Jonathan Simkin isn’t just the “Nickelback guy” anymore.
The Vancouver music business maverick, who first rose to prominence as the lawyer for Chad Kroeger and co., is now the head of two successful independent labels (604 Records, Light Organ Records) and his own Simkin Artist Management, with dozens of artists under at least one of his many wings.
His biggest success story of late is undoubtedly the incredible breakthrough of “Call Me Maybe” (which Amazon recently announced is its best-selling digital single of all time) by Carly Rae Jespen, co-written by Josh Ramsay of Marianas Trench, an act on 604. And while Simkin admits scoring another “Call Me Maybe” would be like “hitting the lotto jackpot six times in a row,” that doesn’t mean he won’t be trying.
Since Jepsen is busy starring in a Broadway production of Cinderella, Simkin says it might be unrealistic to expect another album from the singer this year. Meanwhile, he’s excited about Marianas Trench, which has signed with Cherry Tree/Interscope for outside of Canada and is currently in the studio.
“When the bottom fell out of the business, that was the best time to start signing bands.”
“Josh just continues to amazes me,” says Simkin. “We’ve really worked hard to build the band’s name up all over the world. It feels like this could be their year.” In addition, 604’s country division is getting stronger, with singer-songwriter Dallas Smith (ex-Default) recently being signed to Republic Nashville in the U.S., part of the Big Machine group.
Simkin also continues to grow Light Organ, an alternative label launched in 2010 that’s home to acts like The Zolas, who recently toured with Hollerado; Polaris Prize nominee Louise Burns; and The Mounties, a new project from Hawksley Workman, ex-Hot Hot Heat singer Steve Bays, and Ryan Dahle of Limblifter.
“When the bottom kind of fell out of the business, to me that was the best time to start signing bands,” says Simkin. “I’m not competing against other Canadian labels!” He’s particularly excited about gathering his acts all under one physical roof this year. Simkin recently purchased a building in Vancouver’s Strathcona neighourhood that will become his headquarters, complete with recording studio and soundstage for music videos and live performances.
“It’s a dream I’ve had for a while,” he says. “To have our own production suites will enable us to make great music on a reasonable budget. It also creates a cross-pollination that has been a big part of our success. Look at Carly’s ‘Call Me Maybe.’ Why did Josh Ramsay produce that? I was working with both, and I put them together. I love creating an environment where people meet and work together.
“We’ll have a space in our building where people can write. We’ll also be able to have pay-per-view shows live streaming from the building. It’s about facilitating the creation of art, but also to record it, and disseminate it.
“Nobody knows 100% where the business is going, but I’m trying to create an establishment so that I’ll be able to monetize it wherever it goes. Plus it’s going to be fun. We’re going to experiment.”