Careers in Music: Elaina Martin, Music Producer & Founder of Westfest

By Erica Howes


This blog series features women+ in different careers in the music industry, from centre stage to behind the scenes and everywhere in between. Is there a career in music you’re interested in learning more about? Contact us with your ideas! 

Elaina Martin and the making of an inclusive music festival

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Elaina Martin is the founder and producer of Westfest, a free music festival happening this year on June 7-9, 2019.

When Elaina talks about the festival, it’s always “we.” She lists off the many partners the festival has had throughout the years and in its 16 year evolution how it’s many of the same volunteers coming back, making it a neat reunion of committed friends. She describes Westfest as a “labour of love.”

I talked with Elaina about building the Westfest community and what it means to be a music festival producer.

What sparked the beginning of Westfest?

I moved to Ottawa from Sudbury in 2003 and didn’t have a lot of money. I realized there were a lot of barriers to experiencing art. I wanted to create a festival that involved everyone, breathed an inclusive, accessible community and had an all Canadian lineup. We started out in a gas station parking lot. Through the years it’s morphed into a festival taking over 14 city blocks when we partnered with the Westboro BIA, to today where we’re somewhere in the middle, at the Tom Brown Arena Park.

It’s important to have a diverse lineup so people can see people who look like them. I live in a lot of marginalized communities, and it’s a reflection of the community I live in.  

What skills are required to be a music festival producer?

A producer is responsible for the overall logistics and coordination of the festival, which involves a lot of multi-tasking! I’ve worked as a producer in theatre and television as well and it’s basically the person who pulls everything together. You need solid and direct communication skills. My favourite part of the job is giving a platform to artists who don’t yet have one. Being curious and excited about exploring new kinds of music is important in a producer role.

What advice would you give someone interested in working in the music industry?

You have the be a strong, confident person. The industry is very male-dominated and as a queer woman, I’ve certainly had to work three times as hard as some males. Get involved when you’re young, and find ways to volunteer.

If it’s your passion, do it and put everything you have into it. I knew I was attracted to music at a young age. You know what you’re attracted to. You don’t have to wait to be an adult to know music is right for you. Follow your instincts.

What can we expect from Westfest this year?

We have really cool acts this year from local musicians and from across the country. If you’re young and interested in programming - come on Friday night, it’s full of amazing young talent, like the Assembly of Seven Generations (A7G) Youth Drummers, a group of Indigenous youth from different territories, and Salmon Ella, a group of women who actually got together after a Girls+ Rock Ottawa’s Rock Camp for Women+.

On Saturday, the Brothers Wilde duo, from Kettle and Stony Point, will blow people away.

You’ll walk away feeling you’ve experienced something awesome, and got to enjoy the festival without barriers. We want people to look around and on stage see people who like them, and feel safe and belonging in this community.

Westfest is a free music festival happening June 7-9, 2019 at Tom Brown Arena Park. Visit the website for more information.