Edmonton’s Darryl Hurs may just be an independent musician’s best friend.

As the founder and creator of Indie Week – the annual Toronto-based rock festival that’s grown from 40 bands and six venues, to 240  acts in 25 venues, representing 20 countries – the 49-year-old Hurs would qualify for that title based solely on the venture, now entering its 17th edition.

But in February of 2019, Hurs further galvanized his standing by adding the position of Canadian representative for CD Baby, the U.S.-based retail website for musical do-it-yourself-ers that has since expanded to become the largest online distributor of independent music on the planet.

Needless to say, the double-duty keeps Hurs hopping, and collecting those precious air miles. “When I’m working, I’m on the road,” he says from the 2019 Halifax Pop Explosion, where he served as both a scout for Indie Week and an ambassador for CD Baby.

A graduate of the general music program at Grant MacEwan College, Hurs has a work history that includes playing guitar for an Alberta cover band; handling indie consignment for HMV (both in Edmonton, and later, Toronto); and spending nine years at concert-promotion firm Live Nation – as a freelancer involved with event marketing and re-branding “on the graphic design side of things.” During his tenure at Live Nation, during which he helped create the VIP Nation Membership Club, Hurs also booked clubs on the side.

“The focus on Indie Week is about emerging artists and giving them a platform.”

Indie Week, which Hurs says was an important stepping-stone for such popular bands today as Walk Off the Earth and Sumo Cyco, began while he was booking a now-closed venue called The B Side. He felt that many indie artists needed not only a lift, but guidance on how to advance their careers. “The focus on Indie Week is about emerging artists and giving them a platform,” he says.

But simply offering them a performance seat at the Indie Week table isn’t enough. “It’s about what artists need in order to get to the next level,” he explains. “Meeting the industry, getting education, networking – a lot of emerging artists don’t have that education, and I think the more opportunities they have, the better it will be for them.”

Hurs is particularly bullish on making artists aware of valuable resources. “Many artists don’t even know [that] provincial associations like Music BC, Music NL, and national ones like CIMA [The Canadian Independent Music Association] exist,” says Hurs. “So they haven’t signed up, or looked into them. We look to be a platform where we help bridge those gaps for the artist, and educate them.”

The advent of streaming, and the trend toward disappearing music venues, have created formidable challenges for independent musicians. “Artists need a place to play, but they’re also having a hard time finding an audience,” says Hurs. “Streaming is great, but now we’re just flooded with so many artists and songs – how do you cut through the noise? That’s the new problem that artists are facing. Because there’s so much that we’re hit with, you have to be very smart and strategic. It doesn’t have to cost you a lot of money.”

To that end, Indie Week holds a conference – this year’s dates included Thursday, Nov. 14 at Revival,  and Nov. 15 and 16 at the  Thompson Hotel – and is expanding to cover the  Indigenous music scene. “We’ve have one afternoon devoted to panel discussions about the Indigenous community, and diversity,” Hurs explains. “We also hosted an Indigenous showcase on the Thursday, Nov. 14 at Hugh’s Room. We’re proud to say buyers from different fests and venues specifically come to watch artists with the purpose of hiring them.” An all-ages component has been added to some of the showcases for the first time, and a focus on tech and digital is also a new Indie Week addition.

“Have your business in check so that you’re collecting  properly from all of these different revenue streams.”

Hurs has also forged talent exchange partnerships with festivals like Brazil’s CoMA to give Canadian talent a shot at global exposure. “We’re in an age where touring is more important than ever,” he says. “Artists can find their niche market in other territories easier than ever before, through festivals like Reeperbahn in Germany and The Great Escape in the U.K.  These are all great places to go, and there’s definitely more opportunities.”

On Hurs’ other professional front, CD Baby has expanded its parameters with CD Baby Pro Publishing. “One thing to know with CD Baby is that it’s a distributor, but royalty collection [as a publisher] is a big part of what we do,” he says. “We’re actually in a place where for the first time ever, nobody owns music anymore,  and  the public buys memberships to listen to music. So, it’s really important for artists to have their royalties in check,  be registered properly, have their metadata correct, and make sure that they know where they’re being played. You’ve got to have your business in line.”

Hurs is of the mind that many new opportunities have sprouted from technology. “There might have been some bad deals in play during the early days of streaming, which has now made it hard to monetize,” he admits. “But as somebody who used to play guitar, that didn’t even exist as an option for me when I played. Here’s another revenue stream that didn’t exist before. YouTube didn’t exist when I was around,  and today LyricFind is doing some cool things where artists can monetize their lyrics.

“I think artists  need to sit down and think of this as a pie with many pieces.  Just have your business in check so that you’re collecting  properly from all of these different revenue streams. Several artists that I’ve talked to tell me they’re doing quite well in royalty collections through internet radio and satellite radio.


“There are ways you can find a niche and footing,  get your music played, and collect royalties.”

For Caroline Cecil, the ability to feel music is more important than any form of technical training. The Vancouver-based DJ and producer – who goes by the name WHIPPED CREAM – doesn’t have a musical background. But in a few short years, she’s already risen up the ranks of the EDM (electronic dance music) scene. “Do I feel imposter syndrome? Absolutely not,” says Cecil matter-of-factly. “Jimi Hendrix couldn’t read or write music.”

 Through what she admits has been a process of “trial and error through hours of work,” Cecil has landed on a sonic identity that’s uniquely her own: a fluid sound that oscillates between genres. It could be electronic one moment, but heavily hip-hop-inspired the next. “It’s energy, it’s life, and it can never be contained in a box,” she says, when asked to define her music. “The music I put out two years ago, the music I’m putting out two months from now, the music I’ll be releasing five years from now – it’s always going to be different, and that’s the beauty of being a music producer, and producing on a computer.”

But her own sound isn’t the only thing she’s had to navigate over the years. With EDM still being a predominantly male genre, Cecil has been incredibly forthright about the sexism that she’s faced. Those experiences even fuel one of her biggest tracks yet, “Ignorant,” from her 2017 EP, Persistence. “It’s really interesting when people speak on how we should feel and act when they’re not female producers,” she says. “ If you’re not a female producing music, you’ll never know all of the extra challenges we have to face every day. We definitely have to fight way harder to get the things we want.”

Cecil says she’s noticed some improvements in representation and behaviour towards female artists, but still advises newcomers to stay strong. “Don’t let what anyone says affect you in a negative way,” she says. “Just let it pass through you and just keep going towards your end goal.

“Keep the love in your heart for music. Know who you are, and that you’re as deserving as anyone else to be here.” Imposter syndrome be damned.

Eli RoseMusic might as well have gone right past her and never come back. Eli Rose caught it on the fly, and built the world’s least solitary solo project. Her debut, eponymous album is also the first released by Maison Barclay Canada/Universal Musique Canada. Apparently, it’s possible to succeed on the first try.

“This album exists in large part thanks to SOCAN,” she says, quite seriously. She was invited to the SOCAN Kenekt Song Camp at a time when she was exploring her options, and nothing pointed in the direction of a solo career. But it was there where she made the necessary acquaintances. “I didn’t think I’d make an album,” says Rose. “As a matter of fact, I was contemplating quitting music altogether. But I fell in love with urban music, and I understood that that’s what I wanted to do from then on.”

During the song camp, she was paired with June Nawakii (Nicki Minaj), Ruffsound (Dua Lipa, Loud), and Mike Clay (Clay and Friends) for a round of songwriting. “We wrote ‘Origami,’ and that got the ball rolling,” she says. “Ruffsound said that my voice, with French lyrics, on urban beats, is something no one’s heard before, so we decided that was the direction [in which] we’d go.” Banx & Ranx (Sean Paul, Ella Eyre), Billboard (Britney Spears, Shakira), Realmind (Allie X), and D R M S (Ariane Moffatt) also got on board with the project. “D R M S has always been a mentor to me,” says Rose. “He’s got a great ear for melodies.” But how did she manage to gather so many tasty ingredients for her soup? “Ruffsound played a very big role,” says the singer-songwriter. “He’s the padre of all producers. They’re all people I would never have had access to, were it not for SOCAN’s song camp.”

And even though the pop realm had served her well in the past, as half of the duo Eli et Papillon (Marc Papillon-Ferland), Rose felt a deep-seated desire to upend the rules. “It feels like we’ve been making the same kind of pop forever, in Québec,” she says. “If you wanted to make a pop record, you hired a record producer, some musicians, and you went in the studio to record your songs. But with Ruffsound, I discovered how you can start from scratch and make a totally relevant pop song with just a computer. Producers like him are changing the game.”

After releasing Colorythmie, the duo’s more “youthful” sophomore album, which did well at radio, Rose felt the urge to step away from the project. “I wanted to do something more mature, that was closer to who I really am,” she says. “Marc wanted to get into instrumental stuff and I wanted to make pop music. I needed to know if my voice had its place in this industry. I recorded a folk album, Les fantômes n’existent pas, that was never released. I then did an anglophone EP, Little Storm, that I wrote with Olivier Corbeil [of The Stills]. That was never released. I wrote for others alongside D R M S. I was kinda lost, but I never stopped writing.”

As she was growing increasingly distant from music, music came running back to her “like love at first sight,” as she puts it. “I met the right people at the right time and in the right place,” she says. “It made me want to forge ahead. YOLO!”

Maison Barclay Canada/Universal Musique Canada seeks to promote Francophone artists by giving itself the means to do it abroad. “A record label from Toronto that could very well do without Francophones, but has decided to do it anyway, now that’s encouraging!” says Rose. “Making it in France is a dream of mine, and I’ve had a taste of the French audience when we opened for Angèle and Jain. It’s a really beautiful territory.”

Eli Rose is fully aware that her life today is the result of a series of doors that she willfully stepped through. “When I did a feature on Rymz’s “Chrome,” I told myself I was more than one thing, and that is was OK to try new stuff,” remembers the artist, who doesn’t take anything for granted. She believes Québec isn’t quite ready to hear something other than folk and rap, but she’s willing to take on the challenge. “I believe intelligent Francophone pop music is possible,” she says. So do we.