Like all artists, songwriters have to be skilled businesspeople if they want to make a living from their work. Yet artists are rarely offered opportunities to learn about mundane but crucial things like budgets, marketing strategies, and taxes, on the assumption that they’re somehow above all that.

Wrong, says Toronto singer-songwriter Domanique Grant: “We’re told for so long that we’re artists. And one of the biggest problems with developing artists is that we’re made to think entrepreneurship isn’t part of our career, when it’s actually one of the most important parts.”

Luckily, Grant has been able to participate in a SOCAN Foundation program that aims to change that. Established in 2018, the TD Incubator for Creative Entrepreneurship, a partnership with the Foundation, supports emerging music creators with funding, mentorship, showcase possibilities, and a webinar series that offers tools and resources to help them build sustainable careers in music. Grant says the support helped her work on songwriting and production for her upcoming album, as well as boosting her visibility, and providing invaluable connections and resources.

“It gives you practical help, including money, so you can actually do something to advance your career,” says Grant, who also hosts a web series featuring music professionals. “I was able to expand my music catalogue and work with other writers. Things like that can pay off. And it connects you with a mentor in the industry – in my case, Ralph Singh at Universal Music Canada – so you can continue to grow. Getting help to break down administrative rights, and understand how music publishing works, was key for me.

“The program emphasizes the fact that being a songwriter means you’re an entrepreneur,” she adds. “And you need to own that, and know that you’re capable of understanding the industry and doing things for yourself, rather than looking for someone to do it for you. I think that’s what was most valuable about the Incubator.”

Halifax singer-songwriter Dave Sampson had already been signed to a publishing deal when he entered the Incubator program, and he continues to work on his new album with producers in Nashville via Zoom. Sampson used the Incubator support to build his website and social media marketing, and develop his songwriting and networking skills with his mentor, Sony Music Canada’s Joe Ferrari.

“It was great to pick his brain over the year and ask him questions,” says Sampson. “We’d get on the phone and I’d play him songs, and it was cool to connect and get his feedback. This whole industry is based on networking and connections.”

Sampson found the webinars on business skills equally valuable. “Every week I’d tune in for an hour, and they’d have a social media manager, or someone at Canada’s Walk of Fame, or an accountant showing us how to do our taxes, and all the administrative stuff that tends to fall by the wayside,” he says. “It was like online university, and what you take from it and how you use it are up to you. It’s like a master class in virtually everything.”

Desirée Dawson is a Vancouver singer-songwriter who’s been extremely busy writing and releasing music since she won the CBC Searchlight Competition in 2016. In fact, Dawson had so many projects on the go that she used her Incubator mentorship with music publisher Warner Chappell’s Vivian Barclay help her narrow her scope and focus on what was most important.

“We had good conversations about things like what direction I’m going with my career,” she says. “And she had a lot of insights into things like song placements, and writing for other artists.”

Dawson used the Incubator funding for recording and production, and she was selected to travel to Toronto to record and play a showcase for music industry pros. But she also raves about the webinar series. “Hearing so many different perspectives from so many people throughout the industry was really helpful,” she says. “It kind of lit this fire under me to keep going, and remind me that if I need help, I can reach out and find it.

“It was also a reminder that I’m not alone, even though I’m an indie artist who’s basically doing it all on my own. It was nice to remember that there are others in this position, and that there are resources I can use to help me build my business.”

The program was pioneered by Charlie Wall-Andrews, Executive Director of SOCAN Foundation, in consultation with artists and industry leaders, to design a program that empowers music creators to become artist entrepreneurs and ensure their passion and talent become successful and sustainable careers. The TD Incubator for Creative Entrepreneurship program will accept applications early in 2021 for the next cohort. More information can be found on

In her final year of high school, Nostalgix went to her first electronic music show – and things would never be the same. “My entire life changed that night,” says the Vancouver-based DJ and EDM artist. “I felt like a found a place where I really belonged. I fell in love with the music and how much fun everyone was having.”

Nostalgix bought a mixer and began teaching herself how to DJ in her dorm room at the University of British Columbia, eventually landing a gig at a pub on campus. She started playing larger venues and festivals in Vancouver, which inspired her to start writing her own music. “I played this one really big show and I remember walking off the stage and thinking, ‘I want to have my own songs that make people dance,’” she says.

Around three years ago she released her first songs, including the infectious and instantly danceable “Alien Invasion” and the heavy-hitting festival anthem “Basics.” As she became a stronger producer technically, she also worked up the nerve to incorporate vocals into her songs.

“I can make a song and put it out easy, but if I have my own voice on it, it feels much more personal. I was definitely nervous,” she says. But those nerves don’t come through on her latest EP, Act Out, which came out in November of 2020 on Night Bass – where, on the title track, Nostalgix raps with cool-girl swagger.

Nostalgix has been celebrated widely, from signing to Steve Aoki’s Dim Mak imprint, to being tipped as one of DJ Mag‘s “12 Emerging Artists,” to coverage in Forbes magazine. She’s spent as much time as possible in 2020 in the studio, working on her vocals, writing new songs, and even teaching herself how to play piano – something she says she would have never done if not for the quarantine. “The year has had its ups and downs,” she says, “but I realized I need to take it day by day and just make music, and eventually, I’ll get back out there.”

Brothers Simon and Henri Kinkead consider all forms of Migration on their first album. Released last October, its title is directly inspired by said action of leaving a place. With the help of Simon Kearney on production duties, the duo offers ten songs about questioning, life changes that we choose (or are imposed upon us), and the necessary evolution from childhood to adulthood – the kind of concerns that go as well with being in one’s mid-20s as coffee goes with Monday morning.

KinkeadBirds leave for the winter, but they always come home. The Kinkead twins try to look to the future, mourning what they leave behind. “COVID is putting us through an existential crisis in a context where everyone in experiencing a crisis. It’s become hard to distinguish between the stress that comes from within and the stress generated by the pandemic,” says Henri. The confusion is absolute.

“We’re surrounded by anxiety and our society is constantly evolving, not always in the right direction, and it’s OK to question oneself – even though we have to manage a crisis that’s bigger than ourselves,” Simon adds. “It’s not hard to lose oneself, and finding the right balance is hard.”

Today’s young adults grew up with social media, and they defined themselves that way, which exposes them to suffering from overexposure, even in a context of isolation. “For us, then, it’s only normal to sing about what we go through and write very personal songs,” says Simon. Directly addressing other identity issues such as sexual orientation and belonging, they don’t formalize their speech, but say things as they are.

“We’re not trying to provoke,” says Simon. “We don’t pretend to be Hubert Lenoir, but we also know we represent another model of difference. We’re another vector of that message which can only benefit from being shared as much as possible. The more models there are, the better people who don’t feel represented will feel.”

According to Henri, producer Simon Kearney solidified Kinkead’s tenets by providing them with the groovy foundation for their album. “He brought us a stylistic cohesion,” says Henri. “We’re songwriters, we work with voice and guitars. Once we got into the studio, we told him about our inspirations, and he found our sonic identity.”

Although some believe the twins have a sixth sense that allows them to communicate without saying a word, maybe it’s just that they have a somewhat esoteric gift for cohesion. “Our telepathy is simply that we know each other’s limits. We don’t put a spanner in each other’s works because we’re in total symbiosis,” says Henri.

And although the key to their success resides in their common vision, they’re still able to recognize the strengths that distinguish each sibling. “Henri has a better instinct for pop hooks than I do,” Simon readily admits. “I’m more into words, the ways of saying things, and making a text work. Let’s just say I’m more vulnerable and sensitive.” “Simon is the emo half of the band,” Henri adds with a giggle. “We do love bouncing off each other’s ideas, and letting inspiration take us wherever it wants. Like for the song ‘Atomic Suzie,’ I had this idea of a woman in a trance who goes to a karaoke bar and just slays. The idea came to me after jamming on drums and bass.”

Behind the concept of migration lies a notion of the evolution of humans towards an ideal version of themselves, while believing in the necessity to grow in an environment where life is good. “The climate crisis is one thing, but actively participating in the transition towards a political and economic system that will allow us to survive, while avoiding profit flowing only to an infinitesimal portion of the population, has become an absolute necessity,” says Henri. “Instead of allowing only 10 percent of people to go live on Mars, maybe we should strive to provide everyone with drinking water without devolving into a civil war.” “A revolution is something really hard to do,” his brother adds. “We must find a balance between all the things that are important to us, and the things that are necessary for others to live, too.”

Then, after the revolution, or the non-end-of-the-world, the end of the pandemic, one desire will continue: they’ll be playing this music that wants to be a vector for change. “Music exists through exchanging,” Henri believes. “We were lucky enough to be favourably received even without an actual physical record launch. Let’s hope it bodes well for what’s to come. We’re lucky enough to be young, and full of the energy required to carry on. We’re optimistic. We’ll be in full swing when the time comes.” “We’ll just go work at Normandin’s [a family-oriented chain of restaurants in the greater Québec City area] while we feed ourselves artistically,” Simon goes on. “Nothing can stop us now.”