Nathalie Kleinschmit, interim executive director of the Western Canadian Music Alliance, from left, Scott Maynard, executive director of Music Yukon, and Angela Drainville, president of Music Yukon pose for a photo outside Music Yukon’s office in Whitehorse on March 28. BreakOut West, a music festival slated for this fall, was awarded $485,000 from the Yukon government this week. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

BreakOut West is coming to the Yukon this fall

Part of the event is designed to help amateur musicians find their way

BreakOut West, which is slated for this fall, won’t only be a music festival, it will act as an incubator for artists wanting to break into the industry, say those behind it.

Between 70 and 90 artists from the Yukon and elsewhere will be selected to showcase at “mini concerts” over three nights throughout downtown Whitehorse, said Angela Drainville, president of Music Yukon. Also present will be managers, record producers, publicists and the like. The chances to mingle with industry muscle could be high.

“So if you’re a young artist and you’re interested in talking to an agent about what it takes to get professional representation, what it means to be tour-ready, as well as just selling yourself for shows and getting record deals, this is the best event in western Canada to be able to access that,” she said.

This week, the Yukon government contributed $485,000 over two fiscal years for BreakOut West, which also includes a conference and awards ceremony.

“BreakOut West 2019 is an event that everyone will be able to benefit from — musicians, industry professionals, Yukoners, visitors and businesses. It provides a boost for Yukon’s talented musicians,” Economic Development Minister Ranj Pillai announced in the legislature on March 26. “Beyond the opportunities to perform, local musicians can meet industry professionals from Canada and worldwide whom they may not otherwise have the chance to meet.”

The festival was in the Yukon in 2011. Pillai said it generated close to $715,000 in direct spending then and that 14 full-time jobs were created.

Money slotted for this year’s event will be divvied up between Music Yukon and BreakOut West, with $125,000 going to the former and $360,000 for the latter, Drainville said.

“It’s a tremendous investment,” she said, “and what it means is that the opportunities for musicians in the Yukon will grow exponentially as a result of that investment. The reason is it’s cost-prohibitive for a lot of musicians to travel outside the territory to be able to attend BreakOut West. Having it in the territory just opens up access.”

Details continue to be hammered out – the lineup, for instance — but the awards ceremony and most of the conference will likely be based out of the Kwanlin Dün Culture Centre, Drainville said.

Venues used for the showcasing component could include the MacBride Museum, the Dirty Northern and the 202, she added.

The optics of this will be a boon for the tourism industry, because “world-class” musicians with a lot of fans will be coming to the Yukon, heightening its exposure, said Nathalie Kleinschmit, interim executive director of BreakOut West.

So far, there have north of 1,800 submissions for the awards and festival. Of that number, more than 400 submissions were entered for the showcase part, she said.

There are to be 120 shows.

“We try to balance, gender, genre, groups, communities, try and get a balance so it’s not all roots or all rock. We take everybody’s suggestions and then we curate the festival, so that we can create lineups that are attractive, that are fun.”

BreakOut West begins on Oct. 2 and ends on Oct. 6.

But Kleinschmit said it won’t boil down to four days and “a really good party” alone.

Part of it means giving musicians a boost through the bramble.

“Things are very tough for artists right now. We’ve kind of forgotten the artists in the production of the song. We wanna make sure they’re not afraid of the industry, and we wanna make sure, too, that they’re not dependent on industry telling them who they are.

“We’re in a territory that is about hospitality and about the can-do spirit and I think those things translate very well in the values of our conference about being fearless and friendly. They say the world needs a bit of Canada, I’d say Canada needs a bit of the Yukon right now, at least in the music business.”

Contact Julien Gignac at julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

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