by: Cory Schnurr
For those of you who don’t know, Canadian Music Week, or CMW, began in 1981 and is Canada’s largest
media and music conference. Yes, even bigger than NXNE.
CMW has a bit of everything. Since 2009, CMW has joined forces with Canadian Music Fest; the actual
performances, Comedy Fest; full of Canadian comedy showcases, and the Radio and Digital Summits.
But enough of the background info, what happened this CMW?
This year Velvet Rope’s and Brixton Music’s Cory Schnurr was at the Fairmont Royal York from
beginning to end and managed to catch the whole conference and plenty of shows. Some great local
acts made their way onto some of the stages of CMW as well such as Drew Leith and The Foundation,
Remembering Apollo and the Wormwood Scrubs.
Aside from the free beer, Monster energy drinks and swag bags, CMW was packed with panels of
industry professionals and veterans, and hundreds of bands trying to get their start.
The focuses of this year’s conference were Latin American music, the rebirth of radio, and the
diversifying revenue available to musicians through internet and mobile technologies.
New to CMW in 2012 was a wonderful little addition called the OIART Mentors Café. There were a few
glitches, typical to a first year run, but overall it was a welcome addition. The idea was to have tables of
some of the keynote speakers for half an hour at a time, and participants could sign up for 5-10 minute
Q and A slots. It was a great way to network aside from the traditional waiting at the side of the podium,
but it also became a vicious line-up of bands pitching their demos and trying to get signed.
There was a live show in every venue and it was literally impossible to see them all, so here’s a quick
breakdown of the shows we caught. We did manage to catch at least one each day.
Wednesday – Canadian Indie Night. Not officially part of the CMW line-up, this pre-show perfectly
placed included 2 stages at The Ballroom and showcased only up-and-coming indie bands. Not the best
turn-out of the week, but a consistent band-after-band set made the night quite enjoyable and extra
loud. Velvet Rope sat down with a few of the bands for some interviews. Care, I’m assured, will be posting the articles this week.
Thursday – Day 1 of the Conference the buzz at the Fairmont was that the Horseshoe Tavern was the
place to be. So tagging along with a couple reps from Universal and eOne Music, we headed down to
catch The Pack A.D., a female dirty-bluesy-rock duo from Vancouver, and the next Canadian hard rock
sensation, Monster Truck. A shoulder-to-shoulder packed venue, great atmosphere and perfectly mixed
sound made this show another legendary set to add to the Horseshoe Wall of Fame.
Friday – For all of you who enjoy the 90s nooner, we had to check out the I Mother Earth reunion show
at the Sound Academy. Seems like we weren’t the only ones to leave the core and head to the water
– the show was sold out for the second night in a row. A few mediocre bands took the stage before a
mind-blowing performance by Broken Light Social Hour, and a triple encore, two and a half hour set
from the legendary Canadian rockers.
Saturday – The Indies award show kept most of the delegates at the Fairmont. It’s the premiere award
show for indie music in Canada, and a highlight that caps off the CMW events. Velvet Rope had a
backstage pass and got a chance to sit down with some great bands like The Sheepdogs, Passion Pit and
Treble Charger. We also got some great photos from front row.
After most of the awards it was time to catch some live music again. Although this was a hard night
to pick, we headed back to the Horseshoe Tavern for Gentleman Husband, Two Hours Traffic and
Wintersleep; fantastic show yet again. With a different vibe and maybe a bit less to drink, the show was
definitely worth the extra money – this one cost $20 for non-wristbands as opposed to the usual $10.
Bars were open until after 4pm with special permits, so we also got to check out the Jim Cuddy Band
and Ferraro at Cameron House. Filled beyond capacity, the show had the musicians on the bar and the
drummer in the window sill. What a great picture to sum up the experience.
There was a lot to learn at the conference so we hand-picked a few valuable tid-bits to bring home.
Tips for Musicians:
Get a management team! While speaking with one of the panellists, a big-wig conversation brought
up a really good point; how many major acts can you name that don’t have a manager or management
team behind them? In fact, these execs said they wouldn’t even consider a band that didn’t have
Don’t come to CMW or any music conference just to pitch your CD! In a chat with another delegate
who asked not to be named, we learned that they don’t listen to them. “I already lost a week of work
coming here,” he said, “there’s no way I’m going to listen to all of these and find band we want to sign –
if you want me to listen, give me a card, take mine, shake my hand and email me a link.” It’s as simple as
Get Registered! There’s over 80 million dollars in royalties in Canada that are unclaimed. If you’re not
a SOCAN registered artist or you aren’t part of your local society, and you’re trying to push a record,
you’re losing money.
Don’t quit on Radio! With all the advancements in technology there are a variety of ways to get your
music out there. From iTunes to Amazon, from CD Baby to Apps, the opportunity is there. But don’t give
up on radio play. According to some wise folk at the conference, although radio listening has dropped
nearly 70%; those 30% still listening are the ones that matter. They’re the booking agents, record labels,
promoters and award panels. Traditional radio is still responsible for things like the billboard charts and
helping select what gets played on specialty radio like Galaxie and Slacker.
All-in-all it was a great week in Toronto, and we’ll definitely be back next year. It’s a great time to be a
musician in Canada.