YEAR IN REVIEW: International Success and Local Triumphs for Manitoba Music Industry in 2013

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Imaginary Cities plays for the Canada Day crowd at The Forks (Photo: J. Senft Photography)

As 2013 draws to a close and we look forward to a busy Year of Music in 2014, it’s time to take a little look back at the year that was. And what a year it was! We saw big tours in new markets, awards and nominations, packed showcases, and so much more.

Over 4,000 artists and music entrepreneurs in Manitoba earn income working in music. According to SoundCheck, an economic impact study commissioned by Manitoba Music and released in 2013, the music industry generated a total GDP impact of $71.3 million, supporting the equivalent of 4,363 jobs.

Those artists and music entrepreneurs also earned accolades: In 2013, Manitoba artists and industry earned 94 award nominations and 20 awards. Aboriginal recording artists made a big splash, notably Don Amero landing 10 nominations and 3 wins and Ali Fontaine with eight nominations and 3 wins. 

Many Manitoba acts spent a good portion of 2013 on the road, touring and performing career-building showcases as far away as the U.K., Iceland, Germany, and France. Expanding into new markets and continuing to build important contacts has been an essential focus for many acts looking to make a career out of playing music. Throughout the year, 71 different Manitoba acts made their way into new countries and connected with key industry people by performing over 130 showcases at 37 different events around the world. Here are just a few that made international headlines this year...

One of this year's biggest stories was Royal Canoe, which continued its steady rise. In 2013, the indie electro-pop outfit saw the release of its debut full length album, Today We’re Believers, on Nevado Records in Canada and Roll Call Records in the U.S., to immediate raves and critical acclaim. The band landed significant international media attention, was the toast of tastemaker blogs, and performed live in the CBC studio for Q with Jian Ghomeshi. Royal Canoe hit stages in Canada, U.S., U.K., Germany, France, and Iceland, including several opening dates in Los Angeles and New York with British indie darlings, Alt-J. The band also lugged its considerable keyboards and gear to showcases at The Great Escape in the U.K., Pop Montreal, M for Montreal, and SXSW. Some of that gear was stolen at the end of Royal Canoe's three-month tour, but the band was able to end the year on a more positive note, with an outpouring of fan support via the band's crowdfunding campaign to replace the gear, eclipsing the $7,800 goal in less than 24 hours.

KEN mode continued its plan for world domination this year, following up its JUNO Award-winning album Venerable with the hotly anticipated Entrench. Produced by Matt Bayles (Mastodon, Isis, Minus the Bear), Entrench was released on Dine Alone Records' new imprint New Damage in Canada and Seasons of Mist in the rest of the world. It went on to make the long list for the prestigious Polaris Music Prize, win in the Western Canadian Music Awards new metal category, turning media heads along the way, and made an unusual headline by popping up in a Forbes Magazine article about the business of music. The hard-touring trio also played over 100 tour dates in Canada, the U.S., and Europe. 

While still playing Canadian and U.S. dates with her two-time JUNO Award-winning trio The Wailin' Jennys, Ruth Moody saw her solo career soar to new heights in 2013. The singer/songwriter released her latest solo album, These Wilder Things, to critical acclaim, picking up two Canadian Folk Music Award nods.  She toured the album across North America and Europe, including an opening spot on music legend Mark Knopfler's European tour (Moody sang on his 2012 release, Privateering, and he can be heard on These Wilder Things). In addition to her busy tour schedule, Moody also took the showcase stage, playing in Nashville for the Americana Music Fest, SXSW in Austin, Folk Alliance and CAPACOA in Toronto.

Internationally-acclaimed, Nunavut-born and Brandon-based throat singer Tanya Tagaq continued to wow audiences and critics alike this year with her original composition and live soundtrack for the 1922 documentary, Nanook of the North, which was commissioned by TIFF Bell Lighthouse. Tagaq inked a management deal with Six Shooter, performed in concert halls across North America, including a date at New York’s David Rubenstein Atrium, and most recently took the stage as part of the Native America North project at Mundial Montreal, where she won the Galaxie Rising Stars Award. 

Read about more Manitoba artists making headlines in 2013

Meanwhile, Manitoba Music redefined the word "busy", presenting successful market development showcases and networking events at CAPACOA and International Folk Alliance in Toronto, England's The Great Escape, SXSW, Toronto's NXNE, Pop Montreal, M for Montreal, Folk Music Ontario in Mississauga, the Americana Music Association Conference in Nashville, Germany's Reeperbahn Festival, and industry showcases in New York City, Los Angeles, and Toronto. These events have helped Manitoba artists and music companies connect with influential international industry names, build important business relationships, and reach new markets. 

The market development activities were supported by the Government of Canada through Western Economic Diversification Canada, which announced Manitoba Music's multi-year slate of programs focusing on trade and business development, the launch of Manitoba Music's new Francophone Music Program, and increased partnerships with prairie counterparts SaskMusic and Alberta Music in key international markets. The Province of Manitoba also announced an investment into our music community by announcing new support to the Market Access and Internship Programs.

Manitoba Music also continued to strengthen its focus on audience development here at home with several events throughout the year, including: monthly Open Mic at the Folk Exchange with the Winnipeg Folk Festival; monthly Manitoba Music Night at New Music Wednesdays with the Osborne Village Inn; all three stages at Manitoba Music Live on Canada Day at The Forks; and the frosty success of the inaugural Manitoba Music On Ice, a partnership with The Forks and five local festivals and music presenters putting local artists in the warming huts along the world's longest river trail on Louis Riel Day Weekend.

The summer brought the launch of Manitoba Music's first video project, the Loft Sessions. Manitoba Music brought a dozen buzzworthy local bands together with video director Chris Gaudry in the space above its Donald Street offices for the new series of live performance videos. Set in the hardwood, brick, and timber of a 108-year-old heritage building, Gaudry and his team, which included award-winning sound engineer Cam Loeppky, filmed a live performance by each artist in the three camera shoot. Released every Tuesday for 12 weeks over the summer and fall, the videos featured the likes of Chic Gamine, Royal Canoe, The JD Edwards Band, JP Hoe, and Les Jupes, attracting over 20,000 YouTube views and counting.

In addition to organizing showcases in Las Vegas, Montreal, and New York, Manitoba Music's Aboriginal Music Program (AMP) launched its first Aboriginal Music Presenters Summit, bringing together some of Canada's most experienced music presenters for a unique event aimed at increasing opportunities for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis musicians from Manitoba. 

To continue to facilitate artistic and business growth of the local music scene, Manitoba Music presented 27 workshops and panels on everything from music management to licensing for film and television to rights management. This year also saw the introduction of the DIY Series: a new stream of workshops aimed primarily at emerging artists music entrepreneurs. Visiting panelists included top industry pros from Canada's music industry: Adam Countryman (The Agency Group), Franz Schuller (Indica Records), Meghan Symsyk (SRO Management/Anthem Entertainment Group), Evan Newman (Outside Music); Heather Gardner (Vapor Music Group), and many more.  Manitoba Music also hit the road for training events in Brandon and Gimli, including workshops during the Manitoba Arts Network's annual Manitoba Showcase Contact. continued to be a top destination for music fans in 2013. Over 113,600 unique visitors, a 14.7 per cent increase from the previous year, headed to the site for comprehensive live music listings, music news, streaming radio, free downloads, and hundreds of artist and industry profiles, racking up over 623,000 pageviews. 

With the Province of Manitoba's proclamation of 2014 as the Year of Music in Manitoba, not to mention the 2014 JUNO Awards in March and BreakOut West in October, the coming months are going to stay busy for Manitoba's vibrant music scene. 

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