Vancouver, circa 1983. The 16-year-old son of a sculptor glimpses the world of radio. He’s hooked. There’s only one problem: he’s too young to work as a DJ. The solution: care for the lawns until you’re old enough to get on-air.

A fairy tale? Perhaps for some, but not for Allan Reid; this is the true story of how he entered the music industry. Thirty-six years later, the soft-spoken Reid heads up CARAS (the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences), the organization behind the JUNOs, as its President and CEO.

Growing up in Kelowna, BC, Reid loved vinyl and making mixed tapes. The thought of working somewhere with a library filled from floor to ceiling with records is all the teen needed to have his “aha” moment of knowing where his vocation lay. A shy kid, music was Reid’s language.

“I made mixed tapes for girlfriends, and played in high school bands, but was a frustrated musician,” says the 52-year-old. “Music, for me, was a way to convey my emotions that I otherwise couldn’t do.”

By the time Reid was 18, he’d done every job at the local radio station, and was appointed the music director – while spinning records at a nightclub on the side. “I had just graduated from high school, and was picking music for the station,” he recalls. “Slowly, I got to know all of the music company reps, and thought that that would be a cool gig.”

Reid’s first A&R signing

At 24, Reid met an artist who, nearly 30 years later, he counts as one of his good friends. It all started with a demo tape and a recommendation from Doug Chappell, the head of Virgin Records at the time. Doug told Reid that his roster was full and couldn’t sign this singer-songwriter, but the potential was there, and urged his fellow music industry mate to give the songs a listen. Reid’s initial reaction: “utterly depressing” songs. “All I wanted to do was a sign a rock band,” he recalls. “I was trying to find the next Tragically Hip!”

Out of courtesy to Chappell, he soldiered on and listened to all 14 songs over the week. The voice was nice, but Reid was ready to give it a pass. Once again, something outside his control happened that shaped his journey. “That night I had a blowout fight with my girlfriend,” he recalls. “As I was driving up Warden Avenue to the office the next morning, I put the tape back on and the song, ‘I Don’t Love You Any More’ came on, and it just ripped my heart out! It was a grey day and I arrived at the office with an immediate need to call my girlfriend and apologize.

“This song spoke to me, so went into my office and turned it up loud,” Reid continues. “A few colleagues stopped in asking, ‘Who is that?! What a voice!’ I replied, ‘It’s Jann Arden.’ All of a sudden, the other songs on that album all made sense… I was a 24-year-old rock dude and this music was speaking to me, so I knew it would speak to a lot of other people.”

Fate answered Reid’s dreams; he received a call from A&M Records offering him a job as a promotions rep in Vancouver. Of course he took it, continuing the rapid rise of this record man, from landscaper to music shaper. It didn’t take long for the head honchos in Toronto to see Reid’s potential. His next stop was promo work for Polygram Records (who had just bought A&M) in Ontario’s capital.

“This was the start of big business in the late ‘80s and early’ 90s and all of the consolidation/conglomeration,” Reid recalls. “My boss, Joe Summers, called me in to his office and said, we’re making changes, and you are the new head of A&R. I was like, ‘I don’t know how to make records.’ Joe replied, ‘That may be true, but you have an uncanny ability to pick the hit single on a record, so go find me artists who can make great music.’”

Reid didn’t believe he could do A&R, but Summers was a master motivator; he accepted the job. “I inherited a roster, and one of my first challenges was deciding what to do with it,” Reid continues. “Summers told me I had to drop half of the artists. That was the most horrifying part of my life, but taught me a lot about this business, where you have to say no 99 percent of the time.”

After his first signing (see sidebar), from Polygram to his days with Universal Music, Reid had the chance to work many great artists, like Sam Roberts, The Doughboys, Matthew Good and Jully Black. “I’ve had the incredible good fortune to help artists navigate waters and be their champion, inside and outside the company,” Reid says. “Many of them have remained friends.”

In 2011, Reid was named Director of CARAS’ charity MusiCounts; three years later he was promoted to President/CEO of the not-for-profit. He notes with pride CARAS’ four pillars: to educate, develop, celebrate, and honor. “We’re with artists from birth to myth,” he explains. “We give them their first instrument, and see them through their career until they are in the Hall of Fame.”

During his tenure at the helm of CARAS, he’s seen an explosion in the quality and quantity of homegrown talent. This year there were more than 2,800 JUNO submissions – an amount that’s doubled in just seven years.

“I have the best job in the world,” he says. “The old adage, ‘If you love what you do, you won’t work a day in your life,’ certainly applies. I feel I’ve had a lifetime of that. I’m an ambassador of Canadian music. From a kid growing up mowing lawns, to where I am now, I couldn’t be happier.

“There’s been an explosion in the creation of music, people seeking recognition for that music, and artists just looking for their music to be heard and noticed,” Reid adds. “What I love more than anything – the A&R guy in me – is discovering new music! It fuels me. I listen to all the nominees and figure out ways to put them into opportunities throughout JUNO week.”

Four SOCAN members are nominated for the Iris Award for Best Original Music at the 19th edition of the Québec Cinéma Gala that will be broadcast on Sunday, June 2, 2019, on ICI Radio-Canada Télé. We asked each of them three questions about their work.

Philippe B for Nous sommes Gold by Éric Morin

Nous sommes goldThis is singer-songwriter Philippe B’s first nomination, and he’s just starting as a film composer: he penned the music for a short by Simon Laganière, followed by his first original score for a movie in Chasse au Godard d’Abbittibbi, a feature film also directed by his friend Éric Morin – who, in a past life, played drums for Gwenwed, a band that also featured Philippe B.

What were the biggest challenges in composing this original score?
The one challenge that was specific to this project, and that I won’t encounter again, is that we fabricated a band. We created a band out of thin air, and I had to compose songs for a band that doesn’t exist, and its hypothetical singer. I had to start writing the songs before the financing was secured, which means I didn’t even have a casting [to guide me]. I had no idea who my lead singer was going to be, what his voice sounds like, and his singing style. I had to write songs for a band that has its own personality, but I had no idea if my lead singer was more like Ian Curtis, Robert Smith, or Peter Murphy. The singer’s role was cast very late, but I was lucky that he was a real actor, and a real singer, with a very special, very low baritone voice. I had to adjust, because everything I’d written was an octave higher.

How did you collaborate with the director-producer?
Éric [Morin] is quite directive, he has quite a clear idea of what he wants – as was the case on his previous movie project – and he wanted something quite traditional. For this movie, he had a clear idea of what the music would evoke: it was the sound of a ‘90s band playing music from the previous decade, like The Cure or Joy Division. It’s the mix I was looking for, something centred around a melodic bass. He was very precise in his instructions, even when we spoke during the process. Then, the peculiar thing was, I had to write lyrics; I didn’t know who the actor was going to be, but I had the character, the script – in other words, a form of identity that was going through stuff, human interactions. I had a starting point.

What are you proudest of, in the end?
Some of the reactions [to the movie] that we heard were that it feels authentic and true. The songs are part of the film, not just stuck in it. That was our main worry from the start: even if they’re actors and not musicians, the band’s existence had to be believable.

Frédéric Bégin for 1991 by Ricardo Trogi

1991Composer Frédéric Bégin is to director Ricardo Trogi what screen composer Bernard Hermann was to Hitchock: his appointed collaborator, after composing the original scores of the 1981/1987/1991 trilogy and Horloge biologique, winner of the Best Music Jutra award in 2006. He also won three Gémeaux awards honouring his music for the TV series Les Étoiles filantes 2 and Le Berceau des Anges.

What were the biggest challenges in composing this original score?
I think it has a lot to do with the movie’s genre. Composing a score for a comedy-drama is especially tricky. You don’t want to overstate the humour, but you need to stick to the rhythm of any given situation, which may be dramatic. And during touching scenes, the music needs to remain understated – because it’s not a major drama, or a tragedy of a period piece, either. You need to find the right balance between humour and drama and try to avoid doing more than what the images are showing, and the actors are acting.

How did you collaborate with the director-producer?
Ricardo and I have worked on a lot of projects. He usually shows me his scripts ahead of time, sometimes even before their final version, so that we can talk about his musical needs. Ricardo will have me work ahead of time using storyboards, because that allows him, down the line, to edit his movie using music that was imagined, composed, specifically for his movie. It’s a real privilege to work with a director right from the onset of a project, because that way, I don’t get stuck with existing music that you have to follow, even though you have other ideas.

What are you proudest of, in the end?
I’m happy that I managed to set the tone, not just for 1991, but for each of the three films. And also because I feel I set the right tone for each special scene. The black-and-white scene at the end of 1991, for example; the scene about the character’s hair loss. where I used a ‘70s horror film-inspired music. It’s an exercise in style that combines with the narrative I’d already established in 1981 and 1987. It jumps from one style to the next, but it all makes sense.

Peter Venne for Avant qu’on explose by Rémi St-Michel

Avant qu'on exploseThis is the first nomination at the Québec Cinéma Gala for film composer Peter Venne, whose prior work, since 2013, has been composing for documentaries, shorts, and feature films, for directors from Québec and elsewhere.

What were the biggest challenges in composing this original score?
With a movie like Avant qu’on explose, people will see the genre first, a teen comedy, and disregard all the film’s actual qualities – it’s quite a serious film in the end. The same goes for the music: composing for a comedy means composing more utilitarian music, music that is at the service of a joke, a punchline. When you compose for a comedy, you need to be able to jump from one style to the next: classical bits, calypso, rock, swing… Composing for comedies is hard.

How did you collaborate with the director-producer?
First, Rémi St-Michel is a good friend, I did the music for his first shorts, and he’s one of the guys I’ve worked with the most in my life. We’re already comfortable with each other, so it was super-easy and harmonious to work together. It was a project between friends, even though we had a $4 million budget, and a lot of pressure on him, we didn’t hold back from our usual monkey business – like back in the day, when we did shorts with zero budget, just for fun. There are some stupid jokes in his movie that we scored just as stupidly, even though we had a budget and “standing.” We followed our gut instinct!

What are you proudest of, in the end?
With this movie, we were more into an apocalypse movie than a teen movie. We had to come up with a smooth musical transition, and it worked out well, because the film is well-edited. The music needs to be knitted together with the image. Ultimately, I’m proud that it was such a fun experience, that we managed to make such a major project a pleasant experience.

Philippe Brault for La Disparition des lucioles by Sébastien Pilote

La Disparition des luciolesNot only is this the first Iris Award nomination for composer, arranger, and producer Philippe Brault, but it’s also his first original score for a fiction feature film.

What were the biggest challenges in composing this original score?
Initially, the challenge was composing something very orchestral, inspired by classic movies, but on a Québec independent film budget – which means coming up with a lot of clever tricks when it comes to orchestrations… I spent a lot of time studying film music before I started composing, and I even studied the influences of those composers. For example, I studied Wagner, who was a major influence on Bernard Hermann’s style. I did my homework. Next, I needed to make sure the tone of this orchestral music would fit the movie.

How did you collaborate with the director-producer?
It went the way I prefer, and which I haven’t always experienced in prior screen composing endeavours – which were not feature films, but still. I discussed the project with Sébastien way before shooting even began. I was even involved in the script breakdown process with the whole team. I was involved very early on, and I think it’s a good strategy, since I was able to come up with ideas and first drafts even before the editing started. It’s a way of working that I really enjoy, and that’s closer to the way I work for dance or theatre productions, where there are more interactions.

What are you proudest of, in the end?
This project was a great gift. The movie gives a lot of space to the music, and when there’s music, it’s not just in the background, behind dialogue. One thing’s for sure: I’m really happy that this music really brought something to the table, that it took the movie somewhere else. I’m just happy to have penned my first full feature film score.

Andreas Rizek brings an enviable amount of experience to his work as an A&R representative at global electronic music powerhouse Ultra Music and Ultra Music International Publishing; a gig for which the 27-year-old Rizek is uniquely suited, given his previous work as SOCAN’s A&R Co-Ordinator, co-founder of his own label, Downpour Inc., a producer and DJ in his own right, and his lifelong passion for music.

“Music was always a big thing in my household,” Rizek says, explaining that he studied guitar, and played in bands ranging from punk to ska, and later “post hard-core Emo” outfits from an early age. It was only natural then, after he began a course in Music Business and Audio Engineering at London, Ontario’s Fanshawe College, that he’d find another outlet for his creative impulses.

Under the name Cosella, Rizek launched a career in electronic music, appearing at events including the Digital Dreams Festival Toronto, landing plum opening slots for major electronic artists, and releasing several records. Those included a remix of Destructo’s “Catching Plays,” featuring Pusha T and Starrah, and an EP, Paranoia, on Skrillex’s label in 2016.

He also continued to develop his A&R chops – getting hands-on, and ears-on, education for the job as an intern at The Feldman Agency and Sony Music Canada, and making a fortuitous connection with SOCAN’s Chief Membership & Business Development Officer, Michael McCarty. “I met Michael at [the] MIDEM [international music conference], and I guess he liked me, because he said he wanted me to come work for SOCAN when I finished school.”

Over the course of his 2015-2017 stint at SOCAN, Rizek established a relationship with Ultra’s founder and president, Patrick Moxey. “But I wasn’t looking to switch jobs,” he says. “I was learning a lot from my boss and mentor, Rodney Murphy, and Mike. They’d given me a lot of responsibility, and I really enjoyed what I was doing, but when I told them I had this opportunity, they were really supportive.”

Andreas Rizek, Ultra MusicSince being hired in 2017 by Moxey, and Ultra Canada’s Co-President Asim “Awesome” Awan, Rizek has focused solely on stewarding other artists’ careers. “This was a big career jump and I knew I needed to give it 100 percent” he says, adding that losing a significant amount of his sample library and musical projects in a computer meltdown a few months prior had already slowed down his musical output. But his background as an artist has always informed his work in A&R.

At SOCAN, Rizek was heavily involved in helping to identify and work with emerging Canadian talents in the electronic and hip-hop space. “At the time, hip-hop and electronic music maybe weren’t getting the most attention in Canada,” he says, “but they were becoming the biggest genres in the world, and lot of Canadians were getting placements and attention in the U.S.

“I think the big thing I took from working at SOCAN was being involved with artists, producers and songwriters really early in their careers and being able to ‘read’ the teams around them so I could say, ‘Okay they have the right people around them, saying the right things. This is going to happen.’ In my role now, you need to leverage those relationships, and that really helped. We’re a multi-national, multi-office business, but it’s not ‘divisional,’ where you have a Canadian office and just work on Canadian signings; we all work together.”

Consequently Rizek’s day-to-day finds him juggling his publishing and label roles with various projects; and fostering relationships – with artists, managers and producers, internationally, to get their artist’s music and stories heard.

Three important considerations for potential signings

  • “I listen to the music first. Having prior placements does help, frankly, but being personable, and a good person to work with, is super-important.”
  • “I’m looking for somebody who’s mentally ready for a deal with a company that’s very creatively involved. They have to be ready to put it all on the line and give 100%.”
  • “Talking to them as a human being and building a personal connection, because that helps me determine how I can help them create a sustainable business for themselves.”

“No two days are the same,  but that’s why I love it,”says Rizek.

The deep roots Rizek’s put down in the industry have been instrumental in his signing Canadian-based Nick Henriques (who co-wrote “Body” with Loud Luxury – one of the biggest dance hits of 2018), and producer Bijan Amir. Currently, Rizek is also working closely with other international artists, such as Billy Kenny, who Rizek signed – his first label signing – in October 2018.

“Adrian Strong was instrumental in the signing of Bijan with me, who was the first publishing signing since i had joined the company in January 2018,” says Rizek. “At the time ‘Ric Flair Drip’ was at 50 million Spotify streams. Now it’s up to one billion on all platforms. He’s a great person to work with. And Nick, funny enough, his brother and manager, Eric, is one of my best friends, and we work really well together as a team.”

As exciting as the success and accolades garnered by the artists he works with may be, the most important thing for Rizek is having an impact on his artists on a personal level. “Seeing them define themselves and change, but also helping them to do that as artists and people,” he says. “That’s what I like about this job.”