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Sound Grenade

by Archives March 24, 2009

List five of your all time favourite bands right now. How many of them are Canadian? I’m guessing either very few (like one) or none at all. After running around the city interviewing various people and local bands, I realized that we as a nation have a problem. We’re quick to assume that Canada does not produce great music and we’re actually correct in that assumption. The United States is far more successful when it comes to promoting artists. Sure many of you read up on the underground music scene and know your Can-Con (radio term for Canadian Content), but is that really enough? It isn’t a question of talent or musical styles but more about the debate over government funding, media control and artistic license.
Flashback moment, you’re 13 again and you just switched on the radio, some local announcer guy tells you that the latest artist is: Crazy eye Jones who was “discovered” in a grocery store after she began to sing into a celery stalk. You think okay cool I’ll give it a chance, but the song titled: “chicks with picks” is just a bit irritating and her voice sounds like a cross between Twinkle Bell and Cher. You don’t like it, now what? Every time you turn on the radio there she is, Good ol’ crazy eye shouting a rhythmically dense chorus about cowboy hats and sprinklers in the springtime. The song is being used in commercials, her face is on billboards and every talk show is promoting her latest album. Entertainment shows say that Jones is the next Bob Dylan . . .
Welcome to the record industry. You are told who is popular, what music is good and what concerts you should see and more often than not you listen. It’s easy to be influenced by media; no one is an exception to the rule. Everything is about the latest, greatest and newest forms of nothing. This is fine when it comes to chewing gum and kittens, but not music.
Where are the music scouts? Back in the 60s, 70s, even the 80s and 90s record labels sent out talent agents in search of local bands with star power potential. This has become a rarity. Instead of looking for talent, record companies let the artists find them. Bands end up mailing in demos that more often than not are judged solely by the packaging; sometimes a track is heard and then discarded. The music industry is not some frivolous art form based on the poetics of poverty, it is a complicated business.
Think about it, how many bands on the top 40 billboard charts were randomly discovered? Most of these artists are products of record companies; they’ve been created for the sole purpose of making money. With the exception to some, most music today is bland and lacks passion. Words are becoming more and more meaningless, love songs about umbrellas . . . really? This is why there is an underground music scene and only recently has it become popular.
One day a bunch of people, frustrated by the current mainstream music scene decided to take matters into their own hands and create the underground world of music. A place where everyone and anyone are accepted, talent is promoted and bands band together in order to succeed. Local shows, aid venues and bars because they increase clientele and in many ways the underground music scene serves as an economic boost to small businesses. People enjoy music, they buy beer and everyone is happy.
However what happens when a band becomes well known within the “underground” music scene and decides they want to promote themselves even further. How hard is it for a Canadian band to become well established in Canada? It seems as though they have to travel and tour in the United States just to make a name for themselves in their own country.
I’ve decided to turn this subject into a three week mini investigation, one that discovers the inner workings of the Canadian music industry. Next week will be focused on following local punk band “The Nailheads.” They discuss the struggles of getting a label, artistic rights and why there is a lack of government funding especially when it comes to alternative punk and rock music.
Like I said, there is this incessant tug of war between mainstream and underground and it seems that the Montreal community is finally catching on but what can we do about it, how can we get anyone to listen or fund us . . . ?

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