Canada is a big place – and the nation has wrestled with the problem of small town isolation since its inception. The Canada Post itself was a major innovation in opening up rural communities to basic communication and consumer products previously only available in bigger cities. And several other initiatives have made access to essential services such as health, education, and energy much easier in rural areas.
Access to quality live music might seem less of an urgent need compared to these essential services, but it is important in developing culturally rich communities. The usual circuit for live music in Canada involves going in a straight line from Vancouver to Halifax, along the amazingly linear Trans-Canada Highway. Travelling bands face a lot of competition in bigger cities, often only managing to muster up a few dozen people to their shows. This fact coupled with gruellingly long drives between big cities, makes touring in Canada a draining endeavour.
A new organization has come up with a program that solves two problems at once – getting bands to travel to smaller towns, and building audiences in these towns. Home Routes, as the organization is called, organizes concert circuits through smaller towns, by getting people to offer up their homes as concert venues. Because small towns are generally very well networked and home venues are relatively small, it is easy to sell out shows. Playing in homes creates a more intimate experience for both the performer and the audience and because the distance between shows is smaller, and each homeowner usually offers free overnight accommodation for the musicians, concert tours are much more manageable for the musician.
The organization solicits homeowners to offer up their homes, and once a critical mass has been found in a limited geographical range, a touring route is decided on. Currently the organization has 4 routes in western Canada and is planning on expanding. Artists are also free to submit applications and are subsequently placed on a given touring schedule.