Anyone with a pulse probably realizes that Nova Scotia is a hotbed of musical talent.
Joel Plaskett, Classified, Sarah McLachlan, Sloan, Old Man Luedecke, Jenn Grant and Wintersleep are just a few of the province’s most noteworthy artists. But it’s the burgeoning potential of the region’s lesser-known lights that brings Scott Long, Executive Director of Music Nova Scotia, to Great Britain at the time of this writing, May of 2017 – where he can trumpet their value.
“Music Nova Scotia works as an export office for the province in the music business,” says Long. “We cover these events to also drum up interest, and meet and network with buyers. I try to meet as many agents, festival bookers, record labels, and other people like that, as I can.”
Long says the results are tangible. “We’ve been doing this pretty seriously now for five or six years, and we track the return on investment,” explains Scott, who joined Music Nova Scotia in 2008. “It’s definitely worth it. We wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t. The thing about it, though, is that it’s a long game. We see results from being at The Great Escape [an annual festival of new music held in May in Brighton, U.K.] – we’re here this week – but it could take three years before an artist would truly benefit from attending an event like this.”
Music Nova Scotia, a provincially- and privately-funded organization, established in 1989, has several mandates to help local musicians extend their careers beyond the 902 and 782 area codes. Spreading the gospel of Nova Scotia musicianship to foreign lands is only one of them.
Long says there are several current success stories unfolding as Music Nova Scotia targets the U.K. and Germany. “Ben Caplan is doing a lot of live touring over here,” he says. “Erin Costelo is touring Germany right now. Ria Mae has benefited from our investment in export. She’s doing really well.
“Some of our up-and-coming exporters who’ve taken part in a lot of our activity lately include Port Cities; Like A Motorcycle, a punk band from Halifax that’s actually gaining some interest overseas; and on this trip, we have an indie rock band called Mauno, signed to a U.K. label called Tin Angel, and we’re working to help promote them. Mo Kenney has had success in the U.K. and Germany as well, and she’s touring Europe at the moment. We have realistic expectations, but we’re seeing more and more Nova Scotia artists touring outside of Canada than ever.”
“Writing good songs, owning them, and knowing what to do with them, we believe, is more important than ever.” – Scott Long of Music Nova Scotia
Another aim of Music Nova Scotia is to provide information, training and education to their membership, currently hovering around 1,100 members, according to Long. “You can book consultation time,” he says. “We train in best practices of the music business – everything from baby bands who are just getting going, to advising on export – and we present different training activities throughout the year.”
The organization also owns and runs Nova Scotia Music Week, which includes a festival and industry conference. Long says artists are taught how to write grants, and about the definition and executions of music business and music marketing plans, as well as identifying revenue streams.
Long also says that SOCAN membership is crucial. “We’re going to be debating this with our Board of Directors – that we want it to be mandatory for our export-ready artists that you’re a member of SOCAN, or you can’t apply to our funding programs.
“In the world of publishing, that’s a big thing for us – intellectual property, digital marketing. It’s important to us to see more intellectual property created, and exploited properly, out of Nova Scotia… We think that’s where the value is. Obviously, live touring is super-important now as well. But writing good songs, owning them, and knowing what to do with them, we believe, is more important than ever.”
To that end, Long says Music Nova Scotia has been sponsoring such initiatives as the annual Gordie Sampson Songcamp, which he describes as a music incubator. Although the Nova Scotia-born Sampson currently resides in Nashville, the writer of such hits as Carrie Underwood’s Grammy-winning “Jesus, Take The Wheel” and Hunter Hayes’ “Storm Warning” returns to Nova Scotia every July for the five-day event.
“It’s his way of giving back,” says Long, mentioning that the band Port Cities was formed at one such song camp. “He brings up some friends who talk about the business, and as far as songwriting goes, we think collaboration is really important. Our members get better value, better songs, and better success with their songs when they collaborate. So we’re really trying to encourage that.”
Another role of Music Nova Scotia is acting as an advocate on behalf of their provincial music industry. “Most of the advocacy we do is to maintain public investment in the sector from the province,” Long explains. “Our job is to prove to governments, on an almost continual basis, that we’re an industry worthy of investment. We’ve done that successfully over the past few years. The music investment for the province of Nova Scotia is equivalent per capita to the Ontario Music Fund. We’re a much smaller province [a population of 923,000 versus Ontario’s 13 million], and have much smaller dollars and cents, but per capita, we’re on par with the biggest province in the country. So we’re proud of that. We estimate value of Nova Scotia’s music industry as close to $100 million in Gross Domestic Product.”
Administering investment for the music industry on behalf of the provincial government, Music Nova Scotia also runs an Export Development Program and Artist Development Program, where it invests in tour support. “We don’t invest in recording or making records, but we’ll invest in touring, marketing, and developing emerging artists,” says Long.
Lately, the organization has been working to address the loss of live venues in the province. “In particular, Halifax,” Long explains. “We’re in danger of losing our own venues at home. We’ve been working with the province, and some other stakeholders in the live industry, to ensure that there’s a review of public safety regulations involving red tape. We can’t ignore the home front, so we’re working more to promote the province as a music destination to ensure we have a good business environment for the music sector.”