This stony plain has produced a rich musical crop.
Long recognized as Canada’s premier roots-music label, Edmonton-based Stony Plain Records is highly regarded in international music-industry circles. This year marks the company’s 35th anniversary, and it has celebrated by releasing a double-CD (with bonus DVD) collection.
35 Years Of Stony Plain illustrates the label’s stylistic breadth. “We call ourselves a roots music label, and that is a pretty broad umbrella,” says Stony Plain founder and head Holger Petersen, one of the most respected figures in the Canadian music industry. The compilation features Canadian singer-songwriters like Ian Tyson, David Wilcox and Corb Lund alongside U.S. counterparts like Emmylou Harris and Steve Earle. It also includes the likes of Jeff Healey, Long John Baldry and King Biscuit Boy, as well as Duke Robillard and Rory Block.
As the compilation confirms, Stony Plain signs (or licenses albums from) American as well as Canadian artists. The label also has a well-established network of international distributors, which has proven invaluable to the Canadians on their roster. “The Canadian blues market is very supportive, but the only way we can make the numbers add up is by selling these artists internationally,” says Petersen. He cites two summer Canadian blues releases by MonkeyJunk and Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne as examples.
Petersen takes pride in Stony Plain boosting the careers of Canadian artists, especially fellow Albertans Tyson and Lund. “They’re both really talented songwriters and artists, who are from and who write about this region,” he says. “That makes it extra satisfying.” Petersen admits that the phenomenal platinum sales of Tyson’s 1986 album Cowboyography (his first on Stony Plain and the label’s all-time bestseller) proved crucial for the company’s survival.
“The synchronization and master licensing income, and of course the SOCAN residuals, have made a big difference over the years.”
The music publishing component has been an important factor in Stony Plain’s longevity. “The synch[ronization] and master [licensing] income, and of course the SOCAN residuals, have made a big difference over the years,” says Petersen. “We have two active publishing companies, under the banner of Stony Plain Music. We tend to co-publish with the artists we sign. That’s a great incentive for everybody, especially nowadays. We’ve had a lot of arrangements with Canadian and some U.S. TV series where material in our catalogue is pre-cleared. They need to move quickly and not have to track down a publisher separately from the master owner.” Recent success stories in television placements include upcoming TNT series Memphis Beat and a tune for a new DVD release of the Crossing Jordan series.
Petersen has long lent his talent and energy to industry organizations. “I was a director of SOCAN for many years [1990-2006],” he says. “That was a great experience for me. It’s an excellent organization that really supports Canadian songwriters.”