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.

He’s officially Vice-President of Publishing for Anthem Entertainment, “but people call me The Ambassador,” says Gilles Godard. This Franco-Ontarian, who began his career as a country singer-songwriter, is now one of Canada’s most influential publishers worldwide, and his position allows him to introduce local writers and composers to the American music industry.

Gilles Godard, Raymond Fabi, SOCAN Awards, 2019, Montreal, Gala

Gilles Godard and Raymond Fabi, composer of the music for the youth TV series Arthur after winning the Music for Television (National) Award – Youth Award at the 2019 Montréal SOCAN Awards Gala. (Photo: Frédérique Ménard-Aubin)

Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019, was a good day for Godard and Anthem. That morning, the American Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences announced the nominees for the 62nd edition of the Grammy Awards that will take place on Jan. 26, 2020, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The rap-pop sensation of the moment, rapper and singer Lizzo, is at the head of the pack with eight nominations – thanks to the immense success of her song “Truth Hurts,” from her third album, Cuz I Love You.

“Recently, we bought two catalogues, one with several Lizzo hits, and the other composed of hits by The Weeknd,” says Godard. These are catalogues that belong to the Boardwalk Music Group, which represents the American composer and producer Ricky Reed, who co-wrote “Truth Hurts.” Bingo! Godard and his team are nominated for four Grammys: Recording, Albumr, Solo Pop Performance, and Song of the Year. Not to mention the possibility that country star Reba McEntire wins the Country Album of the Year trophy. “I think it’ll be a good year for us at the Grammys,” say the publisher, whose company (formely ole Media Management) has won several trophies over the last few years thanks to hits by Taylor Swift and Beyoncé, among others.

Godard is even prouder because he considers his company’s structure as “independent” compared to the other big players of the publishing world. “We’re smaller and more agile, but well financed, in the end,” he says. “I believe we still have an independent mind-set, which gives us an edge,” says the Anthem VP, who moved to Nashville in the late ’80s.

Before becoming a music publisher, the Cornwall, Ontario-born ambassador was a successful country singer-songwriter, who launched his eponymous debut album on his own label, Book Shop. He started as an Anglophone artist, but he released a Francophone album, En amour, which won the ADISQ Country Album of the Year Félix award in 1987, before moving to Nashville to write songs for several American country artists.

“I’ve always loved music, but winning that Félix – as a producer and an artist – gave me the opportunity to work with many artists,” he says, and from that point on, he learned the ropes of the music business. “I’m lucky to have had the chance to transition from songwriter to publisher and producer, and I’m still active as a songwriter, even though I’m more often than not a publisher,” says Godard. “It helps me understand the reality of artists—I’m not just a producer; I listen to what songwriters have to say.”

“Television and the movies are the new radio. The field of synchronization is exceptional right now.”

By that he means songwriters from Québec, and the rest of Canada, among others. That’s why he is nicknamed The Ambassador. Godard offers them priceless contact with the American industry, and he doesn’t hesitate to introduce local producers and artists to his vast network. “Do you know Tebey?” he asks. “He recorded a duet with Marie-Mai, ‘The Good Ones.’ It’s through him that I met her team, and right now, we’re connecting Marie-Mai with our team of songwriters in the pop-urban-hip-hop division in Los Angeles.”

After more than 25 years in the publishing world, Godard has a very clear perspective on the evolution of the industry, especially the critical role of publishers. “Publishers have evolved to become somewhat A&R types,” he says, referencing talent scouts for record labels. “We’re on the lookout for, and sign, young songwriters we believe in, and introduce them to talented musicians and artists. And we work really hard to propel their careers.”

The other agent of change, obviously, is the digital revolution – for better or worse – as it affects royalties paid to songwriters. “We often say that television and the movies are the new radio,” says Godard. “The field of synchronization is exceptional right now.” That’s thanks to the new opportunities songwriters have to see their songs used in screen productions. For Godard, that’s the only “fair trade” in the music industry. “The songwriter who owns the copyright receives half of the royalties, and the owner of the masters receives the other half,” he says. “For the past five years, those royalties have experienced strong growth thanks to the video streaming platforms.”

But the low amount of royalties earned by songs played online remains, as Pierre Lapointe pointed out during the recent ADISQ gala. On this issue, the publisher is on the side of songwriters. “These companies couldn’t exist if their platforms didn’t have access to all those songs, so it’s unfair [that the royalties are so meager],” he says. “Those rates will need to be adjusted, and I think a change is coming, because things can’t remain as they are now.”

Do publishers have any clout in this debate? Could a collaboration between the major publishers to put pressure on the music streaming sites of the world become a reality? “Yes,” Godard says, “and I think it’ll happen one day. Our lawyers are very active, and discuss this question with lawmakers to make them understand that if things don’t change, there’ll be no money left to make [in songwriting]. Things need to change, because some players make money and don’t fairly compensate the creators.”

To be continued…

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.”