SOCAN licensee is an internet radio and social networking website which revolves around the concept of streaming, user-curated playlists consisting of at least eight tracks. Users create free accounts and can either browse the site to listen to other user-created playlists, or create their own. 8tracks was recognized on Time magazine’s 50 Best Websites list in 2011, and has also received positive press in Wired magazine, CNET (“The top 7 reasons why you should listen to”), and Business Insider (“A Free, Legal Music Service We Love”).

8tracks users can’t see the contents of somebody’s playlist, and therefore don’t know what they’re getting until they play it. They can’t preview the playlist at any point while it’s playing. They also can’t rewind and play tracks they’ve already listened to. It’s like an unlabeled tape in a player that can only play, stop and fast-forward. The spirit of these rules is to ensure that the playback is promotional of a music sale, but not a substitute for a music sale.

The company was founded in 2006 by David Porter, a veteran of online radio service Live365, and launched on 8/8/08 (August 8, 2008) by a small team working nights and weekends in New York, California, and France. It reached the ability to pay its employees and hire them full-time in 2011 and profitability in 2012. Since then, it’s grown from a million listeners to 8 million, and 20 percent of its audience comes from Canada.

Porter was initially inspired by the “Hot List” button on the original Napster 1.0 back in the late ‘90s that allowed a user to see all of the MP3s on another user’s hard drive. “It was the first online social music discovery tool,” says Porter. “I was, like, ‘This is awesome.’” And, as a fan of electronic DJ culture, Porter recognized that the curator of the music mix or playlist was often as much of a draw, if not more, than the music-makers themselves. “I thought maybe we could apply this DJ paradigm to experiencing music online,” he says. “The users act as broadcasters and can create programming. It may be the only way to create a model where anyone can upload anything and still be covered under the copyright law.”

How does that work? In the U.S., 8tracks takes advantage of a provision in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which gives it a compulsory license as long as it’s a “non-interactive Webcaster” with a “small Webcaster” license. 8tracks can stream any music, as long as it pays a royalty, and as long as it behaves like an online radio station. To operate In Canada, 8tracks is licensed by SOCAN under Tariff 22F for audio websites, and pays a small percentage of its gross revenue, which is then divided amongst the songwriters and music publishers of all the songs streamed on the playlists. 8tracks logs every single performance across every platform, and submits these logs to all of the applicable performance rights organizations.

8tracks has four primary sources of revenue: Visual advertising, audio advertising (still to come), subscription to a premium version of the service, and commerce via a “buy” button that links to the song on iTunes, with 8tracks getting a percentage of the sale. The company’s ultimate objective is to be a serious competitor to Pandora, though 8tracks operates on $1.5 million raised to date, and Pandora is currently funded at about $300 million. It sounds overly ambitious, but if you search Twitter using the words “8tracks” and “Pandora” together, the tweets are overwhelmingly in favour of 8tracks by comparison. The company is now exploring marketing initiatives to make more people aware of it, and improving the accessibility of their programming.

“And we’re stepping up our game in Canada,” says Porter, “hoping to get involved with North by Northeast in 2014. We’re thinking of hiring a general manager there, and getting a bit of a footprint in the country.”

Ariane Brunet may only be 22, but she knows exactly where her future career path is going to take her. A determined, smiling and lively singer-songwriter, she answered our questions straightforwardly without taking herself too seriously. After Le pied dans ma bulle, her refined, introspective pop debut album, she released her second opus, Fusée, a collection of upbeat, catchy tunes, this past August.

“I have become more self-assured, that’s for certain,” Brunet stresses. Three years after her first album, the young musician is making giant strides in her understanding of what’s happening in her life and around her. While the lyrics of Le pied dans ma bulle were written when she was in her late teens, she is now a more mature woman casting a thoughtful look on universal themes such as love and loss, the importance of finding one’s place in life, the urgency to live, and more.

Brunet already had an album in mind, and knew how to surround herself with musicians who could help her take her ideas further. Involved in every step of the creative and recording processes, her personal touch is visible everywhere on the finished product, as she freely voiced her opinion on each and every aspect of the album’s production to her manager, and producer Toby Gendron. “I learn everything from him,” she says. “He provides me with great freedom, and I am welcome to tell him exactly what I want my music to sound like. I am also able to tell him what bothers me. I’m open with him – he’ll help me get the sound I have in mind.” 

“You need talent, but I think there’s more to it than just that. Plenty of other factors come into play.”

As demonstrated on Fusée, Brunet’s palette can be quite extensive, with styles ranging from pop to groove to ballad, with nods to the bossa nova (“Que des amants”) and jazz (“Le temps de vivre”). Asked whether she believes that her considerable talent was the cause of her precocious success, she humbly acknowledges that “Yes, I think it played a part. You need talent, but I think there’s more to it than just that. Plenty of other factors come into play. Talent is helpful, but it can never replace hard work.”

In spite of her obvious gift for lyric writing, Brunet is more prone to call herself a melodist than an author, feeling like an “imposter” in the latter role. “The fact that I am a musician does not make me an author,” she cautions. “I couldn’t write verses that are not meant to be part of a song, but I can write musical pieces without words. The first thing that comes to me is the tune: that’s what I focus on. Later on, when I get to the lyrics, I look for pleasant sonorities and rhymes. I try to pick words that suit my melodies.”

When Nadja fell under her spell and asked her to contribute pieces to her upcoming album Des réponses, Ariane accepted in spite of the fact that she had no idea how she was going to go about honouring that request. She ended up adapting a couple of lyrics she had lying around, and was delighted with what happened. “When I heard the result,” she beams, “I was thrilled. Nadja also asked me to help her solve some melody problems she was dealing with, and I couldn’t believe it – it was such an achievement for me!”

Brunet is now planning to tour Fusée throughout Quebec over the next few months, including songs from her previous album and two covers, Isabelle Pierre’s “Le temps est bon” and David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” on a suggestion from her show’s stage director, actor and Mes Aïeux member Stéphane Archambault. “I am gearing up for an action packed show where each song will portray a different situation with its own emotional palette. I want to be performing on percussion, guitar and piano, and I want a variety of styles,” the musician said excitedly a few weeks before the start of her tour.

In spite of her two album releases and several radio hits, Ariane Brunet, far from resting on her laurels, is actively planning her third album, which will deal with new themes such as anxiety and the difficulties of existence.  Originally from Montreal’s West Island, she is now also considering the release of an English-language album under a pseudonym.

Any other future plans? “I’m quite pleased with what I have done up to this point. I can see a progression between my first and second albums. It’s a work in progress. I feel that the third one will be even better. I enjoy climbing the ladder one step at a time, slowly but surely.”

A virtuoso electric and six-string bass player, Alain Caron discovered jazz at the age of 14 listening to an Oscar Peterson recording. His 1977 encounter with guitarist Michel Cusson produced the popular jazz fusion trio UZEB, which released ten albums between 1981 and 1990, selling 400,000 copies worldwide. Following the band’s break-up in 1992, Caron created his own label (Les Disques Norac) and released his first solo album, Le Band, in 1993, followed with collaborations with numerous international artists, live concerts and more solo album releases. In June 2013, with collaborations from his longstanding musical partners Pierre Côté on electric guitar, John Roney on keyboards and Damien Schmitt on drums, Caron released Multiple Faces, his eighth studio-recorded collection of bass grooves.

“This last recording is pretty much in the same performing and writing vein as the one before, Sep7entrion,” Caron explains. “Besides, it’s the same musicians. We had toured together, and the band ended up creating a sound I wanted to develop on Multiple Faces. When I wrote the music for the new album, I did it specifically for our band members. While you’re writing, you always keep an ear on the final result, not only for the arrangements, but also in terms of solo distribution. As for the playing style, you might call it jazz-rock or fusion, although that’s such an overused term. Any composer who does more than writing radio music can be considered to be a fusion composer at some level. The core of my music remains jazz. So, let’s call it 2000s fusion,” he proposes in jest.

Caron started believing that there was life after UZEB when he personally received the most recent Montreal International Jazz Festival Oscar Peterson Award, nearly two decades after the same honour was bestowed on his former band in 1991. “You know, it’s not easy making a name for yourself after playing in a group that’s reached a level of success. Unless, of course, you’re Paul McCartney! You get labelled for life – even today I’m regularly being referred to as the UZEB bassist. That award made me happy because it reminded me that I still have things to make happen.”

Pastorius & Co.

Though Jaco Pastorius has had a considerable impact on his performing style, Caron clarifies that the U.S. bassist never was his main source of inspiration. “When I first heard him, I thought he played so well I had to stop listening right away because I didn’t want to be overly influenced. I was shocked by his sheer daring. But I spent much more time listening to Ray Brown, Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, Scott LaFaro, Ron Carter, Eddie Gomez or Stanley Clarke, which of course doesn’t take anything away from my admiration and respect for Pastorius. I’ve tried to diversify my bass playing influences in order to develop my own idiom, and I also analysed the performing techniques of many other musicians such as Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Michael Brecker or Pat Martino,” Caron adds.

An exceptional musician having performed in over 30 countries, Caron considers the American market to be the most impenetrable of them all. “There’s too much protectionism down there. It’s very hard to make a living in the U.S. unless you are playing locally in large centres such New York or Los Angeles. American musicians themselves sometimes have to venture outside their own country to be able to earn their bread and butter. They have to move away. For a foreigner, it becomes very complicated in terms of paperwork and visas. Agents too are quite protectionist. I know – I contacted them all, and they all responded, ‘We’ve got tons of bassists!’ I would like to do a U.S. tour some day, but I’ve stopped fighting. I no longer call people. I wait for them to call me.”

Endless road

With invitations to teach master classes around the world, past musical contributions to the recordings of some 20 artists in a variety of genres, 11 ADISQ Awards, one Prix Gémeaux and two Oscar Peterson Awards, Alain Caron seems to have fully realized his musician’s dream. Considered by some to be one of the world’s top bassists, he personally believes that his apprenticeship is not over and that there is still much to be achieved. “Life as a musician is like an endless road,” Caron muses. “The only possible end is your own limitations, and I hope never to reach mine. As for musical expression, I’m now interested in developing my improvisational skills, how to play with the right amount of precision and intelligence. You can have a head full of music and never be able to write out. I also want to develop my composing skills so as to be able to express myself as accurately as possible. I often feel that what I write could be better. Then there is your work as a producer or arranger. It too requires good taste and the ability to make informed choices.”

As he gears up for the 2014 NAMM Show in January and a European tour in March and April, the 58-year-old performer is thinking of everything but retirement. “Obviously, I have been doing this for many years now. I try to keep in shape as much as possible. I know that I will eventually have to slow down, but I don’t think it will be to retire. I’m going to take it easier in specific areas – travelling, for instance. I want to enjoy life, but music is fun and I’ll keep going as long as I possibly can. No-one is ever going to be able to take this away from me.”