I went to a concert recently. Not a big one at the Bell Centre, but a small one at a bar. Maybe 100 people in attendance. It’s not something I do often, but I went that night for two reasons: I knew people in the band (Montreal’s The Jimmyriggers) and it was a rare Saturday night off from work and I felt I should take advantage of it.
As it happens, I enjoyed myself. I sat down at a table with Gazette music critic Bernie Perusse, who happened to be there that night with a friend, and the three of us nodded at each other repeatedly through both the opening act, folk-country musician Sarah Jane Scouten, and the set from the Jimmyriggers. Perusse later gave the show a good review on the Words and Music blog.
I’m not a music critic, so I can’t tell you in great detail why I liked what I did (and didn’t like what I didn’t). But I liked what I heard enough that I bought the latest albums from both artists.
After the show, I approached Scouten at the bar to tell her how much I enjoyed the show. We struck up a conversation in which she thanked me for buying her album. With the sincerity and encouragement normally reserved for large cash donations to struggling third-world charities, she said:
“Thank you for supporting local music.”
I felt kind of guilty. The number of music CDs I have purchased in my lifetime could be carried in one hand. I’m hardly an aficionado of local music, and my purchases that night were the exception rather than the rule.
But what stunned me most about that conversation was
that a pretty girl was talking to me at a bar how unsupported local artists feel, particularly by media. In an age where it’s easier than ever to communicate and produce, why are so many still struggling to get noticed?
One thing we’ve lost in the reduction of local programming in broadcast media is a place where art can be showcased. Sure, you can have a 30-second interview in a two-minute TV news piece promoting an upcoming show, but CTV News isn’t going to invite a musical guest to come in and play a few songs. Really the only place where I’ve seen live performances on local English-language television is Global Montreal’s weekend Focus Montreal show, and those involve musicians coming into a cramped, all-green studio that’s not at all designed to facilitate the broadcast of music.
On radio, local bands are invited to perform live, but even then the exposure is limited. Major commercial stations relegate these types of shows to hours when the number of listeners is low. With the exception of Mitch Melnick at CKGM, there aren’t many big-time announcers in commercial radio that go out of their way to promote local music. And campus and community radio stations just don’t have the audience to give enough of a push to local artists.
There are people out there who are trying to compensate for this problem. There’s Said the Gramophone. There’s Midnight Poutine with its weekly podcast featuring artists who have upcoming shows in the city. They’re also planning their first concert for next Friday.
But it would be nice to combine the desire to promote local music with the desire for mainstream media to connect with a younger audience. Surely there’s a win-win situation here. If I can enjoy this music, surely others will as well, so long as they get a chance to hear it.
The Jimmyriggers perform Monday, March 26 at 9:30pm at Chez Baptiste sur Masson (3014 Masson). Tickets are $6.
Sarah Jane Scouten performs Wednesday, April 18 at Bar L’Esco (4467 St. Denis).
Midnight Poutine’s inaugural local concert, featuring Reversing Falls, Honheehonhee and CTZNSHP, is Friday, March 16 at 9pm at Jackie & Judy (6512 Ave. du Parc). Tickets are $10. See the Facebook event and join the Facebook group for info on future concerts.
Thanks so much for this particular posting. There is so much great local talent in this city and, as you say, trying to get publicity is very difficult. I will take this opportunity to harp on one of my major pet peeves in Montreal radio, specifically CBC’s Daybreak show. Being commercial-free and having a little more time than commercial stations to cover stories, I continue to be amazed how the arts and culture reports of CBC Daybreak, the “English” morning show on CBC Radio One in Montreal continues to focus predominantly on French music, films, TV, theatre, books, etc. I am sure that Radio-Canada’s morning show doesn’t go out of its way to feature what’s going on in the English Montreal scene.
I have voiced my concerns about this on several occasions with the shows hosts and producers over the years, but it continues. One former host of Daybreak indicated to me that they were in total agreement with me. With so much English talent in Montreal that needs exposure through the limited outlets we have available, why would Daybreak continue to focus so much on the French talent. Don’t get me wrong, the French talent should be promoted as well, but not at the expense of the English side, particularly on what is supposed to be English radio.
My continued praise goes out to Mitch Melnick. He is doing, on a sports radio station, what other stations that are supposed to focus on arts and culture are not doing. He, on a regular basis, brings in local talent, has live on-air performances, and lists upcoming concerts and events featuring local talent. If he can do it in a sports-radio environment, there is no excuse for others dropping the ball.
Couldn’t agree more about CBC…”Singing in their regional Joual, ‘Mon stylo est dans la pamplamousse’ brings a traditional roots feel only found in out-lying regions like Abitibi. Expect this to change though as their Province wide tour brings them to Montreal Thursday in what is expected to be their first double-digit audience”
Somebody should tell Kelly and the rest of them at CBC that sometimes covering popular culture might sometimes include things that are popular…
I’m not sure if Kelly refers to Brendan Kelly (who covers entertainment) or Jeanette Kelly (who covers arts and culture), but neither of them have “popular culture” as the description of their beat. And why would we want that anyway? What could you learn about Van Halen or Bruce Springsteen on Daybreak that you didn’t already know?
Perhaps cover something between Van Halen and what they’re covering now. Perhaps somebody such as the Jimmyriggers…
as a cbc daybreak listener, I can’t help but notice how much programming is “look how good french culture is…” which I don’t disagree with, but I would like more english-quebec culture on the premier english-quebec cbc radio station. Sometimes I think that Daybreak would be shocked to learn that there is english quebec culture, at all! Trendmistress Jeanette Kelly is a bit too cutting edge to pay attention to the banal anglos, in my opinion. If you think that I am exaggerating, then ask yourself why CBC quebec’s weekly culture show has a french name (“cinq à six”)? Face facts, the cools anglo kids want to be french. And the government-legislated and cultural industries-promoted genocide of the quebec anglo culture continues…
Thank you for this blog, and for coming to the show, and for supporting us. An unfortunate side effect of CKGM going corporate and joining the TSN (CTV) family is that Mitch has less time to have local musicians perform in studio, especially on days the Canadiens “play”. But in my opinion, his program (Melnick in the Afternoon, 3-7 pm every afternoon) spins the best music on Montreal radio. You won’t hear Frank Sinatra, the Rolling Stones, and Ani DiFranco on the same station anywhere else. It’s also the only program that regularly plays Shane Murphy, Lee Mellor, and the Jimmyriggers.
Also, Forget the Box and CJLO are also big promoters of all things Montreal music.
Keep up the great work!
There are other FM radio stations in Canada which are much more supportive of their local music scenes than Montreal radio. A particular example that comes to mind is “The Peak 100.5” from Vancouver.
They’re a Jim Pattison Group station playing slightly independent-skewing Adult Alternative Music. Rather than using their 35% Cancon requirement to play the same Nickleback songs on repeat, they’ve decided to fill the airwaves with local artists from Vancouver and the rest of British Columbia. They extensively promote local concerts, and also host free concerts throughout the city, labeled “Secret Shows”, with the locations announced only 2 hours before the event.
In a very innovative move, they also partnered with Music BC to use a significant portion of their Canadian content development contributions to fund something they call the Peak Performance Project. Twenty bands are selected each year to attend a week-long bootcamp, educating the bands about how to survive in the music industry. Each band also writes and records an original song relating to a specific theme (last year it was “Vancouver”, due to the city’s anniversary celebrations). These songs are released for free, and promoted liberally on the radio station. The station then hosts a series of concerts throughout the city, and invites listeners to vote for their favourite band. The competition culminates in a final night where prizes up to $100,000 for the top band are announced. The competition has earned extensive praise from Vancouver artists, and just last year a graduate of the competition (2010’s 2nd place winner) won the Juno Award for Best New Group.
The format has been a success for Jim Pattison Group. The station isn’t the most popular station in the market, but I personally think they’re a great example of a commercial radio station finding a lucrative, unserved niche in a very crowded radio market. They’ve discovered that listeners of local music exist, and represent a very loyal core audience. I only wish other commercial radio stations in Canada would develop such innovative methods to exploit their CRTC content requirements.
Jim Pattison Group recently applied to the CRTC to launch the format in Calgary. There’s an Openfile story here:
As an aside, TTP’s competing application for a Calgary station bears a remarkable similarity to Pattison’s The Peak format. It’s a shame Montreal’s airwaves are much too crowded, both technically and commercially right now, to support such a station, but I do really hope that one day a similar format is brought to Montreal.