Could city pull the plug on outdoor music festivals with noise bylaw review?

The city of Toronto is set to make changes to its noise bylaw after a lengthy review and some are concerned the new rules could put a serious damper on outdoor music festivals. 

It was announced that the city of Toronto is currently reviewing its noise regulations. Specifically, the city is looking into its regulations around amplified sound and noise regulation permits needed for outdoor music performances. 

A bylaw review conducted back in 2019 concluded that noise levels should be restricted to 85 decibels (dBA) measured at 20 metres from the source of the noise. This is about the average noise level of traffic or the inside of a busy restaurant. It’s also about 25 dBA lower than a baby’s cry. 

Many advocates and groups call this limit too restrictive, saying that it makes organizing music-based outdoor events much harder than necessary. 

The Toronto Music Advisory Committee (TMAC) said in its Noise Bylaw Recommendations that “the 85 dBA limit is unreasonably low and makes it very difficult for outdoor event organizers to create successful events and festivals.”

As a part of its review of the bylaw, the city of Toronto is asking to get feedback from the community.

The input gathered during these public consultations will shape a staff report anticipated to be presented at the Economic Community and Development Committee meeting in November 2023.

The review is also considering general noise such as that from power devices, motor vehicle noise and construction noise.

There are advocacy groups set up on both sides of the amplified noise issue including the Toronto Noise Coalition and No More Noise Toronto lobbying for more stringent rules.

Internationally known Toronto DJ Scratch Bastid has added his voice to the other side of the debate. In a post to social media, he asked for Torontonians to stand up for outdoor music and make their voices heard before the Oct. 15 city deadline for comment.

“We need to let them know how much outdoor loud music means to us as artists, fans, promoters, employees and members of the music community in the GTA and abroad,” he said. “Current potential updates include further reducing already restrictive noise limits, so we need to be louder on our side of the conversation.”

He also pointed to the local advocacy group Sounds of the City Collective, which bills itself as a small group of music lovers who want to ensure the positive energy that live music brings to Toronto is not lost and is helping to facilitate comments to the city on its website. 

“The 85 dBA limit restricts outdoor events by limiting the overall volume of the concerts. In September 2023, the City of Toronto held consultations on ‘Amplified Sound’, and feedback from these sessions was heavily weighted by residents who live in quiet areas of the city, as well as those who are impacted by poor noise isolation along the King Street West and Ossington corridors. However, the proposed changes will govern ALL music events across the city moving forward,” reads the Sounds of the City website.

“We are being provided an opportunity to express thoughts on what Toronto’s future noise bylaw should look like. The feedback will be used to recommend updates to the bylaw.” 

The website states that people interested should reach out to the City of Toronto Municipal Licensing and Standards feedback and the Deputy Mayor Ausma Malik and tell them why they love outdoor music and how it can be beneficial to the city. 

However the city is only taking input on this issue until Oct. 15, so the website encourages people to take action as soon as possible. 

Big entertainment companies such as INK Entertainment, the owner of several nightclubs in the city as well as the organizers behind the annual VELD electronic music festival, have been putting out messages encouraging their followers to send messages to the city. 

To comment on the Toronto noise bylaw report click here.


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