So far, 2016 hasn’t been kind to artists from the classic rock era. We’ve mourned the notable losses of David Bowie and Glenn Frey of the Eagles, whose songs, each in their own way, captured the 1970s zeitgeist as well as any, and better than most.

When one thinks of that era, it brings to mind elaborate albums, monster tours, jet-setting bands and the excesses of rock and roll legends. Those were also days when big record companies invested in developing the artists on their rosters. Their monster sellers helped subsidize the costs of supporting and developing emerging artists with potential. For artists and labels, these were the “Golden Years” Bowie sang about.

I’ll stick with you baby for a thousand years
Nothing’s gonna touch you in these golden years

But the industry sings a different tune today. These days, artist development seems like a quaint notion. Major label artists that don’t hit it out of the park the first time don’t often get a second chance.

Recognizing that the industry landscape has changed substantially, three Canadian music biz veterans started a conversation about how they could do more to help artists. Eric Lawrence and Rob Lanni have been artist managers since the late ’80s and early ’90s, and are the co-founders and co-owners of the artist management company Coalition Music. Coalition represents such acts as Simple Plan, USS, Our Lady Peace, Finger Eleven, Andee, and The Balconies.

“What can we do to elevate these artists that deserve a chance to be developed?” – Vel Omazic of Canada’s Music Incubator

The third man, Vel Omazic, had been a Sony Music executive for about 10 years but had been out of the biz for some time when Lawrence and Lanni sought him out.

“What was clear to the three of us was essentially that the major labels had been downsized and merged, obviously, and so the depth of their resources to invest the time to find talent, to develop that talent, was not the same,” Omazic says. “But yet, there’s all this great talent that continued to present itself to the companies, and it’s, like, ‘What can we do to elevate these artists that deserve a chance to be developed?’”

Out of that conversation came the idea for Canada’s Music Incubator, for which Omazic signed on as Executive Director. Canada’s Music Incubator (CMI) is a not-for-profit initiative that Coalition Music launched in Toronto in 2012. Its purpose is to help emerging artists, managers and other music industry professionals grow their careers into viable and sustainable businesses through networking, workshops, hands-on mentoring and collaboration with established professionals.

The Artist Entrepreneur Program is one of three incubation programs offered through CMI (the others being Tour & Tech and Artist Management) that bring participants to the Coalition Music headquarters at Victoria Park and Lawrence in Toronto. There, they interact with, and learn from, an array of experienced music industry experts on topics including marketing, management, promotion, publicity, social media, funding, touring, music law, accounting, publishing, booking, talent buying, music supervision, sound, songwriting, radio, performing rights organizations, funding bodies and more.

The program runs for 10 weeks, twice a year, in February and August. Participants are on-site from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Friday. All musical styles and genres are welcome, and artists have come from as far as Whitehorse and Newfoundland. For example, such award-winning artists as Ben Caplan and The Fortunate Ones have already benefitted from the program.

Although CMI is run as a not-for-profit, there is a $7,500 fee to enrol in the program, but each applicant is automatically eligible for scholarships of up to $5,000 thanks to CMI’s sponsors and patrons. No artist has ever had to pay the full cost, and some have been fully sponsored.

The purpose of the fee, Omazic explains, is to attract artists who have skin in the game. “It’s a cliché, but we want artists who are invested,” he says. “You have to be doing this already as your career, as your business. So we’re looking for people who are actively touring, actively releasing singles or albums.”

Omazic is also quick to point out that the program is not modeled after an academic program. This isn’t School of Rock, with Jack Black holding forth in a mortarboard cap.

“We’ve modeled ourselves on the concept of incubation – small business incubation specifically,” says Omazic. “We’re helping starter companies get their feet on the ground, and giving them some focus, giving them some direction, some guidance and some motivation. You’re coming here to work, and to move your career.

“We really emphasize the importance of songs. We can help them get their business together, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t mean anything unless they’ve put the time into their craft and have songs that are going to help them advance their career. It’s all driven by the song.”

Universal Music recording artist Andee has been driven by song since she was a youngster. Originally from the town of Saint-Jean-Chrysostome, just south of Québec City, the pop singer-songwriter burst onto the scene in 2012 as a finalist on the province’s popular singing competition TV show, Star Académie.

At the urging of her manager, she moved to Toronto in 2014 to take part in CMI’s Artist Entrepreneur program. She started in February of that year while she was in the process of getting signed to Universal Music.

“It really helped me make really important decisions for my career, especially since I was signing with a major label.” Andee says. “I didn’t know anything about a label and they helped me understand how it was going to work, and what my responsibility was in this.”

She’d been trying to stay on top of the business side of her burgeoning music career, working with an accountant and organizing a budget. “But I wasn’t really good at it,” she says, laughing. “So meeting a lot of professionals in the music industry really helped me get more organized in my business, and helped me get more confidence, too. Even if you don’t like the business side and the financial side of it, you can’t ignore it. You have to become your own boss. If you’re planning on doing this as a career, you have to know all these things.”

As for the future direction of the program, Omazic says that one of the things they’re planning to implement this year, though they’ve yet to announce it, is a way to help artists get funding to make top-notch professional recordings that can compete in the marketplace. He also foresees the program evolving with further initiatives for helping artists with marketing and promotion.

But the success of the program’s artists won’t necessarily be measured in platinum sales or top spots on the Billboard charts.

“The whole long-term goal is to develop sustainable careers and businesses,” says Omazic. “When we screen them, we talk to them and we say, ‘What is it that you’re trying to achieve here? What’s your end goal?’ And nine times out of 10 the answer is, ‘I just want to make a living doing what I love: writing, playing and performing music.’ And so that’s really the goal, is to help them achieve that.”

The Golden Years are over. These days, whether it’s marketing or developing their craft, or navigating through all the revenue stream options for their music, artists need to be more hands-on in the careers. Maybe armed with the knowledge gained from CMI’s Artist Entrepreneur program, today’s music-makers will be able to forge the best path possible within present-day circumstances.

“Nowadays, it’s a different reality,” Andee says. “So when you know what you’re doing, where the money’s going, where the money’s coming from, you have so much more confidence and freedom in what you do, because you’re on top of everything. I think that’s necessary today.”

Who will go the distance? We’ll find out in the long run. But thanks to Canada’s Music Incubator, today’s music artists can learn what they need to take it to the limit.

The least we can say about Simon Kingsbury’s creative process is that it’s slow.

Simon KingsburyHe started out busy, first appearing on the scene as a member of the indie-folk-prog band Lac Estion, which produced three recordings – EP (2008), Affranchi (2009) and XXIe siècle (2010). He then followed up with a solo solo EP, released in 2011, and played at the 2012 Francouvertes. In short, he made his mark on the local indie scene.

But over the past two-plus years, news from him has been few and far between. “In 2013, I recorded tracks that sounded way too much like those on the 2011 EP,” he explains, “so I scrapped all of them and decided to take a year off!”

Only during the course of the last year did Kingsbury start feeling like he was ready to get cracking again. He was already signed to a publishing deal with Ad Litteram (since 2013), so the company’s boss, Guillaume Lombart, offered Kingsbury a production deal for his new songs. “Luckily for me, he gave me carte blanche creatively,” says Kingsbury. “They took care of the financing, and all the paperwork, that can easily bog down an artist… They took care of that whole side of things, but kept me in the loop, which was quite helpful.”

The result was Pêcher rien, a slick affair launched in early February 2016, and whose first single, “Comédien,” sets the tone.

When asked about his protégé, Guillaume Lombart is quick to answer that he himself is “a lucky publisher and producer, right now.” Birds of a feather, as the saying goes…

The Constant Gardner

It goes without saying that it all started as love at first sight – or hearing, as it were: “There was the voice, I truly believe that an artist’s signature is their voice,” says Lombart. “It’s the very personality of any project.”

Lombart enjoys working with singer-songwriters. “I like when I deal with only one person, especially if that person is aware of what it means to make music nowadays,” says Lombart. “On top of that, I also believe that songwriters are people who constantly question themselves and best grasp what it means to be human, starting with themselves. I think they are less susceptible to fall prey to the whole ‘star ego’ thing.”

Lombart and Kinsgbury also share the same vision of their collaboration: teamwork first. “Everybody on this boat works very hard, and we’re all in sync when it comes to the activities involved in this project,” says the publisher-producer.

Things really got underway when all 10 songs were committed to tape. “We produced the album and sought a licencing deal with a record label,” says Lombart. “But the licence never came, so we looked for financing on our own. And things fell into place.”

Clearly, when this man gets involved in a project, his publishing feelers extend very far. “As a publisher, my goal is to take a project as far as I can by getting the right people involved to make sure it does,” says Lombart. “CDs have become a promotional tool for publishers. And I’m also the producer of the live show. And, through Livetoune (an Ad Litteram subsidiary), I also produce the audio-visual aspect of it all. In the end, the goal is to integrate all of these elements in order to prop up the songs themselves… I love the idea of a musical-visual publisher. I created that model in reaction to a specific situation. I often compare it to gardening, how one needs to sow the seeds and ensure his produce thrives and grows.”

You Reap What You Sow

Simon KingsburyQuébec radio stations have clearly confirmed the publisher-producer’s flair: At the time of this writing, Kingsbury’s “Comédien” was named buzz ÉNERGIE for the month of February, thus ensuring the song quite a heavy rotation over most of the network’s stations.

And if the artist’s ambitions are any indication of what’s to come, things are looking good. “Guillaume and I are on the same wavelength most of the time,” says Kingsbury. Ultimately, what I want is for my songs to be as widely heard as possible.” Add that to the positive critical reception of Pêcher rien, and what you have is a duo that thoroughly enjoys reaping what it has slowly and carefully sown.




Few songwriters know the feeling of seeing their names next to the No. 1 slot on the Billboard charts, never mind on their first try. Deryck Whibley had just turned 21 when the first single from Sum 41’s debut album All Killer, No Filler, entered at the top of the Modern Rock chart. He was legal age to celebrate in America, where the scrappy pop-punk-rap song became an instant MTV fave, an anthem for brats and wannabe brats everywhere.

The song has since been featured in several films and video games, such as EA Sports’ NHL 2002, American Pie 2, Guitar Hero, ESPN X Games Skateboarding, GuitarFreaks V4 and DrumMania V4 and as downloadable content for Guitar Hero 5. The song is also heard playing in the background during the Season One Smallville episode “Leech.” It was made available to download for play in Rock Band 3 Basic and PRO mode.

Its initial release was the start of a wild ride for the band from Ajax, ON – from the Warped Tour to the Grammys, to Japan, the war-torn Congo and beyond. Despite several member shake-ups, and Whibley’s harrowing near-death liver failure in 2014, the band has a new album ready and is mounting a full-scale comeback. Whibley spoke to SOCAN from his home in Los Angeles.

Sum 41 was a punk band, so why are you rapping on “Fat Lip”?
I grew up in the city, and that was the popular music. LL Cool J, Beastie Boys, Run DMC — late ‘80s, early ‘90s rap was the first music I was listening to that wasn’t my parents’ music. I actually wanted to do more but the other guys weren’t as into it. We loved Run-DMC. We were trying to do our “King of Rock.” Our voices, since we were three nerdy white guys, made it sound more like Beastie Boys, that’s all.

Take us back to the songwriting process.
It took a really long time to put that song together. It started in my mom’s basement, which was also my basement at the time. [laughs] I had started recording since around age 15. Marc Costanzo [of Len] gave me some microphones and I just started practicing and recording bands around Ajax. I remember I had the rap, but it wasn’t a full song. We didn’t do anything with it for a while. Then I wrote a chorus. I didn’t touch it again for a long time. One day I came up with the intro. And then that sat for about six more months. So I was writing that song for probably a year and a half.

How did it ultimately end up on the album?
Jerry Finn, our producer. I wasn’t sure what anyone would think, I just had this demo of me rapping all the parts, but I could hear it all in my head. He was the first person I played it for. We were pretty much done recording All Killer, and I said, “I have to finish this song.” I was just hoping it would be good enough to go on the album, but Jerry said, “That’s your first single. That’s a hit.” I wanted that to be true. It was the most interesting song I’d written. So once he said that I had the confidence to show it to everyone.

What was the reaction from the rest of the band?
Dave asked for as few lines as possible! [laughs] I mean, everyone knew that we couldn’t rap. In the early days, we were actually taught by this pretty old school rapper, MC Shan. He’s one of the originators. We got hooked up with him. And we’d go down to the studio in Scarborough and he was trying to teach us how to rap. And he was very frustrated. This very good rapper trying to teach these suburban kids how to rap.

What is your favourite memory of performing the song?
Absolutely the MTV 20th anniversary special with Tommy Lee and Rob Halford. They had us open the show. We were an unknown band at the time, the song wasn’t a hit yet. I guess they liked the video for whatever reason, so they called us up. So we said let’s try to get some guests together. We grew up watching those big performances, the huge collaborations like Kid Rock and Steven Tyler, stuff like that. Rob Halford was one of our idols — the lyric in “Fat Lip” is “Maiden and Priest were the gods that we praised.” It was like, holy crazy shit! That thing really exploded our career. We were doing well on radio and MTV was playing the video. Then overnight that was the tipping point. The next day, it was never the same. There was no going back after that.

The song is about being a teenager who wants to party. How does it feel to play it now, at age 35?
I still like it. It still has balls. Even though it sums up who we were at that time – hanging out at suburban parties, getting drunk and not giving a fuck – I don’t think it’s dated. I’m certainly not embarrassed to play it.

Looking back, what do you think that “Fat Lip” taught you, as a songwriter?
I was capable of taking different styles of music and blending them, and it worked. We just played loud rock music and I was able to pull different influences into it. I remember, when I was first talking about the band, of bringing metal into punk, people were like, “How is that going to work? That is just so strange.” I even started questioning. I knew I wanted to do it, but could I? Same thing as with “Fat Lip.” My circle of people said bringing in rap would never work. [That’s] one of my capabilities as a writer… and it’s not that I think I’m that great, I just know what I can do that feels right to me. Even though everyone’s telling me I can’t, I’ll figure out a way.