When it comes to music listening, curated streams are “the new black.”

As the public’s hunger for music – and the potential of exposing one’s melodic and lyrical art to masses of people on a global scale – has never been higher, the desire of music listeners to hear their favourite songs whenever, wherever, and however they want has led to a demand for curated streams.

That includes a new market for music streams curated by listeners themselves, which is the idea behind a promising new Canadian start-up Milq – a service designed to let participants collectively curate, and thereby organize, the world’s culture.

“The intention is to allow people to collectively curate, and by doing that, to organize the world of culture.” – Jordan Jacobs of Milq

Milq is the Canadian-American brainchild of three people: Torontonians Jordan Jacobs and Tomi Poutanen and New York-based Don MacKinnon. As a service, Milq is a curator of all things cultural, of which music is simply one component. Milq has been available online since November 2014, headquartered in Toronto with a staff of 12, with an additional office in New York.

“The idea behind Milq is simply is that we’ve reached this amazing place: all the world’s cultural content is available on demand to anyone on any device, which should be a fantastic experience,” says Jacobs, a former entertainment lawyer with Toronto firm Cassels, Brock & Blackwell LLP and his own Jacobs Entertainment & Media Law. “But we feel like it’s completely overwhelming, just based on cacophony.”

Jacobs describes Milq, which he calls “sort of a playable Wikipedia,” as a platform of engagement and community that “enables a niche audience to co-exist in a wider world. What we tried to build is cross-cultural, and it allows people to indulge their really super-niche interests, but in a wider context where you’re connected to the rest of it,” he explains. “That’s an experience that doesn’t really exist elsewhere.”

How does it work?

“Anything I search produces an automatic playlist,” Jacobs explains. “Everything is deeply tagged and indexed. We have much more metadata about every single piece of content and the tastes of the users, so we’re able to present people stuff that they like but is generally outside of their frame of knowledge; and when you click a tag, it produces immediately, in real time, a playlist.

“So whether it’s ‘New York Punk’ or the year ‘1985,’ whatever it happens to be, we type it and produce an immediate playlist for you and also show you every existing playlist where that tag has been used. Because of that, you see connections to things that you can’t find anywhere else. You get every frame of reference for an artist or a song, so that part I think is fascinating for people.

“Anyone can ask any question – whether it’s as simple as favourite cover songs, as niche as Polish jazz, or as obscure as you want to get – and then everyone can answer that question using media from Soundcloud, YouTube, Vimeo, Instagram or Vine, and play it back using Rdio or Spotify.

“We basically pull content from everywhere so those playlists operate seamlessly. And those answers, when they come in, get organized on the back end by algorithms that are deeply tagged and indexed and really are meant to determine the best quality and most personalized taste for you.

“So the intention is to allow people to collectively curate, and by doing that, to organize the world of culture.”

Jacobs says hundreds of thousands of listeners/curators are currently using Milq, with partners ranging from The New York Times to the NBA to various record labels.

“Because the content is being curated by a person standing behind it and writing about it, it’s much more thoughtful and you end up with a much richer, deeper experience, and a community behind it,” says Jacobs. “So if you like something, you can connect with the person who happened to put it there, and you start to see these relationships forming from people across the world.”

Jacobs developed and produced the Elvis Costello songwriter performance/interview series Spectacle, and his co-founding partners have similarly illustrious histories, working in fields that prepared them well for Milq. Don MacKinnon founded Hear Music, later sold to Starbucks, and known for such titles as Bob Dylan’s Live At The Gaslight 1962, Joni Mitchell’s Shine and the multiple-Grammy winning Ray Charles album of duets, Genius Loves Company. Tomi Poutanen, the company’s Chief Technical Officer, ran Yahoo Search International and created Yahoo Answers.

As far as who Milq appeals to, Jacobs says the simple answer is everyone, from “kids up to great-grandparents.” He says classical music skews “older,” as do people using Milq on their computers; the younger generation uses it on their cellphones, and EDM lovers usually skew “younger.”

Jacobs says Milq has not yet begun to monetize its company, but hopes to eventually obtain sponsors for their playlists, and will be announcing partnerships “with lots of different cultural organizations and creators” within the next six months.


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With a schedule that sees him playing an average of 200 shows a year, genre-straddling musician Matt Andersen is no stranger to the road. Though he doesn’t write songs while he’s travelling, the New Brunswick native uses his time between gigs to jot down ideas, stashing them away until he’s ready to unleash them. “They get bottled up,” Andersen says with a laugh, “and then when I let them all out — well that’s how I end up with eight new tunes all at once.”

With his soulful voice, melodies that ease effortlessly from blues to roots and rock, along with a solid stage presence, Andersen, 28, has been getting his fair share of attention since he first started playing his own music in his early 20s. Along with a myriad of awards, including 2009 East Coast Music Awards for Blues Recording of the Year and Male Solo Recording of the Year, Andersen has toured and shared stages with the likes of America, Randy Bachman and the late Bo Diddley, among many others. He’s performed at jazz, blues and folk festivals across the country, most recently at the Montreal Jazz Festival, the Vancouver Folk Festival and the Ottawa Blues Festival.

Born into a musical family (“There was always music in the house”), Andersen played in bar bands until finding his own feet on stage. Now there’s no place he’d rather be than in front of an audience. “I’m more comfortable on stage than off — especially if it’s a solo show. Then I’m the only one up there I have to worry about.” Andersen describes his audiences as the reward for the gruelling travel schedule that keeps him away from his Halifax home so many days of the year. “When you do all that driving, and eating crappy gas-station sandwiches, the audience is really my pay-off.”

Andersen says he finds his songwriting inspiration everywhere. “It’s all stuff that happens to me, to friends — and every once and a while, it’s something made up,” he says with a laugh, “you know…standard blues stuff.” But ultimately, Andersen says every song has a “little bit of me in it. I have to sing them every night, so there always has to be a bit of me I can latch onto.”

Andersen’s most recent album, Piggyback, was recorded with Sarnia, Ont.-based harmonica virtuoso Mike Stevens. “He’s a pretty heavy player,” says Andersen, “so it was quite an opportunity to get to do an album with him.” In typical Andersen style, the album’s 12 original songs were co-written over the course of an inspired week, and recorded in three days live off the floor at The Cottage in Guelph, Ont.

For Andersen, the new album means he’ll be spending a lot more time on the road, including tour dates in the United States and in the U.K., but that’s the way he wants it right now. “The more I play, the more people will hear me, so I’m always up for shows. That’s why I keep the schedule I keep.”

Track Record

  • In 2009, Andersen won the Dutch Mason Award at the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival in Frederiction, N.B.
  • He will be touring with Jill Barber as part of the 2009 Vinyl Café Christmas Tour, with host Stuart McLean.
  • In January, Andersen will be competing in the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tenn., the world’s largest gathering of blues acts.

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Rumour has it that a synth for sale on Kijiji is the genesis of Le Couleur. Singer Laurence Giroux-Do confirms: “We were at the guy’s place who was selling it, and all three of us flipped out on the sounds coming from the instrument. We decided to draw at random to find out who would get to keep it. Steeven (Chouinard, drums) and I are a couple, so we figured we had the best chances, but as it turned out, we lost. We exchanged phone numbers with Patrick (Gosselin, guitars and keyboards) and ended up going for drinks… And that’s how Le Couleur came to be.”  

“It’s more natural for us to play in Berlin than in Chicoutimi.” – Laurence Giroux-Do of Le Couleur

It was during a brief stint as the keyboard player for the band Plaza Musique that Giroux-Do – classically trained on the piano at renowned music school Vincent-d’Indy – had her first taste of pop music. “In the beginning, I was thinking ‘If this is what making pop music is all about, it’s definitely not for me,’” she says. “But the more we rehearsed, the more I played and got acquainted with the genre, I started liking it, to the point where I wanted to start my own project. For different reasons, I ended up leaving Plaza, and that’s when I saw the ad for that synth on the internet.”

Last February, Le Couleur launched their first, slightly kitschy yet suavely titled EP, Dolce Désir. One of its songs, “Club Italien,” was inspired by the cafés in Little Italy where men spend their days talking, sipping espressos and watching soccer on TV. “I’d love to know what these guys are talking about,” says Giroux-Do. Out of the five songs on the EP, only “Club Italien” and “Autovariation #64” are new material. The other tracks were either re-visited, inspired by their re-mixes, or by their live show’s evolution. The contrast between the slick and ethereal album versions and the very Disco-tinged live versions is indeed quite marked.

“We’re completely smitten by the live approach of Norwegian producer Todd Terje,” says Giroux-Do. “His live sets are completely insane! Steeven studied drums and pop music at UQAM. On stage, he plays really loud and it propels our songs. The tempo gradually accelerates and although we navigate through various atmospheres, one thing remains constant: driving bass. It’s a recipe that works well for us and it’s that type of show we’re going to deliver during the FrancoFolies on June 18.”

Crossing Boundaries

Le Couleur’s electro-disco-pop fare is easily exportable anywhere in the world, and it’s the Lisbon Lux imprint that had the wherewithal to bet on its success. Giroux-Do’s airy voice recalls those of Charlotte Gainsbourg and Mylène Farmer, while the trio’s sound adds the French Touch to Scandinavian Nu Disco or the sexy pop of Montréal’s Chromeo. The band just returned from a few dates in France. The label is working several key markets – such as Francophone areas of Europe, in addition to Germany and Austria, major American urban areas and even parts of Asia – and it’s starting to pay off. “We’re doing great in Europe, and most of our influences are from there,” says Giroux-Do. “It’s more natural for us to play in Berlin than in Chicoutimi. The way things happened for Peter Peter is an inspiration for us; we’d love to follow in his footsteps and go to France for three or four months in order to build a solid base from which to move forward.”

This type of outside-the-box thinking is also noticeable in the way Le Couleur release their music. They prefer releasing EPs, a logical move in a market where album sales are declining new music is constantly pouring forth. The band also does re-mixes for others, and doesn’t shy away from vinyl. This D.I.Y. and polymorphic approach is perfectly adapted to the current multi-format environment, and certainly not a hindrance for the band. “It allows us to go with the flow and follow our whims,” says Groux-Do. “Our label doesn’t try to make us fit in any kind of industry-related mold. We do music, and that’s it.”

Fille ou garçon, on se pose la question / Une robe ou un pantalon” (“Girl or boy, we wonder / Dress or pants”), sings Laurence in “Télé-Jeans.” This playful transgression also refers to gender issues. “In French, words have genders,” says Giroux-Do. “I felt like playing around with it, to see how one could play with that rule and sidestep it – hence the name of our band. Plus, on a lighter note, I think it’s really sexy when Anglos say ‘Le couleur’!”

Le Couleur and Les Marinellis
Showcasing during the Rendez-vous Pros des Francos
A SOCAN presentation
June 18, 5 p.m., Pub Rickard’s, Montréal


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