Work put in with little return? Vancouver’s local musicians look to the community for support
By Keely Rammage-Scott
A crack of static echoes through the room as the musician plugs in his guitar. Blinding yellow lights bring the stage to light and the frontman steps forward to the microphone as he awaits the roar of the crowd. Only silence follows.
Vancouver’s music scene holds a very specific reputation that can be described by local artists with one word: Difficult. Artists spend weeks on end promoting just one show using all the different tools necessary to do so in this day and age. Among those tools are social media, word of mouth, advertising, networking, and different streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music and TIDAL. Even when an artist devotes all their time and energy into using whatever is at their disposal to encourage members of the local community to come to their show, it is a gamble on whether or not they will be presented with a crowded dance floor, or a couple patches of people here and there.
Are big cities just for big parties? Alex Frizzell, self-branded as AVFmusic is a session musician and producer in Vancouver with both studio and live performance experience. Frizzell sees Vancouver as what it is: a big city with a big attitude. “When I have ventured into the live scene at smaller acoustic gigs or open mics and charity events, I’ve noticed really low turnouts. Especially when compared to what raves in this city pull,” says Frizzell. The people prefer the larger-than-life cultural experience. They pay big money to listen to remixes of familiar songs. They could pay a fraction of the price by visiting one of many bars or coffee shops in Vancouver to support local talent, but unfortunately, people looking to attend events tend to gravitate towards the crowds.
None of this is to say that the local music scene has no support. Local musicians agree that other artists tend to be the most supportive audiences. Ryan Rhys, lead vocalist of Threat Level Midnight is one. “Other artists were super supportive and encouraging, and it gave us the confidence we needed to play our hearts out!” says Rhys.
Most artists in Vancouver agree that venue and atmosphere can have a huge impact on the overall experience of a show. All-ages shows are few and far between in Vancouver. The scene is full of supportive, younger show-goers that are unable to find opportunities to support their favourite local artists due to age restrictions. Most Vancouver music venues are bars and clubs, strictly nineteen plus. Anyone underage is therefore prohibited from attending these shows.
It has not always been this way. Derya Whaley-Kalaora has been going to shows for five years and has seen many different venues and crowds both as a show-goer and a performer in her diverse range of musical projects. Whaley-Kalaora remembers some of Vancouver’s most coveted all-ages venues and the shows that ran at them not even a year ago.
“The Vancouver scene is in crisis with many of the local venues going under, so people who really care about the local scene and work hard to keep it alive are vital,” she says. “One particularly wonderful experience I have had performing was at a venue that has now been shut down called Stylus Records. My old band Mind Offline was playing one of our first shows there and suddenly the power went out as we were playing a cover of “I’m not Yours Anymore” by Angus and Julia Stone. The crowd at Stylus was always so wonderful, and as this happened, they began to sing along to the song with us and wave their phone flashlights. This was a heartwarming experience for us because we’d just started playing together and having the support of so many people in such an intimate environment was absolutely lovely.”
Vancouver artists such as Whaley-Kalaora believe in the importance of all-ages, accessible music venues for all members of the community. Aly Laube is the associate director of Cushy Entertainment, a Vancouver-based production company focused on holding inclusive and accessible events. Cushy has been one of few companies in Vancouver focused on hosting all ages events. “As a promoter, I’ve had great luck with crowds,” says Laube.
Laube has built Cushy from her experience as a younger live music-goer. “I was a kid when I started getting into the music scene and it made me who I am. It saved me from getting in trouble and gave me inspiration,” she says. Laube cannot remember the last time she hosted a nineteen plus event with Cushy. She hopes to provide today’s youth with the same opportunities to see live music as she had when she was younger.
Laube also brings an inclusive attitude to Vancouver’s music scene. “The one thing [the scene] didn’t give me was a sense of representation of women, particularly women of colour, on stages. When I eventually got older and confident enough to help make that happen by joining bands and now by leading Cushy, I knew I wanted to be part of making sure young marginalized people had access to a space that felt open and there for them!”
While audience and venue have been known to make live shows memorable and heartwarming experiences for artists, local musicians are faced with the unfortunate task of navigating the digital world of the twenty-first century. Local bands are unlikely to be booked for shows without some sort of online presence. “It’s hard but necessary,” says Laube. “Facebook is needed for event pages. Instagram is needed for spreading the word. Stories are useful for getting eyes on your content. Websites show you’re professional. Social media is the best tool for getting your brand out there these days, and image matters more now than ever.”
Different artists face different struggles with social media. It is a grind to be seen. While social media and streaming platforms are the greatest tools out there today for providing artists with opportunity, it is also difficult for just one small scale artist to be seen among online algorithms. “the [Instagram] algorithm is evil and heavily prioritizes people who pay to sponsor their content” says Whaley-Kalaora. Despite this, she and others still believe that social media is a vital tool to artists.
“Social media is the primary way that our shows are promoted,” says Harvey. “While posters in local businesses and word of mouth are great, social media allows us to get the word out faster and more efficiently.” Laube says that streaming platforms provide a similar accessibility and are equally necessary. “If you’re not on the streaming platforms available to listeners, how will they find you?” she asks. Streaming platforms are her main resource for finding new music as a promoter in Vancouver.
As do many other tools, streaming platforms also have downfalls for local artists. Whaley-Kalaora says that streaming platforms tend to show music from more well-known artists on main pages. “You can find local artists that are not well known if you search for them, but it is hard to have people stumble upon your music unless you get on the right playlists.”
The amount of labour that is put into a local artist’s social media or accessible music is immense in comparison to what they get back in return. Artists in Vancouver have seen this struggle firsthand. Both require a huge investment, both in time and funds. “There is really no money to be made doing [social media], you’re hoping it’s an investment that will see returns with higher live turnout that doesn’t really exist in Vancouver unless you fit into the narrow niches that have some popularity,” says Frizzell, who has been to shows of all different genres in the city.
Returns from streaming platforms have been a globally debated topic in the last number of years. “[Streaming services] don’t compensate artists nearly enough. This makes it very hard for people to seriously consider a career in music and gain monetarily from it,” says Whaley-Kalaora. She has music on different platforms under her past and present projects.
Local artists rely heavily on public support in order to continue doing what they love. Their success and livelihoods depend on show-goers and users of streaming platforms. All artists agree that one of the most important things you can do to support the local scene is to get as involved as you can. “Go to shows! Pay cover! Buy local music and merchandise!” says Laube.
Whaley-Kalaora believes that even liking and sharing a local artist’s post on social media can be a huge help if you are not financially able to buy tickets to shows or merchandise. “We all depend on each other and the few local art spaces we have left, like Avant-Garden; get out there and volunteer, share in community, and support each other’s art. Bring your friends from work, school, bring your mom, bring your date. Local events are such a wonderful and cheap way to enjoy weekends (and weeks) and there’s always tons going on.”
South-Asian FM Station 91.5 Connect FM Launches in Surrey!
CJCN Connect FM marked its launch in the city of Surrey with the beginning of new year on 2nd January, 2020. South-Asian ethnic radio station announced its official opening on the FM frequency of 91.5 MHz.
Interview with DJ Heer for the Canucks Diwali Night
On October 25th, the Vancouver Canucks will be celebrating their 3rd annual Diwali Night before and during the game against the Washington Capitals. There will be a flashmob, and live performances by Jazzy B, DJ Heer, and DJ BIG. And also complimentary South Asian food samples in the concourses.
Diwali is one of the world’s most celebrated festivals and the name itself means “row of lighted lamps” with light symbolizing the triumph of good over evil, prosperity over poverty and knowledge over ignorance.
We’ve interviewed DJ Jovan Heer, who now lives in Surrey, to learn more about him and the upcoming Diwali Night.
Being a huge passionate fan of the Canucks and of music, you’ve combined both to help spearhead the Diwali Night. How did that happen and what motivated you to take action?
I’ve always been a fan of Punjabi and Bollywood music ever since I was a kid. I saw a huge opportunity to do something with the Canucks as their is such a big South Asian community in the Vancouver area. 3 years ago I reached out to Ryan from the Canucks, who was in charge of organizing special events, on Twitter saying that we needed to have a night that celebrated the South Asian community in a way.
A few months later, I received an email from him asking me if I wanted to DJ on the plaza outside of Rogers Arena and I was shocked that it was actually going to happen and that I would have the opportunity to DJ for my favourite team. The first year was an amazing experience, after I DJ’ed on the plaza I was able to go to where Jay Swing was DJing and was able to see how everything operated up there and also got to share the floor with the likes of Jim Benning, Trevor Linden and many more prominent Canucks figures up in the press box during intermissions and at the end of the game.
Last year was even bigger when E3 Entertainment got involved and they made the event even bigger and better with the addition of more performances and the Crown Prince of Bhangra Jazzy B, myself and the Q-Town Productions team also DJ’ed on the Plaza along with a Bhangra flashmob. Diwali night has become a huge deal and is making news all over as this is an event everyone wants to attend. The Hockey Night In Punjabi team is also another huge factor in this night as they have grown very much in the past few years and have brought in a whole new demographic of fans with the Punjabi commentary as now families are now all gathering together watching games.
How did you get into DJ’ing and who are your main influencers?
I’ve always had a passion for music growing up as a child, my parents would play music and I would dance for hours listening to it and singing along. When I realized that I could do what I love and be the life of the party with the music I play it was something that I just couldn’t pass up. I had mentors in Edmonton who I worked with under the Pure Entertainment name and I also took some classes with Night Vision Music as well that helped excel my skill level. My main influencers have to be Jazzy B, Malkit Singh and Notorious BIG as they’ve made me a huge Bhangra and Hip Hop fan.
You get booked to perform in different countries. How does that feel?
It’s honestly a surreal feeling having the chance to not only travel but to perform in front of sold out crowds of hundreds to thousands of people along with performing alongside some of the biggest performers in the Punjabi music industry.
What would you like to see more of in terms of both the music and hockey culture in Surrey?
I think right now everything is going great with the culture. We have Hockey Night in Punjabi with Punjabi commentary and broadcasting, there are many South Asian players on ice and ball hockey teams so parents are now investing the money and putting their kids in these leagues. E3 Entertainment has done a great job working with the Canucks making sure the experience of the entire night is a success and fans are enjoying the entire night.
What is one piece of advice you can give to aspiring and rookie DJ’s and music producers?
Marketing is everything in today’s day and age. The harder you work, the more you put out there, the more successful you will be. There are plenty of talented DJ’s out there but so many are so resistant and don’t make the time to put out mixes that fans can listen to.
How do you balance being a DJ, working a full time job, and the rest of life?
It’s all about balance. It’s a lot of juggling things and a lot of nights with no sleep but in the end if it’s going to make you successful and set you up for the future then it is all worth it. Not only am I working full time and DJing but I also have my own radio show on Rukus Avenue Radio and am a music journalist for Simply Bhangra the world’s largest South Asian music website as well. It’s tough to handle at times but it’s something I enjoy doing.
What can fans expect at the Diwali Night?
Fans can expect another Diwali night full of music and dance. We will be performing on the plaza outside of Rogers Arena prior to the game and their will be many other plans for the night as well. The highlight of the night will be the performance of Jazzy B who is one of the top Punjabi music artists of all time.
What are your predictions for the game against the Capitals?
I predict a 4-2 win for the Canucks, we are 2-0 on Diwali Night.
Grand Prize Valuing Over $50k for Developing BC Musicians
The MRG Group launches ELEVATE Music Project
The MRG Group is excited to announce the launch of ELEVATE Music Project, a new initiative to help developing local musicians forward their careers, at the same time creating more buzz around Vancouver’s music scene.
ELEVATE Music Project will kick off on November 22, 2019 at the Biltmore Cabaret with round one of the competition. ELEVATE will be hosted by a prominent Vancouver personality (TBA), and the competition will be held at three of Vancouver’s premier music venues the Biltmore Cabaret, The Imperial and Vogue Theatre. A four person panel of local music industry pros will act as judges, six bands will be selected from the preliminary round and play in the semi-final in early 2020, from there the top three acts to perform for a grand prize at the Vogue Theatre in February.
All three bands selected to play at the finals will win a custom prize package designed to not only contribute some much needed funding but also help further develop their careers through strategic partnerships and experienced industry professionals. Prizes total over $50,000 with the winning act of ELEVATE Music Project receiving a spot in the Westward Music Festival 2020 lineup, an article in BeatRoute Magazine with online media support, a cash prize of $2500, a $2500 gift certificate for Long & McQuade, press photos taken by a professional photographer, with more prizes to be announced!
Current partners include Budweiser, MRG Concerts, BeatRoute Media, The Biltmore Cabaret, do604, The Imperial, CJSF, Smirnoff, Red Bull and Vogue Theatre. ELEVATE is excited to announce that MusiCounts has signed on as our official charity partner. MusiCounts, Canada’s music education charity associated with CARAS and the JUNO Awards, is keeping music alive across Canada by putting musical instruments into the hands of children that need them most.
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About The MRG Group
In operation since 2008, with the reopening of the historic Vogue Theatre in Vancouver, BC, The MRG Group has grown into one of the leading hospitality and entertainment companies in Canada. Owning and operating a total of 14 properties across the country, the group’s preeminent venues include: Vogue Theatre, The Yale Saloon, Dublin Calling, Prost Haus, The Imperial and Biltmore Cabaret in Vancouver, BC, The Capital Ballroom in Victoria, BC, Dublin Calling in Calgary, AB, The Garrick in Winnipeg, MB and Rock ‘N’ Horse Saloon, The Porch, Dublin Calling, Par-Tee Putt and Adelaide Hall in Toronto, ON.
MRG Concerts developed as an amplification of its entertainment branch and has since established itself as an industry-leading promotion company producing over 1000 shows in 2019. With offices in Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg, MRG Concerts is the largest independent concert promoter in Canada. The Group’s latest initiative, MRG Events was introduced in 2017 to advance the creation of positive shareable experiences on a larger scale.
Surrey Local Artist GLISHA Released 2nd Music Composition After Her 1st R & B Hit Single
18 year old Surrey resident Glisha Dela Cruz recently released her 2nd original single, SCARS & SCRATCHES, nearly a year after the success of her first music composition, Over Myself, which has already accumulated over 206k streams, to date, on just one paid-for-subscription global streaming service (Spotify), not to mention other online music sites.
Glisha, who is an independen artist, was born in Winnipeg, grew up in the Guildford area of Surrey, and now resides at Surrey Centre.
Surrey pop artist Carson Hoy debuts new single “Live Forever”
Surrey pop artist Carson Hoy (formerly of The UV Boys) debuts his sound with Live Forever, a euphoric psychedelic pop single with futurist lyrics of wanting ever lasting love.
Carson’s eclectic, genre-bending sound is created by writing, recording, mixing and mastering everything he makes in his studio Cloverdale Studios.
Facing his personal issues and deepest feelings openly, Carson’s lyrics are authentic with a laid-back vibe – His bold alternative pop sound mashing up his past in rock, dance, and hip hop effortlessly to keep his fans guessing.
The last year and a half have been a whirlwind for Carson, from performing over 100 sets at such events as Surrey’s “Fusion Festival” as the city of Surrey’s “City Wide DJ” to live on Save on Radio, Surrey’s Pulse FM and SFU’s CiTR. Attending the 2019 ASCAP Expo in Hollywood Carson’s music was heard with collaborations with LA based songwriters Alicia Sky and Amira Gadd.
Receiving mentorship from Rick Barker (Former manager of Taylor Swift) and working with artists such as producer Igor Khoroshev (YES, Simple Plan), rapper & producer Rozz Dyliams (Lil Peep, $UICIDEBOY$), and hip hop legend Kool Keith (Ultramagnetic MCs, MF Doom), perfecting his production and mixing/mastering skills.
His past as a drummer in rock and metal bands and his hip hop group “the uv boys” (whose track “Rodeo” gained acclaim and has become the unofficial song of the Cloverdale Rodeo) has lead him to interesting places musicially, sometimes raunchy and crazy to now with psychedelic pop on the menu.
New single Live Forever shows an alternate dimension where Carson is immortal, never having to choose music or a relationship, and spends a human life time with the girl he loves. This follows his first single release, the dance pop banger 10 More Things.
Carson explains the story of Live Forever, where a dilemma in a real-life relationship helped spark the lyrics of the single:
“I’ve always had to choose between my devotion to music or love, which wasn’t something I thought I’d have to do, you know?”
“This relationship made me double down on my music and I wrote the song in the week after I left. She showed me all this cool vibey music (which inspired Live Forever’s direction). We were like lightning in a bottle… It was going straight to marriage and kids, travelling the world.”
Carson recalls, “I totally wanted it too. That choice tested me and I’ll never forget it. It gave me a great reason to go all-in with my music.”
The artwork for Live Forever (showing Carson lying on the floor with photos of his future wife and family) was used in an animated video by artist Marc Statz (animator for Detective Pikachu).
Live Forever is out now on all platforms
Carson plays Fortune Sound Club in Vancouver on August 30th.
Purchase tickets: instagram.com/ddsindustries?igshid=1od4adfclmjoe
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