By Keith Sharp
Canada’s Music Week music industry conference is about to stage it’s 35th annual event April 18-23 at Toronto’s Sheraton Centre Hotel. As CMW president Neill Dixon reflected during his annual state of the union address, much as changed in this industry since that first conference staged back in 1982.
At that point, music was still purchased in record shops, topics of the day focused on attracting the interest of record companies’ A&R departments and accessing radio airplay and there were still plenty of major record labels around scouring the numerous talent showcases.
Fast forward 35 years and prime topics are now about downloading and streaming music (record shops have been replaced by iPhones!), social media, digital issues like cross platform moneyization, mobile marketing applications and blogging. This is not your granddad’s record industry.
Yes record sales have taken a new twist. Touring is still vitally important and more so than ever, new bands have the freedom and independence to record, promote and sell their own recordings in a social media universe which allows direct contact with their fans and ultimately record merchandise and ticket consumers.
“Our challenge every year is to be on top of things and have our finger on the pulse of what is changing in this industry,” noted Dixon. “The future is always around the corner for us, things change dramatically month to month which makes things pretty exciting. Changes we try to reflect in our conference.
The conference itself is divided into three themes; Digital, Radio and Music Summit, each with their own sets of topics and guest speakers. On top of this are a series of major awards functions, Music Industry Awards – Thursday April 20th (honoring Rush, Jann Arden, 54-40, radio personality Marilyn Dennis and LiveNation Executive Athur Fogel) The Indie 88 Awards, Wednesday April 20th at The Phoenix, spotlighting top indie performers , The Radio Music Awards, focusing on breaking talent, Wednesday at noon and the Live Music Awards, Wednesday afternoon at the El Mocambo (hosted by Paul Shaffer) which honours the live music scene.
There’s also a plethora of new and established bands performing at concerts and showcases all over the city including international stars like Melissa Etheridge and Good Charlotte and established domestic talent like The Strumbellas, High Valley, 54:40, Scott Helman, Jess Moskaluke plus a chance to discover Canada’s next breakthrough stars (see CMW website for further information).
Although Dixon still feels major record labels still play a major role as “Gate Keepers of The Music Industry” and discovering new talent isn’t just about viewing youtube “and seeing who’s got the most views”, he does concede that many new artists are succeeding in going it alone.
“The power of record labels is diminishing, artists have realized they can get by without radio exposure and millions of dollars are being generated by streaming and downloads so it is a new climate out there,” Dixon acknowledged. “That’s why conferences like CMW are even more important. New artists can benefit from all the top speakers we have. This conference is probably more important than ever.”
Dixon focused on one key speaker, Rick Barker, former manager of Taylor Swift , making a return visit to the conference. “His speech was so popular last year that delegates literally followed him out into the hallway and he gave another 20-minute lecture to about 250 people,” enthused Dixon. “Everything he says is a take away.”
With guest delegates from France and Italy on site to talk to record company execs and artists about obtaining exposure into these key European markets and other high profile events like song workshops and one on one meetings with top industry personnel, the Canadian Music Week has established itself as one of the world’s premiere music conferences.
For further information on obtaining tickets and schedules of events, link to cmw.net.