Naming your new record label End X Music (End Times Music) amidst an ongoing pandemic reveals a rather dark sense of humour, as the independent imprint’s co-creator Donovan Woods acknowledges.
“The name came up during the pandemic, but the idea for the label preceded it,” says the acclaimed Toronto-based songsmith. “It doesn’t really feel like the end of the world, but we’re just trying to get ahead of the curve on that.”
End X Music is a co-venture of Woods and longtime manager Michelle Szeto, of Paquin Entertainment. Based in both Nashville (where Szeto lives) and Toronto, End X Music is distributed internationally by The Orchard. It officially launched in September of 2021, to early positive reaction.
“The response from people like Spotify and Apple has been very encouraging,” says Woods. “They’ve been an important part of what I’ve been able to do as an artist, and it’s fun to watch them get excited about something new.”
To Szeto, “it has solidified for us how much of a community we’ve built on both sides of the border. The reaction from the streaming industry has validated how hard we’ve worked to build Donovan’s label, Meant Well, over the last five years.”
Woods – a renowned, JUNO-winning folk/roots singer-songwriter – has achieved his impressive international success (more than 220 million global streams) in true do-it-yourself (DIY) fashion through Meant Well. “We’ve developed an understanding of how a label works and the decisions that need to be made,” says Szeto. “It’s a shared brain trust.”
Says Szeto about working with other artists, “From being thrilled about some of the opportunities presented to Donovan, we started talking around three years ago about doing that with someone else. The only problem was that we couldn’t agree on anybody!”
That changed when they simultaneously, separately encountered young Winnipeg singer-songwriter Cassidy Mann (see sidebar). “Donovan was a mentor at a songwriting competition, and I was on the jury,” says Szeto. “After coming across Cassidy there, we messaged each other, ‘Have you heard this girl?’ She was certainly a catalyst in making End X Music a reality.”
Mann is the first artist signed to the label, and her single, “Election Night,” was its debut release. Woods confirms that “going forward, my music will come out on the label, too.”
At present, there are no plans for a publishing component. Woods signed an exclusive publishing deal with Concord Music Publishing a year ago, and Mann is self-published.
For future label additions, Woods and Szeto will consider both Canadian and international artists, in a variety of genres. “Our focus will be on songwriters, whether a solo artist or a band member, but that can still be pretty broad,” says Woods.
The label’s mission statement reads, in part: “The core of End Times’ mission is transparency and adaptability.” Woods reaffirms that goal, stressing that “we want to have everyone understand where things are coming from and why, in a fully transparent way.”