No More Buggy Whips

WCMA looks at bright side of music biz

By Karen Bliss

The Western Canadian Music Alliance, made up of five industry associations Alberta Music, Manitoba Music, Music BC, Music Yukon and SaskMusic, is taking a more proactive, positive direction for the topics at the 2009 WCMA conference in Brandon, Manitoba, Sept. 17 to 20.

“A lot of the organizations, including ours, have talked a lot about ‘the sky is falling,’ and all this terrible stuff, and we decided this year that that’s over,” explains Rick Fenton, executive director of the WCMA. 

“The way we start the conference guide is ‘Congratulations: you’ve survived the recession, illegal downloading, a massive downturn in CD sales, major label restructuring and the erosion of the concept of intellectual property and despite all this you are making a living in the music biz,’” recounts Fenton.

“So we’re saying to people is they are already the leanest and meanest. They know more about social networking and viral marketing than any other business sector on the planet, so really, this year, our conference is about best practices."

“We want people to open up their respective toolboxes and enable people to see a new wrench and go, ‘Ah-ha, I’ve never seen that before. Let’s build and grow the career that we already have in the business that we love so much.’ We’ve had our, ‘Oh my god, we can’t sell buggy whips anymore, it’s over. If you’re still selling buggy whips, I can’t help you.’ Now, it’s time to embrace the new reality and move on and let’s talk abut how we do that.”

The WCMAs will have two keynote speakers, noted America DJ/music supervisor/ tastemaker Nic Harcourt, who will address “what industry professionals can do to stay ahead of the game” on the Friday afternoon, and musician/indie label owner Loreena McKennitt, who will speak at the Industry Awards brunch at the Canad Inns on the Saturday.

A live music festival featuring about 50 acts in 7 venues mainly takes place on the Friday and Saturday evenings. 

“We scaled that way back this year, but we have also given everyone two spots each,” says Fenton, noting that last year’s WCMAs in Edmonton, Alberta, had 140 acts. 

“I attend a lot of events and have done for many years, and I started out as a musician. In some cases, there are 500 bands or more at some of these [festivals] and you’ve got 45 minutes and no control over your venue. A lot of the people who come to the conference have to see their own artists, so they’re not going to see you. So by us giving you two spots, at least you’ve got two shots to have them come see you.”

The weekend is capped with the Artistic Awards show on the Sunday night at the Manitoba Centennial Auditorium. There, McKennitt, who was born in Morden, Manitoba, will be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

“Loreena has agreed to join us and she will be performing,” says Fenton. “It’s going to be a very special presentation and a wonderful awards show this year. We do things a litte differently on our show. We do these collaboratives, so we have everyone from Romi Mayes and The Sheepdogs, Paramedic and Souls In Rhythm; Dan Mangan and Hey Ocean! performing on the awards.”

Go to  for more ticket info, panel and festival schedules, and award nominee lists.