Monday, April 24, 2023


Photo by James West

With just a few days to go until the start of the East Coast Music Awards week in Halifax (May 3 - 7), it's about the time that ECMA CEO Andy McLean pauses for a moment and realizes just how big a job the group has ahead of it. McLean feels this is the most ambitious ECMA ever.

"Thirty full-time and contract staff, 320 volunteers, just the number of pieces, I think we all kind of went, wow, that's a lot," says McLean. "My main thing was to not underdeliver for the 35th anniversary, so I'm pretty confident we have achieved that."

That's taken a lot of ramping up in the Covid era, to get back to the pre-pandemic heights. Last year's event in Fredericton, the first in-person after two years of virtual activity, was a bit smaller as people were still weary of close quarters. 
ECMA CEO Andy McLean

"Ten weeks before the event, I still wasn't sure what public health measures were going to come in," says McLean. "We had to plan for online as well as in person, and there was a little bit of hesitancy for people to gather again. But after the first mixer and glass of wine, the masks seemed to come off and everybody had a great time."

Halifax always holds the biggest ECMA's, and 35 is a pretty impressive birthday, so the goal for the organization was to take it all one step further, with more events, more special programming, and more music opportunities for those going, and those watching at home.

As usual, the main event is near the beginning, with the Awards Gala happening Thursday night, May 4, at the Scotiabank Centre. The show is being hosted by This Hour Has 22 Minutes' Trent McLellan, and features performances by Natalie MacMaster, Neon Dreams, Fortunate Ones, City Natives, and lots more.

"We have two stages running, so we can cram as much music in as possible," says McLean. "There are going to be 13 performances and 15 awards given out, so I'm going to claim that we have the most live music of any awards. And there are some special moments that haven't been announced yet too, which look back on the ECMA's."

ECMA Gala Host Trent McLellan
The entire Awards Gala is also available to stream at, and is also being broadcast nationally on the Rogers platform, along with the pre-show Red Carpet, which starts at 6 PM. Then it's full-on live music all over Halifax and Dartmouth until Sunday.

"Over 200 individual showcases this year, in 11 official venues," says McLean. "And we've added these partnered stages, regular venues in Halifax that are not official venues but want to book music, so they are on board and booking ECMA artists that aren't official showcases. So that makes 24, 25 venues that are going to have live music."

The second batch of trophies get handed out on Sunday at 11 AM, which includes the honorary and industry awards. That show is also getting more attention, and with the recent addition of The East Pointers now features five performances. Plus the other daytime hours are filled up, especially in downtown Halifax. Saturday afternoon sees Argyle Street blocked off for the Dairy Farmers of Canada ECMA Fan Fest, a free event featuring JRDN, DeeDee Austin, Kellie Loder, and Neon Dreams.

Photo by Michael Bourgeois

There's also a daytime start to the whole event on Wednesday, with the official kick-off happening at noon at the Grand Parade. It's an opening blessing at the Wije'winen (Come With Us) Cultural Circle, a special partnership with the Mi'kmaw Native Friendship Centre. That's a big, ongoing part of the week each day on the Grand Parade, with lit teepees, a sacred fire, on-site Elders, and drumming, dance, and song.

"It's going to be an amazing opportunity for our international delegates to witness the rich Indigenous culture," says McLean. "That started with St. Mary's in Fredericton, we had that partnership, and that's going to be something that the ECMA will continue to develop as we move through the regions, and moving forward."

Anyone who recalls the humble beginnings of the ECMA 35 years ago in the Flamingo Pub in Halifax definitely knows how the awards and the entire East Coast music industry have moved forward in that time. All the schedules, ticket info, and the mobile App can be found at

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