argyle Street, the ECMA Family Fun-Fest will occur the same day. “Saturday afternoon is going to be just awesome,” says McLean. “And, of course, the weather’s going to be fantastic in May, so it will be a great way for people that want to come down and experience some free music and have a little fun.”
Music is such a big part of our lives; it’s part of our DNA. There really is no feeling quite like it. And the beauty of this type of event is in getting out and sampling a bit of everything that’s going on with the East Coast music scene.
Music fans will also see some of their favourite artists lace up their skates with the return of the ECMA Cup charity hockey game on May 6.
“We started the ECMA Cup charity hockey game here in Halifax in 2018 with a chance for musicians, media, celebrities, and others to play a fun game of hockey and raise money,” says McLean.
This year’s ECMA Cup will benefit Sound Minds, a joint initiative with The Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia, providing mental health support to music industry professionals.
“A lot of musicians and people from the music industry were particularly hard hit during the lockdowns, and we’ve been supporting them through various mental health and wellness initiatives through initiatives like Sound Minds,” says McLean.
Exchanging their skates for sneakers, the newly created ECMA charity basketball game is another opportunity for fans to see some of their favourite artists in an entirely different light in support of the Hot Cocoa Boys, a local, Halifax-based social enterprise within the Hope Blooms organization who are raising funds for a mobile recording studio.
“Maybe next time it will be soccer or perhaps a charity darts tournament,” McLean laughs.
Whether being a Weekend Warrior, taking in the award ceremonies or some of the free events at this year’s ECMAs, McLean says the five days in May have something for everyone.
“Music is such a big part of our lives; it’s part of our DNA,” he says. “There really is no feeling quite like it. And the beauty of this type of event is in getting out and sampling a bit of everything that’s going on with the East Coast music scene.”
The 2023 East Coast Music Awards take place at venues across Halifax from May 3-7. Visit ecma.com for tickets and information.