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Inspired and Innovative – Ryan Donn

co+Lab has launched a community spotlight series called “Inspired and Innovative”, or I&I, that highlights the amazing work of our local professionals, entrepreneurs and game-changers. Just in time to start the weekend, we caught up with Ryan Donn for our newest edition. Talking about everything from local bands, event promotion, to the shifting music industry — it made for a great conversation.

Ryan Donn
Kodie — Thanks for taking the time to meet with my, Ryan. For anyone who’s unfamiliar with what you, what do you do?

Ryan — I connect the creatives with the community. If you look at everything I do in town it pretty much comes back to that nugget of I connect people with the community. Almost everything I do publicly is from there.


K — You’re involved with a lot of really cool organizations in Kelowna such as Festivals Kelowna and Creative Okanagan. What drew you to get involved with this sort of work?

R — I used to be that guy on the stage. I used to mainly write songs, I wrote the centennial song for Kelowna back in 2005 while we were celebrating our centennial. I was the guy playing at these events, like Parks Alive. That’s a cool event. I played a show at a coffee shop for two people that I promoted, I rented the sound system for it, and then the next day at Parks Alive I sold over thirty albums and played for almost five hundred people. I was like, wow, that’s a cool organization.

So I joined the board, and then I became the president. Then I understood the policy part of it, but I wanted to produce my own events on the side, but I couldn’t make money at it, frankly. So I asked, “Hey, could you hire me?” There happened to be a position opened up, and it was great. We could grow the organization, and help out the community. Anyway, I was talking to the board members and said that we should expand to West Kelowna. Legally though, we can’t expand to West Kelowna. Creative Okanagan was developed to be that event production entity for the district of West Kelowna. We presented the idea over a networking event sort of thing. We said like, “Hey! You guys have to have free music over there!” But they just didn’t have anybody to do it, so we met up with their staff and worked it out.

It’s all tied together. Along with everything in West Kelowna, Creative Okanagan does indoor events in Kelowna like Global Music Fest in the fall and the spring, Sounds of Kelowna that we’re going to do at Freddy’s Brewpub coming up just to feature local talent, right?

So again, this is going back to the hook of connecting creatives with the community. The next part would be, the offshoot of that would be, like, if anybody has an event and they want to promote I write for Castanet, I run a bunch of different Facebook pages about events in Kelowna. Once you create these cool things people need to hear about them. Like, you’re featuring people on this blog so people are reading about Donnie, or Colin, or Dennis. People need promotion. Give me one of your coolest events and I can promote you! Come up with an idea and I’ve got the machine to promote it.

Feel free to edit that answer down if you want. *laughs*


K — What role do you see yourself playing in Kelowna and the future of our cultural and artistic communities?

R — I think I’m realizing that a lot of policies, the funding, the grants, all those things affect culture. I see, structurally small things that need nudged a certain direction. I see myself less focused on the event production, per se, and on who can I have conversations with that would make our policies as supportive to our creatives as possible. Digital creatives, the tech community, or people creating events. It takes a risk to put on an event. I’ve done it myself! You put ten thousand dollars on the line, but you might lose it all if it snows. I think having conversations with people about building a structure for supporting those people in our community.


K — As the host of the Ryan Donn Show and your column on Castanet called What’s On you’ve interviewed a lot of local business owners, media personalities, and even local comedian Rob Balsdon. What’s your favourite part of meeting and talking with all of these people?

R  It’s people! People that do stuff. Look at the core of what I do, it’s all about people that get stuff done. If people get stuff done, I have the utmost respect for them. People can talk about doing something, yeah whatever. People can have ideas, and ideas are great. I like when people take ideas and put drive and hard work behind them and make them happen. I don’t like talk, I like action. I hang out with people that get stuff done. That’s a theme with anybody I’m interviewing. Look at the Okanagan Fruit Tree Project, we just interviewed them, they’re getting the coolest stuff done! They’re making sustainable fruit in our community given to the most needy by whoever wants to do it. I get passionate when people are working hard and people are working on an idea, we need to be supportive of them. We’ve gotta try to help people to get to the good ideas, and it might take a few bad ideas to get there. We need to allow ourselves to fail! If I can support somebody who’s getting something done in the community it almost doesn’t matter what they’re doing because the next thing they do will be better than the first thing they’re doing. I think people saw that in me when I first started years ago, and I want to do that for the next generation of do-ers.


K — The last couple years we’ve seen a surge in Kelowna’s music scene. Is there anything that the average Joe can get out and do to help this along?

R — Market drives everything. I’ve got a weekly email thing called What’s On. It’s a live music listing that lets you know what’s on in town. If you like live music, go check it out! If you like the band, buy their album. Maybe even give them two hundred bucks just for the heck of it if you’ve got it that month to say keep doing what you’re doing. Music is very unsustainable right now. Only the top one percent of the one percent succeed. It’s about love, it’s back to where it was in the fifties and sixties. You had this machine in the seventies, eighties, nineties, and now it’s gone. It’s not a flat thing. There’s a lot of creativity, but less quality recordings being made because there’s no sustainable model to get them done. Bands like My Kind of Karma, if someone dropped ten thousand dollars on those guys, whoah. They’re a phenomenal band, they should be known by everybody. Cod Gone Wild has got a really good business plan figured out, they’re one of our top bands, but a lot of bands don’t have that. What can people do? Whatever they want to do. Go to a gig, buy an album. Don’t go and see a free event and have some tea for two dollars, make an evening of it! Businesses need to succeed so that they can support the artists too.


K — As a musician, what’s a local act that you think everyone should get to know better?

RGreg Sczebel has been in town, Salmon Arm actually, for years actually. He has a new revamped brand called Sebell and a song on the radio right now. He’s truly one of our best and biggest exports and he’s a local lad. I expect him to come back to town. Other than that it’s Cod Gone Wild and My Kind of Karma. Those two bands stand out as the hardest working, great live shows. If you’ve ever seen Cod Gone Wild they draw like, a thousand people for a show in West Kelowna, they’re an amazing band that’s working hard. Those are the three bands that kind of come to mind for me.

Ryan is online on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and his personal site. Next time you’re at Parks Alive see if you can pick him out and thank him for all his hard work.

Editor’s Note: I highly suggest you check out a band called Hippiecritz. Great Kelowna based punk band.

Read other Inspired & Innovative interviews »

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