Canadian Musician - July/August 2017 - Page 39

higher, a remarkable statement given the legacy of Cohen, Mitchell, Young, Lightfoot, Adams, Twain, Rush, and so many others; and yet, the success of Drake, The Weeknd, Bieber, Mendes, Jepsen, and Arcade Fire has been unprecedented. At the same time, it’s hard to find a regular Canadian musician who isn’t singing the blues. Everyone has had to adjust to the new realities, whether it’s touring constantly, spending hours promoting themselves on social media, or trying to decide whether vinyl or t-shirts will be more profitable. Skeptics and cynics are happy to pronounce the music industry dead, the product now worth frac- tions of pennies to the producers or simply taken by consumers for free. Even the Canada 150 celebrations seem somewhat flat, at least to those people with long memories who recall the excite- ment of the1967 centennial. But to sing a song like Bobby Gimby’s “Ca-na-da” would be terribly naive at a time when Indigenous people are reminding everyone that their country dates back well beyond 1867. And if you’re going to sing a song, how about some- thing by one of Canada’s Indigenous communities, which comprise more than 1.4 million people in the country, yet remain woefully underrepresented in the music industry despite singing all the early hits in these parts? So are things getting better? Worse? Almost everyone in music these days seems to be using the same word: reinvention. That’s Tara MacLean what Tara MacLean said. “About two years ago, I started missing music, but nothing re- sembled what I knew before about how to make records,” MacLean shares. “I didn’t even bother to ask a label if they wanted to sign me. I just had this idea that if I needed to start from scratch, the only place to do that was from home.” Home for MacLean is Prince Edward Island, and her mother, grandmother, sister, and of course, those incredible summers. She wanted to take her whole family there, and realized she could re- invent the whole concept of touring for herself. With its constant turnover of tourists, MacLean would have a new audience arriving each week, so she developed a show called Atlantic Blue. It features her tributes to the great East Coast songwriters who inspired her as she started her career, from Ron Hynes to Gene MacLellan to Stan Rogers to Sarah McLachlan. The show features the songs and stories of the writers, told by MacLean using filmed elements, and performed with an all-East Coast band. There’s a new album too – songs from the show that she has released on her own via Pledge Music. She found lots of her old fans ready to support her, some even planning summer vacations on P.E.I. to see the show. It makes her question the old music world she left. “Did I really make a good living at it before? It cost so much money to tour at that level. And the amount of money that went into promotion and making the albums and the videos, at the end of the day, I’m still recouping my Capitol release, I’m still recouping my Nettwerk releases,” she says. “This is going to be the first album that will be recouped within months of its release. The hard part is doing everything myself and the learning curve that came with that.” Everyone that’s still here is learning such new tricks. That goes all the way to the top of the chain. Major record labels, once the swaggering kings of the music industry, have merged and down- sized, diversified and penny-pinched in order to survive. And yes, the talk is all about reinvention. First, though, Warner Music Canada president Steve Kane wants to dispel that “music industry is dead” talk. “For the Canadian business right now, it’s not only very healthy, there’s a sense of optimism, and a sense of an open market that we now have access to,” he begins. For Kane, the big revelation has been that being successful doesn’t have to mean having U.S. hits. “Canadians spent so many years beating their heads against the wall at the American border, and too often all they end up with is a bloody forehead,” he says. “When the golden ring is a 45-minute drive away, you’re still so tempted to concentrate all your efforts there. What we’re discovering and what we’re encouraging young artists to look at is that more so than ever, a hit record can come from anywhere. A career can begin anywhere.” C A N A D I A N M U S I C I A N • 39