The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences blew it again this year.
The standout performance of the Junos didn’t take place on its nationally
televised Juno show but during its non-televised gala dinner and awards the night
before where 32 of the 39 awards were handed out.
It was there that all of the nominees in the World Music Album category,
singers Alex Cuba, Celso Machado, and Kiran Ahluwalia as well as guitarist Jesse
Cook and world music ensemble Autorickshaw joined together for an electrifying
But Canada’s public missed it.
Canadians also missed out on some potentially great performances by such Juno
winners as jazz singer Sophie Milman who won Vocal Jazz Album of the Year;
Ottawa native Belly who won Rap Recording of the Year; Winnipeg’s Nathan who
took home Roots & Traditional Album of the Year; and sultry diva Serena Ryder
who was named New Artist of the Year.
Why weren’t these acts on the televised show?
Many industry figures here continue to question the longstanding CARAS
contention that some music genres do not work on a national TV broadcast and are
therefore not considered for the main event.
While CARAS maintains that there is an exhaustive committee process in place
to pick talent for televised show, consisting of consulting label, management,
and booking representatives as well as input from broadcast partner CTV, the
fact is that the four foreign-owned multinationals-- EMI Music, Universal
Music, Sony BMG Music, and Warner Music that dominate Canada’s music
market---continue to have a considerable say in what acts play on the televised portion of the Junos.
Yet, in recent years, the Canadian independent label and artist sector,
benefiting from the growth in popularity of MySpace, Last FM, and YouTube has
become the primary market window for emerging Canadian acts.
This pivotal role of the independent sector, which has grown in Canada with
the multinationals cutting back in recent years on direct signings, is
underscored by the fact that the majority of Canadian jazz, alternative, country,
blues and classical music is today issued by independent sources.
However, jazz, alternative, country, blues and classical music have been
underrepresented on the televised Junos for over a decade—in sharp contrast to
their representation on the annual Grammy Awards in the U.S.
There was considerable grumbling among Juno organizers in 2004 in Edmonton
when Blackie & the Rodeo Kings were asked to perform on the televised show after
industry pressure was exerted on CARAS. These same organizers later privately
admitted that the trio’s performance, with backing from singer Kathleen
Edwards, was one of the show’s highlights.
Canada's alternative scene only received its due on the awards in 2006. That
was the year that Broken Social Scene, Bedouin Soundclash and Buck 65
performed alongside Bryan Adams and Nickelback.
Until this year, country music had been largely shut out of the Junos for
almost 15 years with the exception of a performance by Aaron Lines, then signed
to BMG Canada, in the mid-‘90s. But this was Calgary and the line-up of country
beef cake Paul Brandt, Lines, Gord Bamford, Johnny Reid, and Shane Yellowbird
No matter that Alberta-based country singer George Canyon is a two-time Juno
Award winner, he has never performed on the Junos.
Nor has Bruce Cockburn, who has recorded for three decades for True North
Records, performed on the Junos.
And don’t you think an appearance by Alberta’s favourite son Corb Lund might
have made sense? Even with Ian Tyson?
The talk in Calgary over Juno weekend was about the impressive wave of first
time Juno nominees—a total of 87-- including Serena Ryder, Belly and
Wintersleep, each whom took home Junos; as well as such first-time nominees as Jeremy Fisher, Kain, Justin Nozuka, Johnny Reid, Suzie McNeil, Jill Barber, Ill
Scarlett, Pride Tiger, Faber Drive, Shane Yellowbird, and Pascale Picard.
This bears well for future Junos.
It also bears well for the future of Canada’s music industry.
Reprinted with permission from The LeBlanc Newsletter. The LeBlanc Newsletter is exclusively carried and archived by Canadian Music Week in Canada at www.cmw.net/cmw2008. It is available In the U.S. at Encore Celebrity Access: encore.celebrityaccess.com
Journalist/broadcaster/researcher Larry LeBlanc has been a leading figure in
Canadian music for four decades. He has been a regular music commentator on CTV’s “Canada A.M” for 35 years, and has been featured on numerous CBC-TV, CTV, YTV, Bravo! MuchMusic, MusiMax, and Newsworld programs in Canada; VH-1, and EEntertainment in the U.S.; and BBC in the U.K. Larry was a co-founder of the late Canadian music trade, The Record; and, most recently, the Canadian bureau chief of Billboard for 16 years.