Now what? The next steps for Toronto’s signature international music conference

Sponsored by Global Toronto

June 14 marks the third return of Global Toronto, the conference, marketplace and showcase that pushed the boundaries of togetherness and community since 2018 – and one of the first music conferences to mark its second lockdown edition.

Global Toronto (GT) roots itself in “re-imagining a sustainable, equitable and accessible future for the music sector,” and it’s certainly not all talk, or, well, song. It’s a conference that isn’t afraid to face systemic industry challenges head-on, and pairs its eclectic variety of international Spotlight Artists with thoughtful conversations and webinars: Last year, the event featured Panels on anti-racism, how capitalism has failed the music industry, the role of music in protest, and more.

In 2021, topics include Indigenous-settler relations, interrogating the idea of genre, and the power of peer-assessment jurors. While the Panels lean into social and political issues, there is also space for Professional Development Sessions, from a TikTok Masterclass, to post-pandemic streaming strategy, EDI (Equity, Diversity, Inclusion) Planning, tips from music supervisors and more.

Global Toronto’s 2021 panels are available now, ahead of the conference’s official June 14 start date. This will create more space (and time) for the community to engage with, and digest, the content within, and come to the conference ready to discuss the issues in small-group Breakout Sessions. The conference itself is structured in a decolonized manner; a jury of diverse professionals is selected, and the jury in turn selects the showcased artists. At every step of the process community is prioritized over individual leadership. 

GT21 will take place on Swapcard, a digital platform used by the likes of SXSW and Hot Docs. It runs from June 14-18, with five full days of online programming. The cost of entry is $75, but in line with Global Toronto’s values, there’s also a pay-what-you-can option given this year’s financial pressure. 

Last year, Global Toronto’s focus was deeply enmeshed in issues highlighted by the pandemic. It was clear that COVID-19 exacerbated systemic industry problems: millions of artists were left without income when the doors of the world’s studios and venues shut. Global 2020’s theme was re-imagining the future of the music sector and its participants, on re-creating the next normal after the pandemic. 

So here we are in 2021. According to Head of Programs, and GT lead, Mercedes Caxaj, this year’s focus on “Now What?” is a question about where the responsibility lies. 

“It’s a question of where our work starts. What are the next steps? We know the pain points, and where change needs to occur. Now we need to enact, and maintain, that change, and ensure it’s not just a momentary event. We need to ensure that it becomes a part of history.”

After a year filled with the pain of separation, the light of human connectivity feels closer than ever. While Global Toronto may not be in-person just yet, it’s focus on community consciousness and musical expression certainly feel like a meaningful way to make genuine connections.

To learn how global industry leaders envision the next year and beyond, be sure to register now.

Three highlights from the line-up

Tiffany Kuliktana and Kayley Inuksuk Mackay

Global Toronto 2020 welcomed over 800 music-industry Participants from 75 countries, and shone the spotlight on 19 Canadian bands. Similar, if not greater, numbers this year are anticipated, while 22 Jury-selected Artists will be featured in 15-minute films combining performance and story. Here are three Spotlight Artist highlights:


The dark, lush sounds of Tiffany Kuliktana and Kayley Inuksuk Mackay, two sisters raised in Yellowknife. The name comes from an Inuktuk word that refers to a gust of wind that swirls snow upwards, back into the heavens. The PIQSIQ sisters blend traditional Inuit music with experimental compositions, and the affect is as endearing as it is chilling. PIQSIQ consider throat singing, in addition to musical expression, a radical revitalization of their culture. 


Pantayo is a Polaris Prize shortlisted all-women kulintang ensemble based in Toronto combining percussive metallophones and drums from kulintang traditions of the southern Philippines with electronic and synth-based grooves.



You’ll find AfrotroniX’s lively, colourful songs at the intersection between African and Western culture. AfrotroniX’s sound fuses African rhythm, digital art and Touareg blues. It’s a fun, addictive sound, which won them the Best African DJ 2019 in Ghana.


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