Canadian Musician - July/August 2017 - Page 10

INDIE INSIDER Redefining Success in a Digital Marketplace In Conversation with Miranda Mulholland By Michael Raine festival organizer, and artist advocate Miranda Mulholland became the first musician ever to deliver a keynote speech to the Economic Club of Canada. Her speech, entitled “Redefin- ing Success in a Digital Marketplace,” sought to educate the business and policy sector on the myriad of challenges and obstacles present-day artists face, many of which have served to undermine their ability to make a living. Canadian Musician spoke with Mulholland to dig deeper into her message. This is a significantly abbreviated version of the interview. For the full conversation, go to tures. To watch a video or read a transcript of Mulholland’s original speech, go to CM: The speech focuses on the digital realm, as well as film and TV, and the issues around copyrights and royal- ties. When did you realize the current system is not work- ing for most artists? Miranda Mulholland: I really came into my career in about 1999, so perfectly on the downturn of everything [laughs]. But a lot of my heroes and my friends early on were bands like Blue Rodeo, who were some of the first people I met, and I was in a band, still am, called The Mahones, which is a Celtic punk band, and I met a lot of people through that. Blue Rodeo is an interesting pick because Jim [Cuddy] works with a violin player named Anne Lindsay. She’s sort of been some- one I’ve looked up to all this time and I remember when I first moved Toronto, Bob Egan said, “Well, what do you want to be?” and I said, “I want to be the next Anne Lindsay.” It’s interesting because I have done that, you know, and there’s been a lot of things. Actually, when Anne doesn’t play, I play in Jim Cuddy’s band and I am os- tensibly the next Anne Lindsay, but my financial situation just is not comparable in this modern [industry]. Seeing that juxtaposition puts it in a different light. CM: As Graham Henderson of Music Canada told the Eco- nomic Club, the digital revolution decimated the middle class of creators. You’re the type of artist who, in a previ- ous era, would’ve been part of that. What has the 10 • C A N A D I A N M U S I C I A N On May 24, 2017 , independent musician, label owner, disappearance of that middle class meant in real-world terms for you and your peers in the industry? MM: I think a lot of people have had to branch out and do so many things that they are perhaps not best suited for or try to find other means. I made reference to a friend of mine who I tried to book for my festival and he thought I was booking his Airbnb. This is a JUNO-winning artist! That’s heartbreaking to me that, because of his frustration, he had to put that aside and sort of stop identifying as an artist. That’s frankly frightening… I started the label and the label has sort of become a manifesta- tion of my thoughts on collaboration and that sort of thing and has now become a music festival. I want to grow and I want to do these things and take these steps, but I find it very difficult because it’s hard to finance everything. I don’t get a lot of grants, I don’t apply for a lot of grants, and there are a lot of things I’m not eligible for because my label just turned three, so it’s pretty young. So in order to try and grow, and I find this with a lot of people, either they have to completely finance it themselves, which is fine, but there just isn’t that cash flow in order to take chances. Over the past year, I’ve hired a music supervisor out of L.A. to try to pitch my catalogue to film and television in Los Angeles and it’s an expensive business to hire a good person to get your stuff heard, and that’s an outlay that I almost can’t afford to take but can’t afford not to take either. So I feel as though a lot of my friends are choosing between doing something that they can’t really afford not to take, but can’t afford to take, or just getting another job and moving out of the sector.