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Music clubs going silent

Mike Campbell didn't want his prominent Halifax venue to join the growing list of Canadian musical haunts forced to close.

But when the former co-host of MuchMusic's 1990s series "Mike and Mike's Excellent X-Canada Adventures" soon hands over the keys to the Carleton Music Bar and Grill, at least he'll know he fought to keep it alive.

The longtime champion of East Coast music tried everything, including a crowdfunding campaign to save the Carleton. His appeal to music fans fell short of its goal and Campbell was forced to give up the dream.

New owners will take control of the space — which has hosted Canadian favourites like Joel Plaskett and Ron Sexsmith — as renovations begin and Campbell eases out of his role.

"They haven't completely ruled out the idea of keeping some sort of live music component," he says.

"But it's definitely not going to be the way it was."

Technological trends, changing listener tastes and a challenging business model are threatening the dedicated performing spaces once home to young hopefuls and grizzled veterans.

Toronto's Hugh's Room became the latest to join the death-watch list when its owner Richard Carson abruptly closed the venue last week to weigh his options.

The 200-person capacity restaurant and music venue opened in 2001 as a stage for both local and international performers, and hosted a hearty list of tribute concerts for Canadian legends like Gordon Lightfoot and Stompin' Tom.

While Carson says nothing is etched in stone yet, he's still hunting for a viable solution that would keep Hugh's Room alive.

Other similar money-losing music hubs have seen their hopes dashed in recent years.

Vancouver's Railway Club left a void in the local music scene when it couldn't find a buyer last year. Its stage, which once welcomed acts like the Tragically Hip, kd lang and the Barenaked Ladies, was recently leased by a new tenant.

And two years ago, Vancouver lost its only jazz club when the Cellar Jazz Club folded.

Having fewer small venues across Canada makes it tough for many independent artists to tour, suggests Toronto singer-songwriter Jory Nash.

The cost of travelling across such a vast country — with long stretches of highway between each big city — is expensive in itself. Nash says a dwindling number of attractive venues makes hitting the road an even bigger gamble.



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