One of the more difficult aspects of a songwriting artist’s career is gaining a foothold in a competitive market.
So, when a SOCAN-assisted showcase series in Los Angeles venues featured emerging, Montréal-based, Anglophone SOCAN members Aiza, Clerel, and Kallitechnis, each performer was grateful for the opportunity to showcase their music and network with key local music ecosystem personnel.
“It felt great to be recognized as an artist,” says singer-songwriter and actor Aiza, mentioning that a forced break of two-and-a-half years from performing, due to pandemic restrictions, made her “feel so disconnected.” R&B pop diva Kallitechnis says the invitation to perform was very much appreciated. “It was actually my first headlining show in L.A.,” she says. “I just felt really loved and supported. It felt great to be recognized as an artist.”
The monthly series – which began with Aiza in May of 2022 at The Love Song Bar, and continued in June and July of the year at Gold Diggers, with Clerel and Kallitechnis, respectively – was co-curated by Pop Montréal’s Evan Dubinsky and SOCAN Creative Executives Sara Dendane (Montréal) and Racquel Villagante (Los Angeles). The Canadian Consulate in L.A. covered travel expenses, and each artist enjoyed free accommodations at the SOCAN House in L.A. during the week of their showcase.
Pop Montréal Executive Director Jennifer Dorner said the goal was to give a few local artists a boost, following the Federal government’s decision to literally shut down live entertainment overnight in 2020 due to COVID concerns. “Touring was pretty much halted,” said Dorner. “So, the goal was trying to keep up those connections with markets internationally, develop new markets, and ensure that existing markets were maintained. We worked with Evan to write a grant to the Canadian Council for the Arts, which had a focus on official language minority communities, so obviously that’s Anglos in Québec.
“I just felt really loved and supported. It felt great to be recognized as an artist” – Kallitechnis
“And we noticed throughout the pandemic that the groups, artists and communities who were hardest hit were those from marginalized communities – especially emerging artists. It was very obvious that those particular artists needed an extra boost, and support, to access new markets. So, it seemed like a perfect time, once the pandemic restrictions lifted, to go for targets and markets. And obviously, L.A is a very good one for music. We were very happy that we could partner with SOCAN and have someone locally on site. Having SOCAN House in L.A. was extremely helpful.”
With Dubinsky acting as point person, corralling industry contacts, and Pop Montréal injecting funds into L.A. marketing and promotion, Dorner says the event – which will continue in October and November 2022 with freshly-minted 2022 Polaris Prize winner Pierre Kwenders, and a TBA act, respectively – enjoyed packed venues, and was very successful. “We did manage to get radio play for the Canadian artists there, and interviews,” she says. “Having that visibility and airtime has been extremely helpful for those artists.”
Clerel said his participation allowed him to tread new ground, as this was his very first time in the city. “I spent 10 days there, and I met a lot of Canadian music professionals who were connected to Los Angeles,” says the R&B crooner enthusiastically. “The show was where I definitely met the most people. I got to play with amazing musicians from the U.S., met songwriters and producers, and ended up doing a couple of sessions while I was there. I spoke to some folks about distribution, so it was very positive, and made a million times better because of the access I had to SOCAN House. I look forward to going back in the future.”
Afropop/R&B artist Aiza, who rehearsed and hosted writing sessions at the SOCAN House, extended her trip “on my dime and time” to exploit further opportunities, including negotiating a pending U.S. music publishing deal. “It was really lovely,” she says. “The Love Song was packed, and I got to meet a lot of cool people. I spent the rest of the week meeting up with different artists, doing some recording, and catching a few shows. This is all lining up really well for the release of my debut album in 2023. It was nice ushering in this new phase.”
For Kallitechnis, it cemented plans to move the City of Angels. “The fact that I have entities like Pop Montréal and the Canadian Consulate co-sign me, must mean that I’m doing something right,” she says. “ That they’re willing to associate my brand with theirs is an affirmation that gives me incentive to move to L.A. It’s the next logical step. I got to see a lot of the collaborators, and a lot of the networks that I built over the years, so it was a nice full-circle moment to motivate me, and know I have a support system there.”