It's already been a day since Canadian Music Week 2011 officially wrapped up, and already things are getting a bit fuzzy. I covered a lot of ground in the past week (literally - damn boots gave my toes blisters), and I'm not going to go into everything because the remnants of the final party are still lingering in the back of my skull, but here's the gist (from what I remember):
Wednesday I woke up at about 3am to catch my 6am flight. Thought I would snooze on the plane. Nope. Scariest flight I've been on to date. A freak storm brought about some of the worst turbulence ever and there were a few drinks flying in the air. The lady next to me asked me to hold her hand. I was pretty happy when we touched the ground.
I was met at the airport by the Age of Daze crew. I arrived to my hotel, the Fairmont Royal York, and it wasn't too long before I ran into dozens of familiar faces, past interviewees including Michael Chugg ("Chuggs") from Chugg Entertainment and Jay Frank from CMT and Futurehit.dna. As I ran into friends from all over Canada and beyond, we chatted like we had seen each other at CMW only yesterday and it didn't feel like a year had passed.
Thursday I took in a few sessions, including one on touring overseas which proved to be a bit vague and uninformative in my mind. I caught up with the fine folks from the Agency Group right before the Agent Super Session which included a panel of executives from The Agency Group, SL Feldman and Associates, Live Nation, and a few others. I'll get more into the details of those sessions at a later time.
Later that night I found my way into the Diesel Music posse which included the lovely ladies from Mad June and a couple of the guys from one of my favorite groups, Tupelo Honey. We made our way to the Mod Club for the Blackburn Radio showcase to see the Age of Daze crew perform with Crash Karma (who took home this year's best new group of the year award at the Canadian Radio Music Awards, which I think is debatable, but whatever). The show brought out a number of people including some of the Billy Talent guys whom I ran into (literally). I can't comment on any other artists on the bill, because to be honest they were all sort of unentertaining.
The show that did entertain me however, was at the Tattoo Rock Parlour later that night where Nova Scotia's The Stanfields pumped out their infamous Celtic/Bluegrass kitchen-party rock. I've heard so much about these guys and have never seen them, and now this is one show I'll never forget. If you can picture a mixture of Steve Earle meets The Clash and a single called “The Dirtiest Drunk (In the History of Liquor)” you can only guess what that show was like. Good times.
Friday came, and I decided to avoid most of the day other than a few sessions, a lunch with my favorite videographer on the planet, Orbit Creative, and a couple of other impromptu meetings. I was still recovering from the flu the week before, so I stayed in during the evening and watched most of the coverage on the catastrophic Japan earthquake which seemed more important to me than going out and giving myself a self-induced headache.
Saturday was met with an early morning, and I was incredibly thankful I had opted to stay in the night before. I went to support my home town crew of Penny Reign in the Canadian Radio Star Songwriting Competition and then made my way to the Indiepool area, which was a tribute to Motley Crue - which was fitting as Nikki Sixx was one of the speakers over the weekend. The set portrayed a trashed hotel room complete with a goat – yes a goat, which referred to the recent #winning antics of crazy man Charlie Sheen.
Later that night I reunited with the Diesel Music posse, and headed to the Tattoo Rock Parlour once again for a shoulder-to-shoulder Wax Records showcase that featured Alyssa Reid and Jesse Labelle. I caught up with one of Canada's favorite radio trackers Oscar Furtado of Tandemtracks Promotions whom I missed out on meeting with the previous couple years. The night later found me catching Ill Scarlett and Jakalope at the Horseshoe Tavern where I evidently talked Finger 11's ear off, followed by the Cherry Cola club for some burlesque dancers and a band I don't know and didn't really care for. I capped off the night with a set at the Rivoli by another Nova Scotia act, Fever Fever. I also suffered from some crazy deja vu that night...the Rivoli reminded me of being at Pianos in NYC on the very same day last year.
Those are the moments I can remember. Overall, it was another good CMW. Generally speaking though, CMW used to be about showcasing your best talents for A&R scouts that could be found at nearly every one of the 60 venues. That's no longer the case, and the mood was rather somber in some instances.
I found the sessions to be rather cumbersome – what's left of the industry heavy weights talking about how to be successful as a band, tour, get noticed, etc – which is fine, but is completely irrelevant. How it all comes down to writing a great song – which I would tend to agree, but is also completely irrelevant if you pay attention to the music that is making it 'big' right now. I could see many artists still vying for attention from what they think are key people that are going to make them the next arena act. It just doesn't happen that way anymore, and it was clear that there were a lot of artists with a lot to learn, and still clinging to the old school model.
No one (that I heard speak anyway) talked in detail about the real issues – the fact that there are less and less people actually making a full time living in the industry. The fact that many of the speakers/panelists may not have a job next month. The fact that there is more noise than ever before, and building a fan base doesn't work the same way – simply because consumers are bombarded with music and many don't know (or care) who the artist is, but that music is mostly free and easily obtainable. A band can no longer rely on the drive times of radio to stick in listener's minds – but have to do something so unbelievably remarkable in terms of marketing that people HAVE to pay attention. The fact that there is no control anymore of what goes into consumers ears, and the entire industry is completely different and never going back. Or the fact that it is damn near impossible to pack a venue these days. These were just a few of the things that no one really talked about – maybe because it would bring about the harsh reality that it just is not the same. Or maybe, all these conversations took place on the day I stayed in, but I somehow doubt it...to me it seemed like a lot of the real issues were avoided.
Lastly, I have to give a big applause to anyone and everyone involved in CMW. The volunteers and organizers do an outstanding job every year, and never fail to answer your questions or help you in any way. Despite whatever direction unfolds for the industry as a whole, these folks know how to throw one hell of a party. Thanks.
And that's a wrap – another CMW in the books.