Monday, January 7, 2008

Make Music, BC!

This piece appeared in Discorder's December/January issue, out now!

Make Music, BC!
By Andrea Warner

Are you more Nelly, Nickleback or New Pornographers? Whatever melodic fantasy’s playing in your mind, Music BC will help you chart the course from garage band to Grey’s Anatomy soundtrack staple.

Helmed by artists and business people in the industry, Music BC strives to help artists in BC have sustainable careers through funding, education, mentorship, networking and business opportunities.

The Executive Director of Music BC, Bob D’Eith, knows both sides: he’s a keyboardist who used to play in Rhymes With Orange, and is currently a part of Mythos, signed to Virgin Records, with five records to their credit thus far. He’s also a music lawyer, which helps contribute to one of the major mandates of Music BC.

“There’s a big disconnect between the study of music and the business of music,” Bob says. “These kids come out of school as incredible musicians, but have no idea how to make money at it. We’re trying to work with educators so the gap is filled before they leave school.”

According to Chris Brandt, former Vice-President and newly promoted President of Music BC, making money in the music industry is no longer possible by conventional means. And, he should know: Chris worked for Universal Music in sales and marketing for the last 10 years, and has owned his own label since 2004. It’s a complex balance between art and business, particularly right now when the music industry is integrating un-chartered and unproven territory, re: the Internet. It’s not “new” news per se, but it’s the catalyst for a changing industry.

“An ongoing problem is downloading. Anyone who says it isn’t is an idiot,” Chris says. “Downloading kicked the crap out of the music industry. Not to say the industry wasn’t at fault. They did a lot of really dumb things, were susceptible to it and greedy. But they did get the legs taken out from under them. It’s trying to find new ways for an artist to make money.”

And, this is where Music BC shines most brightly. With a diverse Board of Directors heavily involved in the music industry, and able to commiserate with the state of affairs of their member artists, alternatives are first and foremost on everyone’s minds.

“There’s no money in records anymore,” Chris says. “You have to tour, sell merchandise, and get into TV and film.”

As part of Music BC’s career development series, Music BC flew up a music supervisor from LA, in charge of placing music on soundtrack heavy TV shows like Scrubs and Grey’s Anatomy. These kinds of lectures are lucrative for everyone involved, particularly to an up-and-coming young band with no other way of getting their music in front of 20 million people in one shot.

“You can’t just put out a song and then have a video for MuchMusic, because MuchMusic doesn’t play videos and radio doesn’t play new music,” Bob explains, chuckling a little. “I’m not saying they don’t at all, but it’s different now. [As an artist] you have to connect.”

The hardest part of touring and live shows, especially for young bands, can be finding a meaningful relationship with the audience. As a further part of the career development program, Music BC is hoping to finalize arrangements with Tom Jackson, a famed producer of live shows who hails from Nashville, to impart his wisdom about kicking up the love between artist and fan.

In addition to education and career development, Music BC funds a variety of initiatives to help artist’s transition from fledgling to major player. They act as administrators for FACTOR (Foundation to Assist Canadian Talent on Records), the $15 million federal grant program. They also offer a travel assistance fund, and a music appreciation program with a song-writing contest that is currently accepting submissions. Their newly developed charity wing provides scholarships for post-secondary and private music schools. In addition, Music BC recently raised $28,000 for instruments in under-privileged schools. And, they have big plans for the future.

“We would love to create a funding program where we could fund indie labels,” Chris says. “Giving them grants to hire publicists. Do radio tracking. Help them with production costs here and there.”

In addition, 2009 will already be a major triumph for the organization: They have successfully negotiated the Juno Awards return to Vancouver.

“This is a great opportunity to bring the focus back to Vancouver, and put a bit of a spotlight on our board,” Bob enthuses. And, an even brighter light on the next local artist to rule Billboard.

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