As 2023 draws to a close we’re taking a look back at our busy year of exciting projects, new initiatives, and opportunities for artists and music companies from Manitoba...
Artists and music companies from Manitoba earned some massive recognition in 2023 with over 290 award nominations and 73 wins for the JUNO Awards, Western Canadian Music Awards, Canadian Country Music Awards, Manitoba Country Music Awards, Covenant Awards, Manitoba Loud Music Awards, and the Canadian Folk Music Awards. Local artists launched over 145 new music releases, including albums, EPs, and singles. Local artists performed over 60 showcases for key industry players in important domestic and international markets.
There were plenty of familiar names making headlines this year, earning significant media mentions in the likes of Rolling Stone, Billboard, Pitchfork, Complex, CBC Music, and Exclaim including Begonia, Boogey the Beat, Boy Golden, Comeback Kid, Desiree Dorion, Don Amero, Faouzia, FONTINE, JayWood, KEN mode, Leith Ross, Mattmac, Rhonda Head, Super Duty Tough Work, Taylor Janzen, The Bros. Landreth, Tinge, YSN Fab, William Prince, and more.
The Indigenous Music Steering Committee awarded the inaugural Vince Fontaine Legacy Award, which recognizes an emerging Indigenous artist or industry professional currently working towards a career in the music industry, to Two-Spirit Anishinaabe multi-hyphenate artist Veronica Blackhawk (Tinge). The award honours the indelible legacy of Vince Fontaine, an important leader in the music community and had an incredible impact on many, who passed away in January 2022. Announced on National Indigenous Peoples Day and presented at Manitoba Music’s AGM, the award is sponsored by Manitoba Music and Manitoba Film & Music.
Our board of directors announced this year's recipients of the Kevin Walters Legacy Award and Kevin Walters Memorial Songwriter Award, in honour of Kevin Walters, a long-time Manitoba Music board member and music industry legend. Recognizing an emerging professional in the music industry, the Legacy Award went to Elise Roller, founder and owner of Misfit Music MGMT, an artist development and management company, servicing artists across Western Canada. Songwriting duo and performers Joey and David Landreth were this year’s recipient of the Kevin Walters Memorial Songwriter Award in recognition of their impressive body of work and numerous accolades and awards–including a GRAMMY win for Bonnie Raitt’s cover of their song “Made Up Mind” and their second JUNO Award for their newest album, Come Morning.
Community connection remained a theme throughout all of our events this year. Sound Waves Music Meeting (SWMM) returned for the second edition of the creative conference on industry development and community connection. This year's focus was helping artists navigate the music sector through entrepreneurship and business development, supported by a generous group of industry mentors.
Artists built skills in finding investment, strategic planning, branding, content creation, music in film and TV and games, music law, and more. We also hosted several other professional development events and projects, including grant writing incubators, the ongoing MONITOR MIX Peer Mentor Groups, The Road to BreakOut West international program, and partnerships with Brandon University, Bastid’s BBQ&A, and MEME.
The Indigenous Music Development Program presented a wide range of programming, including professional development, community engagement, and market development activities. Programming included season three of the Talking Stick music video series, the Kiwetinook Kitoschikewin Indigenous Music Northern Residency, live audio production training for IBPOC women and gender diverse creatives, Niso Aschaquet gathering and open mic for Two-Spirit artists, grant writing incubators, a roundtable on music royalties, and partnerships with Dauphin’s Countryfest for the Nipin Showcase, Manitoba Country Music Awards for a panel on country radio, and the Manitoba Arts Network’s emerging artists program.
We partnered with Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG)-Qaumajuq to celebrate Black music makers with a series of free concerts and mixers in the iconic gallery space, BPM X WAG-Qaumajuq. The partnership was launched in February with a packed Black History Month event, laying the foundation for the quarterly community-building events through the BPM | Black Professionals in Music program, coordinated by business owner and artist Andrew Sannie.
The GEAR UP: Gender Equity in Audio Recording and Music Production taskforce released Collectively Supporting Change: Addressing Gender Inequity in Audio Production in Manitoba, a new report that provides a snapshot of the local recording industry and suggestions for how to ensure safer, more respectful working environments, and increased participation of women and gender diverse producers and engineers in the industry.
Artists from Manitoba landed on showcase stages across the UK and Europe, the US, and Canada through our Manitoba Music Export program, which supports and facilitates important business connections and local activity at key industry events. Artists performed at AmericanaFest in Nashville, BreakOut West in Kelowna, Come Together in Toronto, FOCUS Wales in Wrexham, Folk Alliance International in Kansas City, Mundial Montreal and M for Montreal, Reeperbahn Festival in Hamburg, the Rame à la rencontre partnership with Coup de coeur francophone in Montreal, SXSW in Austin, and more.
We launched a new program, the sākihiwē Export Accelerator, in partnership with Aboriginal Music Manitoba (AMM). Currently taking submissions, the new pilot project will explore virtual solutions for export-ready First Nation, Inuit, and Métis artists who want to build audiences for their music outside of Canada.
Connecting music fans with local live music continued to be a key focus for us in 2023, including New Music Nights at The Good Will Social Club, Open Mic Nights at the West End Cultural Centre at The Handsome Daughter, and industry showcases during SWMM at The Road to BreakOut West. Our MB Live app, downloaded by over 15,400 users, and online listings were filled with thousands of concerts and festivals from across the province. Through our MB Live partnerships, we were able to add promotional support to several Manitoba-based events including Festival du Voyageur, Friday Night Live, GerryFest, HYPERART, Pride Winnipeg, Rainbow Trout Music Festival, Real Love Summer Fest, sākihiwē festival, Soca Reggae Festival, Soul Supreme Fest, TD Winnipeg International Jazz Festival, Winnipeg Folk Festival, and Winterruption.
We partnered with Jade Harper and the team at The Forks for Finding our North Star, celebrating July 1 in a new way including Acakos (ah-cha-kos), the first drone show in Winnipeg pairing the new tech with the ancestral celestial teachings of Elder Wilfred Buck, an internationally known star Knowledge Keeper. We also partnered with Culture Days for the live music portion of the Canadian Human Rights Museum’s Nuit Blanche debut.
Our Spotlight Series continued to shine a light on emerging local music makers, our new music-focused Spotify playlist added 300 tracks, Signal Boost amplified artists and music companies making headlines (almost) every week, and the Song of the Week highlighted new music and album releases.
We quietly launched a new opportunity with The Forks for festivals, promoters, and community organizations to rent the SL100, the most widely used stage in the live event industry. Throughout the summer, you could find our mobile stage at a variety of events including Indigenous Day Live, World Refugee Day, Manitoba Filipino Street Fest, Bastid's BBQ, SuperSpike, Punjab Day Mela, Prairie Wind Festival, Dakota Days, Moose & Music Fiddle Festival, Winnipeg Chinatown Night Market, Pak Fest, and more, along with our stage administrator Bryn Herpberger and the team of stage operators and hands.
Our team continued to evolve in 2023… we welcomed Vanessa Kuzina as our new Executive Director and creative leader. Andrea Davis returned as Manager, Export Programs, Nia Banilbo joined full-time as Events & Outreach Assistant, while Rachel Stone moved into a new position as Director, Operations & Communications. We said farewell and a big thank you to departing ED Sean McManus and Membership & Events Coordinator Claire Boning, and announced an upcoming goodbye from Shaneen Robinson-Desjarlais, longtime coordinator of the Indigenous Music Development Program. Industry Development Coordinator Alex Sannie celebrated his second anniversary on Team MM while Administrative Coordinator Rose Tobacco-Olson celebrated her first year with us. We were also lucky to have some smart / fun folks spend time with us as work placements, including Kaylen Arnal, and are endlessly grateful to our incredible team of volunteers: Ezi Margolis, Scott Augusta, and Memoree Tobacco.
We would like to thank our innovative, creative, and talented members; the generous support of the Government of Canada, the Province of Manitoba, FACTOR through the financial support of the Government of Canada and Canada's private radio broadcasters, Manitoba Film & Music; our partners at Canadian Council of Music Industry Associations, BreakOut West, Sask Music, Alberta Music, Music BC, Music Nova Scotia, Music Ontario, CIMA; The Forks; our unwavering staff; our dedicated Board of Directors; the generous Indigenous Music Development Program Steering Committee; and our many community and industry partners for another incredible and productive year.
See you in 2024!