As Neill Dixon swings his annual Canadian Music Week conference into its 34th year May 2-8 at Toronto’s Sheraton Centre he is buoyed by the knowledge that Canada is coming off one of it’s best years ever in 2015, a year which ended with Canadian artists; (The Weeknd, Justin Bieber, Drake, Alessia Cara and Sean Mendes) occupying the top six positions on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart, success that triggers a ripple down effect throughout the entire industry.
“That was our Canadian invasion,” enthused Dixon, CMW president, breaking away from his last minute planning activities. “That success is unprecedented in the entire history of our industry and it capped off what was a successful year for us all around.”
It’s a wave of enthusiasm that is being felt as domestic industry types and guests from around the globe descend on Toronto next week to attend a series of seminars, observe a total of five industry award ceremonies and view an impressive array of live talent either as part of several key concerts or as part of a nightly showcase of talent that is taking over major nightclubs around the city.
Similar to previous years, the CMW conference is divided into three sections; Music, Radio and Digital with a series of panels and special guests involved in all
three segments. Keynote speakers include former David Bowie producer, Tony Visconti, famed engineer, Eddie Kramer as well as a series of top music industry celebrities. On top of this are separate Comedy and Independent Movie festivals; Five award shows including; The Canadian Music Industry and Broadcasting Awards (May 5th Sheraton Centre) which will see Nelly Furtado and Andy Kim inducted into the associations, Hall Of Fame, The Indie Awards (May 4th) at the Phoenix Concert Theatre which honors Canada’s top indie bands and features performances by a number of top artists including Wintersleep and The Strumbellas, two Radio awards; The Radio Music Awards and Crystal Awards and a new addition to the lineup, The Live Music Awards (May 7th) which spotlights the industry people involved in live entertainment.
“With streaming income finally surpassing all other revenues for the artists, it’s pretty safe to say that CD sales are no longer relevant and will soon be, at best a niche market,” noted Dixon, aware that the progress of digital streaming and downloading is now a core issue in his conference. “Digital music is now on its own and most people are optimistic about where this can go. Even the most negative artist has to come to terms with the fact that the day of record sales is long gone and that streaming and downloading is now the dominant form of distribution.”
With live performance now even more important for an artist to succeed in this industry, the 20016 CMW’s spotlight an even stronger focus on concert promotion activity with the likes of United Talent President Neil Warnock and Concerts West President John Meglen featured as guest speakers and a full slate of live entertainment panels and symposiums.
A new Live Awards show has been created “to honour those people behind the scenes, who organize concert activity,” notes Dixon and a special one day event on Saturday May 7th features a Music Cities Summit in which organizers from key cities around the globe meet to discuss what elements go into creating a successful Music City.
“Austin Texas is the poster child for a music city with its South by Southwest Festival but there’s other cities that also have a strong image; Nashville calls itself Music City USA, Chicago is home of the blues, Memphis has r&B, New Orleans has Jazz and so it goes,” noted Dixon. “Former Toronto mayor, Rob Ford went down to Austin to see what synergies existed between the two cities and current mayor John Tory also went down and has now set up a music officer to develop strategies for this city.”
“It’s a global phenomenon,” continued Dixon. “Lots of cities see the economic potential, music has on their city. Instead of being a real pain, a major festival, series of festivals or even a vibrant night club district attracts tourism and young workers, who also attract new technology. So at our summit, organizers from a number of key cities are going to meet and discuss the problems and challenges of what goes into creating a Music City.”
Of course Toronto next week becomes a `music city’ with key concerts by the likes of Collective Soul, a sold out show at the Opera House (May 7th) by ISIS Paris terrorist attack survivors Eagles Of Death Metal plus other luminaries such as Lights, The Sheepdogs, Bob Mould, the Indie Awards featuring Wintersleep, The Strumbellas, The Zolas and Alberta Cross, The IHeart Radio Fest 2016 (May 6, Sheraton Centre) featuring Tegan And Sarah, Scott Helman, Shawn Hook and Coleman Hell plus over 1,000 bands and artists spread out in key venues throughout the city.
As for the future, “We are always trying to improve the conference and be on top of any new developments,”notes Dixon who racks up the air mils points traveling to other key festivals to sell his own event while taking note of innovations that can be incorporated into his own festival. “This industry is changing so rapidly that it is a challenge to stay on top of things but not knowing what is coming next is what makes my job so interesting.”
For conference ticket and wristband information and for a complete schedule of events, please link to cmw.net.