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The Difficulty with Vancouver’s Music Scene

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Derya Whaley-Kalaora performing with her old band, Mind Offline at the Roxy Launch Project 2018. Photo by Raunie Mae Baker.

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.”

Surrey604 is an online magazine and media outlet based in Surrey, BC. Through writing, video, photography, and social media, we secure an intimate reach to the public. We promote local events and causes.

Community Board

Help Canadian Artists Get Played

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Canadian musicians have a great opportunity to get radio play right here in Vancouver. Mary Kirk of Durham Radio has applied for a Vancouver license. With a new, local radio station artists will have a greater range of options to be heard, played, and paid for their music.

Durham Radio needs our help to get their application accepted. I’m reaching out to all musicians to send a letter of support for Durham Radio’s application.

Here is a message from  Mary and Doug Kirk:

Dear members of our Wave artist family,

We at Durham Radio Inc. have applied for a new FM license to broadcast The Wave on 98.3FM in the heart of Vancouver, Canada’s second-largest English-speaking market and a perfect backdrop for Canada’s Smoothest Groove!

Our application was publicly posted Monday, March 22nd on the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s site (CRTC).  In order to be successful, we now need huge public support, especially from our wonderful Wave family of artists.   We hope you will add your own letter of support, documenting your past experiences with The Wave and with us personally, emphasizing our commitment to our artists, especially our Canadian vocalists and instrumentalists. If you have a personal story that will illustrate the impact the Wave has had on your career in the music industry, we would so appreciate your sharing it with the Commission.

Please begin your letter with a clear statement of support for our application.   Then explain why you think that our “Smooth Groove” format would be a welcome addition to the Vancouver market. You may have some thoughts beyond the obvious arguments that we’ll be adding diversity of choice for listeners and a new fresh sound, primarily from artists who do not get played on any other stations in Canada. Our dedication to live music around town and major show production will of course continue, once attending concerts is allowed again!

We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your efforts to make “Vancouver’s Smoothest Groove” a reality!  Our West Coast Wave will play an even balance of instrumental and vocal music and will be 40% Canadian in content. We are eager to get all our artists back on FM radio in Canada and introduced them to so many new fans.

With your help, we hope to be able to report on a favourable CRTC decision by late summer.

To mail your support: CRTC, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0N2 To fax your support please send to 819-994-0218 for further instructions contact Cat Levan at catlevan.music@gmail.com.  www.wave.fm

 

Many thanks for your support,

 

Cat Levan

 

 

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Surrey-local Ranj Singh’s Restless Nights Pulls At Heartstrings Amidst Covid-19 Pandemic

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Visuals and animation done by Peca Petrovic of Smile Magnet.

The winter months have proven to be some of the toughest of the Covid-19 pandemic in British Columbia. Many people have been faced with loss, some for the first time. It is hard to comprehend the thought that a loved one is just not there anymore. But you are not alone. And Ranj Singh’s Restless Nights makes sure you know it.

Restless Nights is just 3 weeks old now, premiering amidst some of the highest Covid-19 related deaths that British Columbia has seen. With our province also under strict pandemic restrictions, many of us spent the holidays alone. Restless Nights came at the perfect time. The song speaks to the difficulty of not being able to be with the people you love, whether that separation be due to distance or loss. Many people have felt this hardship this year, including Singh himself.

“Over one year ago, I lost my older brother and wanted to write a song that would capture my grief. I am sharing Restless Nights in the hope that it may bring comfort and closure for those of us who have experienced the pain of losing a loved one, without getting to say goodbye. I want to reach out, especially during these COVID-19 days, and let you know that you are not alone,” he says.

This loss shines through in Singh’s vocal and lyrics. The raw vulnerability that he sings with holds an authenticity that cannot be replicated without having to navigate the firsthand experience of losing a loved one.

Singh’s lyrics and musicianship are complimented by visuals and animation done by Peca Petrovic of Smile Magnet. The video shows Singh walking through an empty park, playing his guitar. Other images flash by that are meant to draw our eye, whether they be memories of his own family or the prominent image of Dr. Bonnie Henry and Adrian Dix at their daily address.

You can watch Restless Nights on YouTube now.

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New Christmas Originals CD from Vancouver Singer-songwriter Cat Levan!

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Vancouver Singer-songwriter Cat Levan
spreads the love with “The Joy of Christmas”

Produced by Billboard chart-topper Steve Oliver, her new EP dropped on Nov 6

Longtime Vancouverite Cat Levan’s second album (EP) “The Joy of Christmas” released November 6th, breathes fresh feeling into the much-loved classic “Silent Night”, and introduces two new favourites that will have listeners craving snuggles and hot cocoa by the fire. Her sultry tone brings an intimate feel to #1 hitmaker Steve Oliver’s engaging ballad “Watching the Snow Fall”. The idea for her self-penned, softly-rhythmic title track “The Joy of Christmas” sparked earlier this year when she spotted a tiny Christmas tree in the studio where she was recording her first album “Double Life”.

“I love Christmas, not just the tinsel, lights and gifts, but the whole idea that there is a time of year when people give a little more, care a little more and open up their hearts to others. Maybe we can’t all hug right now due to Covid, but I hope this song feels like I’m giving you all a big, warm, hug!” offers Levan.

As a lyricist, she is a storyteller who writes about love, connection and the warmth of family, which suit the vulnerable qualities inherent in her ethereal voice.

“The Joy of Christmas” is dedicated to my Mom who always made Christmas so special, and to those who’ve lost someone and really feel that loss at this time of year,” admitted Levan who has also launched two videos on Youtube to accompany the album release: The Joy of ChristmasWatching the Snow Fall .

Levan found that remembering family times helped her let go of heartache. “The memories spark traditions which in turn, keep the memories alive. It’s a wonderful way to honour those who are no longer with us,” reveals Levan saying that the song “Watching The Snow Fall” is “about the holidays becoming even more wonderful when spent with your special someone. Creating new memories with them can once again make this a magical time of year. It’s about feeling the love as you watch the snow fall…”

She brings a solid groove to “Silent Night”, a well-known traditional Christmas carol. A subtle gospel rhythm speaks to the soul and gives an ancient song new life. Her voice gently caresses the lyrics and brings renewed meaning to the words “heavenly peace”.

The “The Joy of Christmas” EP contains the following songs: “The Joy of Christmas”, “Silent Night” and “Watching the Snow Fall”. Curl up with a glass of wine and listen to Levan as she casts a Christmas spell with “The Joy of Christmas”

About Cat Levan:

A former professional kick-boxer, restaurant owner, clothing designer, marketing director, illustrator – and mother, Cat Levan finally realized her long-held musical dream this past spring when she released her debut album, “Double Life”. The Vancouver-based artist teamed with Billboard Top 10 hitmaker and guitarist Steve Oliver to write seven original songs for the 11-song recording produced by Oliver in his Southern California studio.

Her Canadian countryman and brother-in-law, contemporary jazz saxophonist Walle Larsson (married to her sister, Juno Award-nominated singer-songwriter Melanie Chartrand), guested throughout the collection that finished production just prior to the closure of the border due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Tracks from the CD have been played by host Nou Dadoun on “The A-Trane” Vancouver’s longest-running jazz radio show and are now charting in regular airplay rotation on smooth jazz radio stations across the USA and UK, as well as on “Wave FM” Canada’s main smooth jazz station located in Southwestern Ontario.

Levan’s quest for music brought her to the Good Noise Vancouver Gospel Choir, where she was a soloist, and Soundscape A Capella group where she discovered harmonies. She has been a guest artist with blues bands and classic rock bands but decided it was time to explore her own music.

Levan’s friend Chris Thornley, who plans the annual Blues for the Bank benefit concert in Surrey who like Levan is also a singer and marketing professional, said he’s impressed by Levan’s musical efforts. “The quality of production, arrangements and songwriting are all first-class.”

For more information, please visit https://catlevan.com.

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Surrey-based Jazz Artist and Entrepreneur, Natalia Pardalis, Defies Western Beauty Standards Through Music, Fashion and Beauty

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By Navreet Dhaliwal

Surrey-Based Jazz Artist and Entrepreneur, Natalia Pardalis is using music, fashion, and beauty as expressions to challenge western beauty standards that she has been faced with since her younger days as an emerging artist and entrepreneur.

“Breaking stereotypes since 1979” has become a part of Natalia’s rhetoric because of her journey as an artist and her mission to go against the grain of what she was told to do in order to be a more successful artist and entrepreneur. Natalia states how a woman’s age has come to define her in the music industry. Natalia got her breakthrough into the music industry in her late 20’s, which could be considered as a “late start” by music industry standards. Natalia’s reps at that time would go on to tell her she is in luck due to the fact that she looked so young.

For years, Natalia stuck with the narrative of being perceived as young just so she could find success with what she loved to do, which was play music. Overtime, Natalia states “I didn’t feel authentic as an artist and did not like playing along to the narrative of being younger than I actually was.” Overtime, Natalia did what she does best, which is to break stereotypes and start stating her actual age to let her audience know about her journey as an artist and the hard work it took her to get to where she is.

From the get-go, Natalia was often told that she needed to lose weight and be a specific body type in order to garner success as a musician and entrepreneur. Growing up with this negative narrative and witnessing it being instilled in female students that she was teaching, Natalia chose to speak out against body-shaming through her ventures and the online platform that she has come to build as an artist. Once again, Natalia is on her mission to break stereotypes as she weaves strong messages of body positivity in her body of work and her online platforms, Natalia states “no one’s body affects who they are, their music, their voice, and what they can do.”

Natalia admits that her journey to go against the grain of western beauty standards has not been the easiest thing to do. She states “life has been hard but it’s also been beautiful.” She has been able to discover herself through her journey and come to the fact that it is not okay for anyone to be turned down opportunities simply due to the fact of who they are and how they don’t fit into a cookie-cutter image of success.

Using her music, her lifestyle, and her beauty brand, Natalia wants to build a community of like-minded individuals who feel like they are not alone as they figure out who they are and not feel like they are stuck at a disadvantage because they don’t fit into a certain “ideal” image of beauty.

Natalia released her newest single “Mr. Slowpoke” in June, which can be found on Spotify. If you want to keep up to date with Natalia’s journey as an artist and entrepreneur, she can be found on @natavivi on Instagram and on Facebook as Natalia Paradalis Music.

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Legendary Canadian Band HONEYMOON SUITE Hit the Top 30 Rock Charts for the First Time in 19 Years

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“Find What You’re Looking For” Latest Release Previewing New Album, Their First Since 2008 | Watch “Find What You’re Looking For” via YouTube Here

36 years on, that headline above makes the fact all the more impressive. Canadian classic rockers Honeymoon Suite hope you “Find What You’re Looking For” in this, their newest single – available now!

The newest preview for the iconic band’s forthcoming album, “Find What You’re Looking For” has been eagerly ushered in by fans and critics alike, hitting the Top 30 rock charts in Canada in no time flat. It’s their first chart-climber in 19 years, and follows late 2019’s “Tell Me What You Want” – their first single release since 1992.

The two tracks lift the curtain, revealing the latest in what’s to come from the band who’ve long made themselves a household name. Early listens show the release has an unmistakably fresh energy to it, while still keeping true to the classic Honeymoon Suite sound fans have loved for nearly four decades.

First formed in 1981, Honeymoon Suite first broke onto the scene thanks to hit single “New Girl Now” taking the cake in a ‘Homegrown’ radio station contest put on by Toronto’s Q107. Founding members Johnnie Dee and Derry Grehan would soon be joined by Gary Lalonde, Dave Betts, and Peter Nunn, and go on to win a JUNO Award for ‘Group of the Year’, countless nominations, and continued International recognition over their near-40 years.

“Sometimes you just know when everything starts lining up, and sounding really good early on,” says Honeymoon Suite. “This new album will be the strongest new music we’ve released in a long time.”

“Find What You’re Looking For” is available now.

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