Saving The Carleton Music Bar & Grill

Picture a coin; on one side of the coin we have representation for the artist and on the other side, the venue.  Just like every great combination these two seem to be inseparable, and if split, will cry out through the darkness for one another.  It’s near impossible to find yourself out in a sociable setting (picture a restaurant, a bar or tavern) where music isn’t either spilling from the speakers in the ceiling or through the PA system next to the band. If you were to remove music from the venue, there is a pretty good chance that the venue would be able to push forward and survive the split (assuming the venue serves food, booze and plays home to sporting events and local bingo nights).  However if you were to remove the venue from the artist(s) world it would be much more difficult for the musician to continue on.  Album sales are at an all time low and streaming services do not appear to be the lucrative saviour either.  Needless to say, the music industry is a fickle beast at best.

Thousands of bands and solo artists take to stages across the entire continent on a nightly basis.  On a good night as an artist, you may walk out of the venue with a case of beer and $100 dollars, which will go towards the expenses involved in getting you to the next small town or city in which you will play.  For those artists that end up playing for the door, a bite to eat (from the venue) and $40 dollars is more along the lines of the norm.  Often finding themselves sleeping on the floors of friends or music lovers alike, the life of an artist can be extremely tough and impossible to explain. To choose a life full of uncertainty and that unease is sure to be lost upon the masses.  But to these artists there is nothing they would rather do, and will only succumb to the tedious life of a nine to five desk job once they’ve exhausted all musical avenues.

For well over the past 25 years there has been at least one man within the borders of our beautiful country that has done everything that he can to help push those artists to the forefront, with the hopes that their music might find its way onto the airwaves for all to hear.

Originally starting on the retail side of the music industry, Mike Campbell has evolved over the course of his career making stops on the record label side, the promotional side and for what he is most known for, the television side.  But it’s his latest gig, as owner/operator of one of the more well known musical venues in Halifax, that has garnered the most attention.

The Carleton Music Bar & Grill has spent almost ten years welcoming all different sorts of musicians, comedians and artists to its stage.  With more nightly bookings than not, it’s almost impossible to walk through the main doors and not see an individual on stage either playing, singing, speaking or painting.  It’s exactly this eclectic spirit which sets The Carleton apart from every other venue in Halifax.  Why hold yourself to the regular Friday and Saturday night show when there are so many artists out there who are hungry to be heard.  There is no question that Mike had himself a robust career which culminated in a bar which he cultivated, helping it to blossom into a successful local business.

Fast forward to the present, a time where Mike finds himself a few weeks into a crowdfunding campaign (by way of the Patreon system) to help keep the doors to the popular venue open.  With the construction of the successor to the World Trade Convention Centre (WTCC) (aka The Nova Centre) currently happening, The Carleton has spent the past year simply staying afloat and has lost roughly $300,000 in revenue during the construction period.  In the case of most small business owners, this type of loss would be one that most wouldn’t survive.  However, with the help of the public Mike hopes that The Carleton will be able to survive until the Nova Centre is finally finished.

When the announcement of the the crowdfunding campaign first hit, support for the idea was massively accepted and supported.  Local residents pledged a monthly fee, news outlets printed the story and artists from all areas of the country helped spread the word through online media such as Facebook and Twitter.  It’s easy to see the impact that Mike has had on so many people.

The question I pose is, should those other people not do more?  At a time that things appear to be as dire as they can be, where are all of the artists that Mike has helped expose to the world?  It would seem like the perfect opportunity for the musical community to come together with the hopes of helping out one of their own.  A few donated nights from some well-established artists could prove to be instrumental in allowing The Carleton to remain open.  Imagine what a sold-out, four-night run from July Talk could do for the venue, or if we wanted to stay close to home I’m sure local hero Joel Plaskett would have no problems selling out multiple shows.  If we wanted to get creative there could be a tribute show which would be hosted by a different musician each and every week.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that any time a cause comes to the forefront that an artist should drop what they are doing and play a free gig.  But maybe this one time, all of those who Mike has helped along the way might be able to come together and show him the same love that he has shown them over the years.

For all things Carleton you can head on over to and if your looking to help out you can donate to the crowdfunding campaign here.  


About the author


Jeff is one-fourth of the group that makes up HAFILAX. His usual ramblings can be read right here on the website. If reading isn't your thing, he also hosts the Basement Tapes podcast.