Any list looking at the top Canadian music festivals might garner some controversy, because we all
have our favourites. There are major music festivals held every year from coast to coast, though some
are more successful than others evidently.
Any examination of the top 5 music festivals in Canada needs to take into consideration the west coast
and the east coast, the Prairies, and central Canada, and the many events that are held nationwide
throughout the year. This is a list of top Canadian music festivals, as we see it.
WayHome – Oro-Medonte, Ontario
There are a lot of Toronto music festivals that are attempting to jockey for top spot in the City. NXNE
continues to grow as a partner to SXSW and the Canadian Music Week Festival literally takes over
Toronto across sixty venues in April. Why WayHome makes the list above these is that it has been able
to attract PR-heavy names such as Neil Young, Kendrick Lamar, and St. Vincent – all in its first year –
and it continues to expand its audience size with each year that passes. If there was one festival that
has the potential to be Canada’s Coachella, WayHome might take the prize.
Osheaga – Montreal, Quebec
Osheaga has been a fixture of the Montreal music festival scene for over a decade and now attracts
more than 130,000 people from all over North America and Europe. Putting Canada on the map as one
of the country’s strongest international-influenced mainstream-esque music festivals, Osheaga always
comes with a strong lineup. Though Montreal in particular has a very competitive music scene with
festivals being quite the norm, Osheaga has boasted an international appeal that continues to grow its
audience whereby other festivals have struggled.
Pemberton Music Festival – Pemberton, BC
Though music festival culture appears to be stronger in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec, there are
a number of growing brands in BC that continue to take advantage of that province’s beautiful climate
and proximity to California. The Pemberton Music Festival has garnered huge names in the past,
including Kendrick Lamar, the Black Keys, and others, to headline. For those that are deeply embedded
into city life, taking the escape to Pemberton to see the views of the BC mountain ranges and to enjoy
some of the hottest music on the planet can be a welcome vacation.
Vancouver Jazz Festival – Vancouver, BC
There are jazz festivals held from sea to sea in Canada year-round but one of the biggest is
Vancouver’s, bringing in over 450,000 attendees each year, offering hundreds of performances across
the city and further strengthening the jazz traditions in the City. To anyone who is a fan of jazz and
blues music in BC or Alberta, it would serve them well to give this festival a look when it comes around
in late June/early July.
Cavendish Beach Music Festival – Cavendish, PEI
Though Calgary boasts strong country music traditions, the multi-day outdoor Cavendish Beach Music
Festival on Prince Edward Island continues to carve out a nice niche for itself. Now attracting more than
70,000 visitors every year, the festival has become known for bringing in major country acts such as
Keith Urban, Lady Antebellum, Brad Paisley, and Taylor Swift. Though the Maritimes have struggled to
produce the same type of international music festivals common elsewhere in Canada, the Cavendish
Beach Music Festival is equal to (or to some, even better) than any Canadian festival in the country
Though Canada has not produced the same infrastructure as the United States, the UK, and other
countries have to host and promote music festivals, there are a vast array of different festival brands
that seemingly continue to grow with each passing year. No matter what kind of music you might be
into, getting out and checking out local, live music in your city or region helps to support the growing
Canadian music scene and it’s this kind of support that is going to help Canadian-based artists
translate to more international, mainstream audiences.