By Todd Arkell
Canadian Music Week is one of the most storied music conferences and festivals in Canada. The 5 day event features everything from superstars like Janet Jackson to emerging artists like Canadian songstress Robyn DellUnto. How can you describe the experience of such a week?
From a music fan’s perspective, CMW is a little slice of heaven; from an industry professional’s perspective, it is long hours with a jammed schedule while trying to function on very little sleep. I have come to accept the fact I will simply not be able to do everything I set out to. I make the strongest plan possible and then allow the flow of the event to dictate what gets covered and what doesn’t. How else could I have ended up at the Shanghai Cowgirl with Mark Smutz Smith drinking Amsterdam Blondes and munching on fries between his band’s showcase at Cherry Cola’s and one of ours (The Love Machine) at Sneaky Dees? The band he manages, The Lost Souls Club, played a brilliant set, and Mark and I knew each other from a festival in Australia, so we made a new plan to have a chat about what they were hoping to achieve in Canada.
You see, the festival is about great music but it is also about the brief conversations you have with like-minded people which move the business further ahead. I don’t think it is any secret that my company is trying to develop reciprocal business arrangements in markets all over the world; we see it as the best way to export brilliant Canadian music and import some of the best the world has to offer. My focus coming into Canadian Music Week was on the relationships I could develop to help our artists in other countries.
Let’s face facts, Canadians don’t look inward for great talent…most countries don’t. We have some of the most incredibly talented artists in the world and many people couldn’t care less. We seem more interested in what is big in the US or UK and forget that Canada has an abundance of talent that the world recognizes, even if we do not. Have you heard of Dan Mangan, Zeus, Two Hours Traffic, Said The Whale or Amos The Transparent? Probably not, but all have had decent success touring in other countries as well as in Canada. The bands have good radio airplay, even some Juno nominations, but are not a household names in Canada yet. My hope is festivals like Canadian Music Week can help Canadians discover the true talent that resides in their own backyard.
For the music lover, the festival brings together bands from all over the world, from the barely known to the brightest stars. The charm of the event is finding those acts which are under the radar and then being completely blown away by how fantastic they are. The act that did just that for me in this year was Denmark’s Alcoholic Faith Mission. I saw them perform at Rancho Relaxo on the first night and was so impressed I went to see them a second time at The El Mocambo. I sure am glad I did, because I fell deeply, madly in love with this band. Since the festival is so well run, you can depend on the schedule being adhered to. This means you can hop from club to club and catch portions of sets of several acts. It is a music lover’s dream. Saturday night quickly turned into Sunday morning as I hopped from club to club culminating in a 4am slot to watch Nightbox, who politely invited us all to breakfast. Rolling into bed as the sun comes up is quite possibly the only way to know you were successful in packing in as much music as humanly possible.
If you missed this year’s Canadian Music Week, make sure you mark March 21-25 2012 on your calendar….