Saturday, September 27, 2008
LARRY LEBLANC NEWSLETTER (SEPT. 27) [EXCERPTS]
++ Larry LeBlanc has become a weekly columnist for the on-line entertainment service Encore Celebrity Access in the U.S. He will contribute a weekly Q & A column with entertainment industry figures from around the world.
++ Nettwerk One, the publishing arm of Vancouver-based Nettwerk Music Group, has signed Sinead O’Connor to an exclusive publishing deal. NW1 will handle the publishing rights of O’Connor’s new compositions, as well as her catalogue, which reverts to her over the next year. NW1 recently took on the catalog of 10,000 Maniacs and have signed John Spinks and Fredro.
++ The 38th Annual Juno Awards will take place in Vancouver, British Columbia, March 29/09.
++ The Polaris Music gala will be held Sept. 29, 2008 at the Phoenix Concert Theatre in Toronto. The show, hosted by CBC Radio 3’s Grant Lawrence, will feature performances by Kathleen Edwards, Holy Fuck, Black Mountain, Basia Bulat, Plants And Animals, Shad, and Two Hours Traffic. The evening will conclude with the announcement of the winner of this year’s $20,000 prize.
++ The lineup for the 2008 Canadian Folk Music Awards, taking place Nov. 23, 2008, in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, will include Figgy Duff, Murray McLauchlan, Rita Chiarelli, Asani, Anne Lindsay and Quebecois ensemble Club Carrefour. The ceremony will be co-hosted by CBC Radio's Shelagh Rogers and Quebec musician Benoit Bourque.
++ Pop Montréal's Symposium, Oct. 1-5, 2008, will feature filmmakers Jem Cohen and Femi Agbayewa; singers Irma Thomas and Lydia Lunch; and veteran U.S. a cappella group The Persuasions.
++ The Ontario Council of Folk Festivals has awarded this year’s Estelle Klein Award to True North Records founder Bernie Finkelstein. The award will be presented during the 22nd annual OCFF conference in Ottawa from Oct. 23-26, 2008.
++ Globe and Mail is partnering with MuchMusic for an online ad campaign featuring the "10 Smartest and Savviest Musicians." A site will feature blogs by some of MuchMusic's VJs, links to artists' blogs and info about their education and how they used their book smarts to make it in the music biz. Over to you, Avril.
++ War Child Canada has two new benefit albums being released by Musicor on Nov. 25th, 2008. The English Heroes album features Beck, Duffy, Rufus Wainwright, TV On The Radio, and The Kooks. The French Héros album features Tricot Machine, Florence K, Terez Montcalm, Stefie Shock, Marjo, and Renée Martel. War Child Canada is also launching a “Busking For Change” event in Toronto on Oct. 2, 2008. That day Our Lady Peace, Neverending White Lights, Dave Bidini, Tomi Swick, The Waking Eyes, Brian Melo and James Black and Rick Jackett of Finger Eleven will be busking for change in Toronto streets in support of War Child Canada. Maybe they will run into some past Juno winners.
++ The new version of "The Hockey Theme”, recorded by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, débuts on Quebec’s RDS Oct. 10 and nationally on TSN on Oct. 14. The song was written in 1968 by Dolores Claman and had been associated with CBC's “Hockey Night in Canada” for nearly four decades. Meanwhile, CBC’s contest for its new hockey theme has drawn more than 14,000 entries. Songs from the five finalists will be featured on CBC's "The Hour" the week of Sept. 29. The five composers will then be featured on a one-hour CBC television special on Oct. 4. CBC will then open the polls for voters to cast their ballots by email, phone or text messages. Two finalists will be announced Oct. 9, with the winner named at the start of the "Hockey Night in Canada" broadcast on Oct. 11, 2008.
++Virgin Music Canada will celebrate its 25th Anniversary with a charity concert on Oct. 14, 2008, at Lee's Palace in Toronto. Among the label's past and present acts on the bill will be: The Northern Pikes, Colin James, Choclair and Pluto (No Mary Margaret O’Hara?). Proceeds will be donated to MusiCan. A limited edition vinyl collection entitled, Rare & Brilliant - Virgin Music Canada 25th Anniversary, will be available Oct. 14.
++ A newly-released DVD, Long John Baldry, 'It Ain’t Easy', presents a 1987 performance at Iowa State University featuring the late legendary Vancouver-based UK blues figure with his band, featuring co-singer Kathi McDonald.
++ Hey, kids - want to fast-track your broadcasting career? Work first as a music artist.
Last month, Newfoundland and Labrador belle Kim Stockwood joined the EZ Morning Show in Toronto; mezzo-soprano Julie Nesrallah, rap poet Rich Terfry (aka Buck 65), and jazz diva Molly Johnson became new hosts at CBC Two. Meanwhile, Jian Ghomeshi, Danny Michel, Em Gryner and Randy Bachman continue to hold down hosting spots at CBC Radio, while veteran Kim Mitchell rocks at Q107 in Toronto.
So far, no personal artist manager in Canada has ventured in the footsteps of Vancouver’s Bruce Allen, who handles Bryan Adams, Michael Bublé and Martina McBride. He hosts the weekly “Reality Check” on CKNW in Vancouver. Just a matter of time.
MOVERS AND SHAKERS
++ Denise Donlon has become Executive Director of Radio at CBC Radio, effective Sept. 29, 2008. Donlon joined MuchMusic in the mid-'80s as a VJ and producer, becoming Co-host of "The New Music." She later served as General Manager of CHUM Television's MuchMusic and MuchMoreMusic. In 2000, she moved to Sony Music Canada as President for four years.
MICHEL RIVARD OF BEAU DOMMAGE ON YOUTUBE
If you haven't seen the Michel Rivard video on YouTube, you should. It has had over 600,000 hits in only a week, and it is a devastating satire on the difficulties facing Quebec musicians getting funding. Rivard is revered in Quebec and was part of its best-known group, Beau Dommage, for over 30 years. It doesn't matter if you don't know Rivard or if you are not a Canadian. If you know about the creative process of writing songs and dealing with bureaucrats, you will find this hilarious. For an English translation there's a button to push on the bottom right of the window.
I CAN TELL IT’S A CRISIS; I HAVE 40 EMAILS FROM AL MAIR
For Canadian Music Week, the Canadian Independent Record Production Assn., the East Coast Music Assn. (ECMA), the Western Canadian Musical Alliance, the check is not in the mail if the Conservatives continue in power. Nor should members of Holy Fuck hold their breath waiting for federal government tour funding.
Hundreds of Canadian cultural groups and artists recently learned they would not be receiving federal support in 2010 due to the Conservatives stripping $45.5-million from nearly a dozen arts programs.
Arts funding has emerged as a hot button election issue, particularly after Prime Minister Stephen Harper defended his government’s cuts with American-style, anti-intellectualism rhetoric, arguing that “ordinary people” object to tax dollars being used to fund glitzy galas at arts and cultural events…...Ordinary people understand we have to live within a budget.” Yet, a July 2008 report, “Valuing Culture: Measuring and Understanding Canada’s Creative Economy”, by the Conference Board of Canada, indicated that the economic footprint of Canada’s culture sector was $84.6 billion in 2007, or 7.4 per cent of Canada’s total real GDP, including direct, indirect, and induced contributions. Culture sector employment exceeded 1.1 million jobs in 2007.
Amidst charges that defunding of these programs will be devastating to Canadian musicians, actors and dancers, and to organizations who present the work of artists of all kinds, Harper has also called his party's decisions "good governance" and said the government must walk “a fine line” between providing financial stability and “funding things that people actually don't want.” Harper has, however, been very careful not to repeat in French his criticisms of artists, for outrage at his party's culture platform is most outspoken in Quebec where francophones are trying to maintain a distinct linguistic and cultural community.
If the Conservatives continue in power—particularly if they are handed their first majority government since 1988—the recent announced cuts may well lead to further significant cuts. Canada’s musical community has much to fear. A future body count would almost certainly include the Music Entrepreneurial Component (MEC) program launched by Canadian Heritage in 2005. MEC funds 19 Canadian-owned record labels.
Almost certain to be placed under review would be the overall cultural program, Tomorrow Starts Today, which includes programs administered by the Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent On Recordings (FACTOR). With the music industry worldwide in the throes of a slump and with lay-offs commonplace throughout the industry, as music sales have fallen, and with more and more Canadian musicians and labels depending on export revenues through sales and live performances to survive, the timing for the cuts is disastrous to Canada’s independent music sector.
The cuts began last month with the news that funding would be terminated for two industrial policy programs: PromArt, a program to encourage international promotional tours by Canadian artists overseen by the Department of Foreign Affairs; and Trade Routes, a Canadian Heritage Department program enabling cultural producers to export their work. Then just prior to the election call, the Conservatives axed the Canada New Media Fund (CNMF), a $14.5-million-a-year program administered by Telefilm but funded by the Department of Canadian Heritage, designed to create and distribute Canadian interactive new media both domestically and internationally.
As well, the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC) has since decided not to be the lead organizer of the Canada Day London events going forward. For the last two years, the CTC and its partners had delivered events on Trafalgar Square, engaging some 30-40,000 people each year. The Conservatives announced the majority of these cuts in Aug. 2008 via phone calls by departmental officials to key stakeholder groups.
Press releases were pointedly not issued by either Ministers of Canadian Heritage or Foreign Affairs. Conservatives argue that the cuts are the result of a "strategic review" of arts funding-- part of an ongoing government-wide review to trim spending--that found the programs had either fulfilled their original goals or wasted money with excessive administrative expenses.
What is particularly puzzling is that the Conservatives killed the Canadian Memory Fund, the Canada.ca portal, and the A-V Presentation Trust--all programs relating to the digitization of Canadian content. These cuts are particularly devastating since Canada continues to lag behind much of the world in content for digital networks.
As Duncan McKie, Pres./CEO of the Canadian Independent Record Production Assn., has pointed out, “The Government of Canada recently introduced new legislation to amend the Copyright Act to give our cultural industries the tools necessary to meet the challenge of an increasingly globalized cultural economy. A few weeks later, they cut the very programs that abet access to these same markets. In this case, politics trumps policy.”
Canadian Heritage Minister Josée Verner has indicated that the Conservatives hope to craft streamlined replacements for PromArt and Trade Routes and have them in place by March 31, 2009. Verner insists that PromArt and Trade Routes need to be more "efficient" and "adept" at adapting to a globalizing marketplace. What is alarming, however, is that the Conservatives do not hide the fact that they killed the programs largely due to ideological reasons, indicating that that they do not want to support artists they considered "marginal" or "offensive."
Harper’s Press Secretary, Kory Teneycke, in fact, noted that, “In the case of PromArt, we think the [funding] choices made were inappropriate ... inappropriate because they were ideological in some cases, with highly ideological individuals exposing their agendas or [money going to] wealthy celebrities or fringe arts groups that in many cases would be at best, unrepresentative, and at worst, offensive."
The Canadian music acts singled out by the Conservatives include:
++ Toronto-based Holy Fuck, who received $3,000 for a 21-date European tour.
++ Tal Bachman, who received $16,500 to perform at music festivals in South Africa and Zimbabwe.
Federal government money has helped Canadian Music Week, East Coast Music Assn., and the Western Canadian Musical Alliance to recruit talent buyers from the United States and Europe, including booking agents, film and television distributors, and technology specialists to their annual events. Also, federal funding has helped Canadian acts perform at such conferences as the CMJ Music Marathon in New York, and SXSW Music Trade Show in Austin, Texas (I’m not sure we needed 109 Canadian acts appearing at this year's SXSW, however). Little wonder that a slew of provincial government heads, as well as provincial music organizations, have condemned the Conservatives’ cuts, arguing that the elimination of PromArt and Trade Routes will devastate individual organizations as well as damage the cultural industries in their provinces.
Premier Danny Williams has already promised to "cover the financial gap" that would affect artists from Newfoundland and Labrador. The Liberals and the New Democrats have both indicated that they will reinstate the $45.5 million the Conservative government slashed. "A Liberal government would increase spending to arts and culture by $530 million over four years", says party leader Stéphane Dion. NDP leader Jack Layton says that his party would spend $125 million to preserve Canadian arts and culture. The party has also rolled out a glitzy arts platform that would also bring in an income-averaging tax scheme for artists, that would create a tax exemption for the first $20,000 of income earned on copyright material.
FROM THE DESK OF LARRY LEBLANC
Many of us have mixed views of government-based funding to the arts and there are those who are deeply concerned about the Conservatives’ commitment to Canadian culture. Indeed, there are artists and companies that need funding, particularly considering the economic climate of today. There is also a pivotal role for the federal government to play in encouraging performing art, because the Canadian market can be inundated by foreign influences.
However, despite the contribution of the arts to society and the economy, despite the large numbers of people employed in the arts sector, and despite the often low-income status of artists, the Conservatives seem intent on hacking away at the arts in their new budgets. Significantly, masked by government explanations of thrift and program rationalization, the funding cuts so far have been framed in explicitly ideological language. Critics say the Conservatives are intent in appointing themselves as guardians of public morality while appealing to those Canadians who are opposed to public funding for cultural industries.
While I respect the right of the federal government to modify programs, the whole affair reeks of bungling. If the Conservatives believe there are better ways to spend taxpayer dollars than supporting these programs, it should have canceled the programs and immediately put forward alternatives. It is not so much that we under-fund our musicians -- which we do in many cases -- but the outcry from the cuts is more due to expectations from the music community in Canada.
Every musician who has ever traveled the Canadian tour circuit in a rented van knows where they have been. In the middle of winter, it’s bears in the middle of the road in the Rockies, snowdrifts in northern Ontario, and driving through Saskatchewan at 25 km. an hour because the roads are so icy you aren’t supposed to travel. Summer time, it’s driving at frightening speeds across deserted prairie roads so hot the asphalt and tar is melting. It’s blowouts in the middle of nowhere. It’s floods in the Maritimes. It’s fights in the parking lots, fights inside and the band fighting to be heard.
For decades, Canada’s proximity to America was viewed as diluting the cultural blood of the country. Canadian artists would gaze south, obsessive in both their fascination with, and fears of, the massive American marketplace with its seductive popular culture, fearful of American influence and with smug contempt for American values, real or imagined.
When Canadian artists ventured outside Canada to win recognition before the ‘90s, Canadians generally seethed with resentment. Every success story led to agonizing articles in the Canadian media about the country being unable to hold onto its heroes or its identity. Even those who intermittently looked elsewhere for support were often damned by Canadians.
We can debate the issue but such initiatives as broadcasting content quotas, and two decades of federal and regional funding programs for the Canadian-owned sector of the music industry, have played pivotal roles in establishing Canadian musical talent at home and abroad.
Canadian labels and artist--with both federal and provincial government support--are now viewed as punching above their weight on the world stage. But it comes with a high cost. The independent sector in Canada today is absolutely reliant on government grants. Government funding has allowed the multinationals to practically opt out of the A&R process--to only cherry-pick acts via distribution.
An abundance of artists, managers, labels, publishers and other gadflies have continually lined up at the funding trough over the years. Many of them are so crippled by fear of losing money that they refuse to take any form of career risks, in order to insure that their bets are hedged by funding—not always forthcoming, however, from federal and provincial sources.
The sad fact is that many artists with high profiles and strong reputations, with catalogues of albums, still often lack expert management, or the experience to look after their careers—bare minimums to sustain a long-term career. With its large number of cult artists, Canada is also a graveyard of shattered hopes and careers where many of the acts are like over-the-hill prizefighters who don’t have the good sense to retire when their diminished gifts have made them look damn foolish.
What's most unsettling about the Conservatives' decision is that their cutbacks are not only on a monetary basis but are intended for politicalizing funding--holding back funds for those they deem offensive or subversive.
Harper told the Globe and Mail that government must avoid "funding things that people actually don't want." Government arts budgets are relatively small compared to other federal programs. But I have never understood why so much of the arts feels it has a fundamental right to be subsidized. What does a starving musician have over a starving graduate of any other difficult profession? No doubt there are starving graduates of programs who could use a boost from Ottawa, just as much as the members of rock bands or hip hop posses. It's a matter of figuring out who deserves what and how much and insuring overall funding acts as a catalyst for economic development.
I fully agree with Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy, who lauds FACTOR’s support of musical diversity, and the grassroots sector. “You want the representatives of your culture to be more than just the pop hit,” he says. “Although they are a great story, they don’t tell the whole story of what’s going on in Canada. FACTOR has been an enormous boost in telling Canada’s musical story.”
The Conservatives argue that some programs will be replaced because they have not been efficient. What are the new programs? When will they be announced? Or if the Conservatives are suggesting that only offensive culture not be promoted, who decides what that is?
Right now, I prefer Holy Fuck over the Conservatives.
Journalist/broadcaster/researcher Larry LeBlanc has been a leading figure in Canadian music for four decades. He has been a regular music commentator on CTV’s “Canada A.M” for 35 years, and has been featured on numerous CBC-TV, CTV, YTV, Bravo! MuchMusic, MusiMax, and Newsworld programs in Canada; VH-1, and EEntertainment in the U.S.; and BBC in the U.K.
Larry is a weekly columnist for Encore Celebrity Access in the U.S. He was a co-founder of the late Canadian music trade, The Record; and, until 2007, the Canadian bureau chief of Billboard for 16 years. He has been quoted on music industry issues in hundreds of publications, including Time, Forbes, The London Times, and The New York Times.
He has acted as a consultant for the Canadian Competition Bureau, the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, the Canadian Private Copying Collective, and the Neighbouring Rights Collective of Canada, as well as such Canadian media group as Astral Media, CHUM Radio, Rogers Communications, The Evanov Group, and Harvard Broadcasting.
Larry sits on the board of the Audio-Visual Preservation Trust of Canada. The LeBlanc Newsletter is exclusively carried and archived by Canadian Music Week in Canada at:
It is available in the U.S. at Encore Celebrity Access:
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