As one of the longest-standing events in Western Canada, the century-old Calgary Stampede continues to draw a global audience to its 10-day, city-wide, Western-style event, showcasing rodeo competitions and vaudeville entertainment, agriculture programming, and a memorable music concert series.

While the outdoor show celebrates Western heritage, culture, and community spirit, the diverse musical lineup is a key pillar to its success.

Roderick Tate

Programming Manager Roderick Tate accepts the Licensed to Play Award on behalf of the Calgary Stampede organization at the 2015 SOCAN Awards. (Photo: Grant Martin Photography)

“Music is one of those foundational pieces for the Calgary Stampede. It’s always been an important part of the Calgary Stampede,” says the organization’s Programming Manager, Roderick Tate.

On June 22, 2015, the Calgary Stampede was honoured at the 2015 SOCAN Awards, for its continued commitment to developing music through community and culture, all legally and ethically licensed in partnership with SOCAN.

“It’s vital for us to recognize businesses and organizations like the Calgary Stampede that are committed to being Licensed To Play with SOCAN,” says SOCAN’s Leslie Craig, Director of Licensing. “Organizations that use music to make their business better are doing the right and legal thing for Canada’s songwriters and music publishers by recognizing that they are an essential partner in the music ecosystem. The prestigious Licensed To Play Award celebrates the highest commitment to this partnership.”

There are more than 100 live musical performances in and around Stampede Park where the main events take place, with an estimated 400 other live musical performances throughout the city and surrounding area.

Carly Rae Jepsen

SOCAN member Carly Rae Jepsen performs at the 2014 Calgary Stampede. (Photo Credit: Tye Carson/Flickr)

Music has risen in importance since the Stampede’s early days. “Music is one of those traditional pieces that even settlers and pioneers would have celebrated as one of their forms of entertainment,” says Tate. “In different ways and forms, music has been around since the Stampede started.  Even the rich history of First Nations is shared through song.”
The outdoor show is expanding beyond rodeo and vaudeville enthusiasts and die-hard country music fans, by curating music programming that appeals to a broader demographic of stampeders. As a result, it’s successfully winning over a new generation of admirers. “We definitely have diverse music offerings,” says Tate. “We’ve got everything from orchestral music to rock, pop, hip-hop – you name it!”

In 2015, the festival welcomed country music stars Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton, the legendary Stevie Wonder, and top-selling digital male country artist Jason Aldean. Previous chart-toppers who’ve graced the Stampede’s stages include KISS, Garth Brooks, Katy Perry, Carly Rae Jepsen, Dragonette, and Reba McEntire, among other internationally renowned acts.

“We want to showcase the best in musical talent,” says Tate. “It’s one part of what we do. But we also love to foster music education and provide the opportunity for up-and-comers to be a part of it through a number of annual competitions that we hold during the Calgary Stampede.”

The Stampede helps local and rising musicians gain exposure through the annual Nashville North Star and the Stampede Youth Talent Search competitions, which give aspiring artists a chance to showcase their talent.

The not-for-profit community organization also carries on business year-round, facilitating arts and music education programs geared to youth. The Stampede Show Band and the Young Canadian School of Performing Art provide young Calgarians with learning opportunities and training that they might not get elsewhere.

Although cowboy culture is widespread in Calgary, the Stampede is very involved in building Alberta’s overall arts culture. “Supporting artists is really important to us, and we love celebrating country musicians in that way, and Canadian music in general,” says Tate.

When asked what the future of music looks like for the Calgary Stampede, Tate says, “Music is going to continue to grow and become an even bigger part of who we are and in the makeup of our organization, for the duration of the festival and year-round.

“Whether it’s through the education, or showcasing great talent, music is not going anywhere, and we recognize it as a significant part of Canadian culture, and also in who we are.”

When Mark Jowett, Terry McBride and their original partners formed Nettwerk Productions in the mid-‘80s, they had no real plan, no long-term aspirations.

“We just got together to release a few bands,” says Jowett. “We loved Skinny Puppy and Grapes of Wrath. We were really inspired by the cool music that was being released in the 1980s, like The Cure and Joy Division, so we were just happy to be involved in the scene. And then it just kind of exploded and it’s been exploding in one sense or another ever since.”

The company pioneered “collapsed copyright,” which allows artists to release music under their own labels, retaining their own copyright.

What started as a small, Vancouver-based indie label has since grown into a respected international music publisher, label and management company with offices in Canada, the U.S., the U.K. and Germany.

It’s been a long, wild ride, with many highlights along the way. From 1997 to 1999, Sarah McLachlan’s Lilith Fair tours, staged under Nettwerk’s auspices, grossed $16 million – a large portion of which was donated women’s charities. Nettwerk were crucial in establishing Barenaked Ladies in the U.S., and the band has now sold more than 10 million albums. They also established Avirl Lavigne worldwide. Nettwerk released Coldplay’s first album Parachutes – after EMI rejected it – throughout North America. The company pioneered “collapsed copyright,” which allows artists to release music under their own labels, retaining their own copyright, while still be marketed and promoted through Nettwerk.

To celebrate its 30-year milestone, Nettwerk invited its current roster to plunder its catalogue: the result is an inventive marriage of past and present called From Cover To Cover: 30 Years At Nettwerk. The label is also re-releasing several of its classic albums on vinyl for a new generation of music aficionados.

In 2014, Nettwerk raised more than $10 million in equity growth financing to boost artist development and catalogue acquisition. The company has since acquired the rights to Robot of the Century Music (Roadrunner’s rock catalogue), and to Maxi Records, a U.S. disco label; Nettwerk One Music has also entered a partnership with Nashville-based Ten Ten Music Group, which gives the Vancouver company a solid foothold in Music City.

“Our goal now,” says Jowett, “is to maximize those partnerships, to breathe new life into those catalogues, find new uses for those songs. And of course, we’re interested in finding great new writers. We want to focus on quality, and if we get that right, then we have a strong infrastructure that can really maximize the potential of those songs.”

The music business, of course, has undergone a few sea changes since the 1980s, and Nettwerk continues to adapt.

“Download sales are down and album sales are down,” acknowledges Jowett, “but streaming income is rising, quite phenomenally. The difference is that it’s much more of a singles market now. Most people, when they’re streaming music, are listening to it in the context of playlists rather than albums. So we’ve had to make a paradigm shift to really focus on playlists and how to get our artists included on those lists. That’s very different from trying to sell albums at physical retail.

“We’re optimistic that in the next two or three years we’ll all have a different perspective on revenue streams. And I say that mostly with my label hat on. The master side is looking more rewarding, whereas on the publishing side we have to really fight to increase the writers’ and publishers’ shares of streaming royalties. It’s a crucial battle that’s going on right now.”

Summer has started off nicely for David Murphy. On June 18, 2015, he was given the Christopher J. Reed award, an honour granted to a publisher for his influence in the community and his role in furthering the recognition of that misunderstood profession.

Proof of his influence can be found in many places. Currently on the board of Musicaction, he also was president of the board at the Professional Music Publishers’ Association (PMPA) from 2000 to 2014, not to mention the numerous training sessions he’s given to his peers. “My drive for being so active is the drive to make publishing better known and recognized in the music industry,” says Murphy. “To this day, people still underestimate the contribution a publisher can bring to the development of a songwriter, and even of a singer. We are partners in their career development, just as much as managers are.”

“To this day, people still underestimate the contribution a publisher can bring to the development of a songwriter.”

Murphy’s career in the music industry began by seeing him knocking on all the doors he could find, a rudderless music lover looking for somewhere to start during his college years. After a few detours, Murphy ended up at SODRAC (Society for reproduction rights of authors, composers and publishers in Canada) where he acquired his knowledge of copyrights, and later at Disques Musi-Art, where he was in charge of music publishing. He left in 1998 and, alongside his wife Mélanie Fuller, he founded David Murphy & Cie., a copyright management company offering creative support, promotion and administration. Those are the three pillars that are his core business nowadays. His clients are numerous, both from the publishing world and from the songwriting world: Richard Séguin, Vincent Vallières, Marie-Pierre Arthur, as well as stalwarts of film and TV composing, such as FM Le Sieur, Michel Corriveau and Nicolas Maranda.

A publisher’s job is accomplished on many levels at once. Murphy remembers a brief comment he made to Jean Millaire at last year’s SOCAN Awards Gala in Montréal. Millaire wanted to thank him for having placed a song by Marjo, which he composed, in a TV ad in Chile. “Yes, it is absolutely possible to have your music travel,” he remembers saying. “That’s what I’m here for.” Or, in another instance, Murphy recalls all the publishing work required so that Alexandre Belliard’s show – Légende d’un peuple, presented at this year’s Francofolies, where artists will cover some of Québec history’s most important songs – could be created. “Without the work of a publisher, such a show simply cannot exist,” says Murphy. “This job may be unsung, but now more than ever, it’s fundamental in our industry.”

Why? Because the stakes are higher than ever when it comes to publishing. As Murphy explains, it’s not so much the trade that has changed as the environment, thanks to the digital era. Murphy offers an example. “The Copyright Act has to be reviewed in order to make it more technologically neutral,” he says. “Let me explain: the private copying regime, which is the tariff that has to be paid by manufacturers of blank media such as CDs and DVDs, was created in 1996. Back then, blank CDs and DVDs sold like crazy, and that meant sizable revenues for the rights holders. Nowadays, USB keys, cell phones and MP3 players, which serve the same copying purpose as blank CDs and DVDs did, are not subject to this private copy regime. This has meant a significant decrease in private copy royalties. That’s why that law has to be updated in a more technology-neutral manner.” The Internet and all those other digital platforms that have fundamentally changed the way we consume music make the work of a music publisher even more relevant, even essential, for the future of music creators.

And that’s just the beginning. For David Murphy, this new environment raises fundamental questions about the presence, accessibility and durability of Québecois culture on digital platforms. Now based in Magog, this fully committed publisher is ready to face the new challenges his trade has in store, and he embraces the situation completely. This is mainly reflected in the fact that he’s not looking for growth, but to deepen his existing relationships. “I’m more in a ‘little bit goes a long way’ frame of mind,” says Murphy. “I don’t seek growth, I want things to be done well.”