North by Northeast

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North by Northeast (NXNE)
Stars NXNE Toronto 2011.jpg
North by Northeast 2011 in Yonge-Dundas Square Toronto on June 17, 2011.
Location(s) Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Years active 1995–present

North by Northeast (or NXNE) is an annual music and arts festival held each June in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The festival's main is live music, but it also includes a film festival, a comedy festival, art components, video game activities, and a digital interactive media conference. The festival events happen in a variety venues. NXNE is largely a volunteer-staffed music festival, with about 1,000 volunteers in festival operations. The alternative weekly newspaper Now is a major sponsor, and its owners hold an ownership interest in the festival.

New in 2016 is a large venue in Toronto's Port Lands area for major events during two days of the festival.[1]


NXNE began in 1995, patterned on the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. It was co-founded by Michael Hollett.[2][3] The SXSW organization is a minority ownership partner in NXNE.[4] At that time it was a three-day festival with about 300 bands,[5] mainly local, unsigned, independent artists. Over the years the festival expanded its attendance and began to feature well-known performers. The festival events took place in a number of venues, and participants purchased wristbands for entry into the events.

A film festival was added in 2001, screening primarily music-related features, documentaries and shorts. NXNE Film has screened films by directors such as Stewart Copeland (of rock band The Police), Don Letts, Guy Maddin, and Rob Heydon, and has hosted many world premieres, including Bruce McDonald's Broken Social Scene concert film, This Movie Is Broken, in 2010.[6] Michael Tanner was the director of the festival. from 2007 to 2014.[7]

In 2013, NXNE added comedy as a fourth stream, formally recognizing the growing number of standup, sketch, and improvisatory comics taking part in the festival since 2010. NXNE also added art as its fifth stream that year. including exhibits, projections, installations, performances and an art fair.

In 2014, NXNE marked its 20th consecutive year with over 1,000 music performers and an overall attendance of 350,000.[8] The 2015 edition of NXNE ran for five days, June 17–21.

In 2016, under the direction of Michael Hollett, the festival organizers changed the format, concentrating more highly attended performances in a large venue in the Port Lands area, at 51 Commissioners St.[1] The festival also added a video gaming component, and gaming was among the topics discussed at the one day Interactive conference at Ryerson University. As well as live music. Yonge Dundas Square provided festival-goers the chance to play on a giant screen and to compete against each other with live play-by-play commentary.


Purity Ring performs during NXNE 2012.

Each year, NXNE Music presents hundreds of bands from Canada, the United States and around the world at about 50 Toronto music venues. Most venues host six bands each night (from 9 p.m. onward). The festival has many venues in Toronto's downtown core, along Queen Street West, College Street, and the Bloor Street Annex. NXNE Music provides a platform for emerging artists, and allows fans to see "buzz bands" at small club venues. There are free outdoor concerts at Yonge-Dundas Square in downtown Toronto, and in recent years there are also international headline acts, including The Flaming Lips, Ludacris, Devo, Iggy and the Stooges, Billy Talent, Social Distortion, Raekwon & Ghostface Killah, De La Soul, Bad Religion, Stars, The Pharcyde, The Raveonettes, GZA, Descendents, Digable Planets, and K-os.[3]

Interactive conference[edit]

The NXNE Interactive Conference (also known as NXNEi) takes place at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, which also serves as NXNE headquarters during the festival. Originally a music-industry event (past guests include Stewart Copeland, The Sex Pistols' Johnny Rotten, Steve Earle, Bruce Cockburn, Peaches, Patti Smith, Thomas Dolby, The Rolling Stones' Andrew Loog Oldham, and Bullmoose), the conference in recent years has become Interactive (NXNEi), and its presentations and panels have focused on the integration of technology with creativity in music, film, and other art forms. It is also a place where musicians, filmmakers, and industry reps can connect with digital innovators and tech leaders. In 2016 the conference was a one-day event at Ryerson University's Ted Rogers School of Business. Atari founder Nolan Bushnell, was the conference's keynote speaker.


  1. ^ a b "‘You’ve got to embrace the change,’ says NXNE founder Michael Hollett". Toronto Star, Ben Rayner, March 19, 2016
  2. ^ "Union says Now Magazine in position for work stoppage, management threatened to close publication". Financial Post, Sean Craig | August 10, 2016
  3. ^ a b "NXNE 20 Years, 20 Memories: A Look Back At Two Decades Of North-By-Northeast Music Fest". The Huffington Post Canada | By Aaron Brophy 06/18/2014
  4. ^ Lackner, Chris (June 10, 2004). "Toronto's North by Northeast festival in its 10th year of keeping dreams alive", Canadian Press.
  5. ^ With 300 bands on the playbill, will North By Northeast he the festival that finally puts Canadian music on the map?". Toronto Star - Toronto, Ont. Jun 8, 1995 G.1
  6. ^ "This Interview About This Movie Is Broken Is Also Broken". Torontoist, June 17, 2010.
  7. ^ "Top tracks from Toronto's bright young music makers". Toronto Star, Ian Gormely, March 14, 2016
  8. ^ "A Report On 2016's New Style NXNE". FYI Music News, Kerry Doole Tue, 06/21/2016

External links[edit]