Big bucks boost local bands

Local musicians have been schmoozing more than playing this week at Music Yukon’s international showcase.The $90,000 event brought 19 buyers to the Yukon to watch 12 local acts perform.

Local musicians have been schmoozing more than playing this week at Music Yukon’s international showcase.

The $90,000 event brought 19 buyers to the Yukon to watch 12 local acts perform.

The buyers were a terrible audience, said Soir de Semaine frontman Pascal St. Laurent with a laugh.

Instead of the dancing crowd that usually feeds the funky francophone band, the Yukon Arts Centre held a quiet audience of 19.

“They sat and were working, and we had to give and give and give and nothing was coming back,” said St. Laurent.

“We had no beers, nothing — it was stressful.”

The feedback came after the 15-minute showcase wrapped up.

“We learned we were on the right path, but have lots to work on,” said St. Laurent.

Never use the words “exuberant, effervescent, or eclectic to describe your band’s music,” added Sophisticated Cavemen singer Rick Sorg, discussing his band’s feedback.

“I think we had every one of those words in our bio,” he said with a laugh.

Although the showcase featured Yukon musicians, it had almost nothing to do with music, said Cavemen pianist Lara Lewis.

Buyers focused on presentation, business plans and marketing.

“It was about performance,” said local singer/songwriter Kate Weekes.

Song order, energy level, stage banter and even clothing choices became a focus.

“They didn’t like the socks I was wearing, but I’m wearing them anyway,” said Weekes with a grin.

Music isn’t about music, said Nova Scotia booking agent Val Denn.

“If you’re all about writing and singing songs — then you’re all about not working,” she said.

“It’s about business — the tricky part is to make it look like it’s about music.”

“If you are going to try and make a living as a musician, you have to respect the business side — you can’t expect talent to get you everywhere you want,” said Whitehorse

singer/songwriter Kim Barlow.

Barlow attended the last Yukon showcase a couple of years ago, and ended up with a gig in Wales.

“It’s networking,” said Sorg.

Producers from Ireland, Texas, California and all across Canada jumped at the chance to attend the Yukon showcase.

“There’s a Yukon mystique,” said Music Yukon executive director Mark Smith.

It helps to place musicians in their natural habitat, said Denn.

“They have songs about the dark, and you wake up in the dark, and suddenly you feel what they’re saying.”

Denn hasn’t seen any acts at the showcase she’d book.

“As a booking agent, I sign people for 12-year commitments,” she said.

“It’s like adopting a dog, you go walk it and get to know it a bit before you decide.”

It’s nice to see artists who are just beginning, said California producer Dan Dewayne.

“It’s nice to watch that potential grow,” he said.

“Rarely do you see anything right away that’s export-ready,” added Denn.

It helps to see acts play live, said South by Southwest buyer Brad First, who sees more that 10,500 applications a year for his Texas-based music festival.

“It surpasses cold print and internet,” he said.

Rather than sending Yukon musicians out to showcase, Music Yukon decided to bring the buyers here, said Smith.

The Yukon Film and Sound Commission suggested it in December.

“We basically pulled this together in five weeks,” he said.

The $90,000 in showcase funding works out to $7,500 per act.

“It’s a huge expense,” said Smith. But it costs less bringing the buyers here than sending local musicians out, he said.

Whitehorse-based jazz ensemble New Orleans North spent about $20,000 going Outside to showcase, said its pianist and Music Yukon president Grant Simpson.

“And you’re competing with Outside markets, whereas here the buyers are watching you on your own stage with your own sound people.”

Smith would like to see the showcase happen annually, but isn’t too hopeful.

“No money, no funny,” he said.

The 12 Yukon acts featured at the showcase were: Soir de Semaine, Kim Barlow with the Burning Hell’s Mathias Kom, Graeme Peters, Jerry Alfred, Crash the Car, Sophisticated

Cavemen, Kate Weekes, Susan Phillips, the Done Gone String Band, Kim Beggs, Gordie Tentrees, and Rossi and The Boys.

Contact Genesee Keevil at