December 15, 2014
Occupation: Executive Director
Location: Music BC
How did you end up working with Music BC?
I was on the board, because one of my best friends Marc LaFrance was involved with music advocacy. I’m a lawyer, and he said ‘We need you on the board.’ I came on the board in the late ‘90s. At that time, the organization was called the Pacific Music Industry Association, and it was very grass roots. It was great, but it was on the brink of financial ruin. We really needed to turn it around, so I said ‘I’ll step up and take over the executive director role and work for peanuts, and you can bonus me. I basically said ‘If you let me come in, I will grow it, and if I can’t grow it then you can fire me.’ It was basically a challenge. The first couple of years were a struggle, but after we got over that hump, we actually established a really strong organization, which has been growing ever since then.
What year did you start there?
My first day was September 11, 2001. I know! And the first thing I did was a benefit album for 9/11. Sarah McLachlan and Bryan Adams were on it. We had all of these artists, and we raised about $10,000 prompting Mayor Giuliani to write us a letter of thanks. It was a terrible time, but it was also a great opportunity to bring the community together early on, and it was my first experience with putting something like that together. We’ve done some pretty cool things. We brought the JUNOs here in 2009; we were the host committee for that. We created The PEAK Performance Project, working with The Pattison Broadcast Group and 102.7 The PEAK. It’s a dream job, because all I do is help artists and people who are just trying to make it in the music business.
What was your first job in the music industry?
I’m a musician, so my first paid gig would my first job in the music industry. I was in a band called Rymes With Orange in the early ‘90s. We had some other names before that, and I played in a few cover bands, but my first real professional paid gig was in the early iteration of that band at The Town Pump.
What do you like best about what you do?
I literally get to help artists everyday, and it’s so rewarding when I see someone succeed like Dan Mangan, who we’ve worked with. Dan’s done all of the hard work obviously, but it’s nice that we were able to help in small ways early in his career, and as things went on. When you see things like that and how far artists come, you feel like a proud papa, and it’s the same with all of The Peak Performance Project artists. I’m so proud of them. It’s a great feeling to see bands take off like Said the Whale or Current Swell or Dear Rouge (who actually started up because of The PEAK Performance Project).
Even some of the bands that didn’t place, like Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer or The Belle Game or the Gay Nineties, benefitted from the program. Maybe because they didn’t win, it was like ‘Well screw you guys, we’re gonna show you.’ And they did! They are just kicking ass, and getting better. I’m proud of all of them. That’s probably the most rewarding thing. Also seeing some of the BC-based companies. like Rob Calder’s Boompa Records, start to manage bands that are getting some international traction is really gratifying. I really love seeing that. We’re seeing small businesses starting to get a few home runs. That’s really exciting for me.
What are some of the special skills required for your job?
Infinite patience. It’s a marathon not a sprint. I have been doing this for 14 years now. It feels like it has taken 14 years to get some momentum. It takes a long time to build these things. It’s a long game, especially when you’re dealing with government funding or radio funding or program development. It takes a lot of effort and a lot of commitment to the long game, so I think that’s really important. I’m a lifer. I’m in it for the long haul.
Also, being a lawyer really helps, because there’s a lot of advocacy, and the music industry’s very complex in terms of copyright law and CRTC regulations, so it has certainly helped having that background. But you can’t just be good at one thing. As the executive director of a music association, you need to be good at a lot of things. You have to sort of be a generalist, because you have to do admin, you have to do production, you have to deal with high level government people, you have to deal with radio guys, you have to deal with clubs, and musicians—and they are all totally different. You have to be flexible in that way.
What have been some of your favourite experiences in this position?
I am really proud of The PEAK Performance Project. I am very proud of bringing the JUNO Awards to Vancouver in 2009. I’m really proud of BreakOut West, and how that’s become not only a great celebration in Western Canada, but it’s also become a great brand internationally. We were just over in Germany using the BOW brand, and we’re getting recognized internationally. It’s allowed us to cooperate and work together, and I really believe in working together—that the sum is greater than the parts. I think we achieve so much more together, and I’ve seen that over, and over again.
Do you have any advice for people who may want your job in the future?
I think the main thing is that you have to be a fundraiser. You have to be able to raise money, you have to know how to deal with the grant system, you have to know how to lobby, and you have to know how to schmooze and get to know people at various levels. You have to be a good administrator, because there are a lot of bits and pieces that you have to pull together, and having legal and admin background is helpful. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to be a lawyer to have my job, but it does help to have certain skills.
What’s your favourite record at the moment?
That’s a tough one. Right now, I have the Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer A Real Fine Mess record on heavy rotation. Gotta tell you, and they are going to kill me for saying this, track 14 is my favourite track. It should have been the first track!
What’s your favourite music venue in Vancouver?
The Commodore will always be my favourite venue, because it’s one of the best venues that I ever played in. For the smaller venues, I love The Biltmore. It’s served the community so well over the last few years.
What’s the best thing about the BC music scene?
It’s so diverse. Diversity is what’s so cool about it. There isn’t one genre that dominates any other. We’ve got fusion. We’ve got Delhi 2 Dublin for example. We’ve got these amazing groups that fuse genres and different ethnic influences, and so we’ve got all of these different flavours, which make BC music really interesting. It’s also our challenge, because it’s so diverse. In the Maritimes you’ve got the Celtic influence, which helps to clearly define their dominate influence. But in BC, we don’t have that. Really celebrating our diversity is what makes BC so special.
If you could pick a handful of BC acts that should be on the rest of Canada’s radar, which acts would those be?
Dear Rouge, Current Swell, Said the Whale, Rykka and We Are the City (who were actually our first winner of The PEAK Performance Project) are all awesome. There’s also a lot of other artists who are coming up, like Hannah Epperson, who is really interesting. She’s not your typical artist because she plays violin and sings and loops. She’s really special. This year, Good For Grapes won The PEAK Performance Project. I am anticipating some big things from them in the future. As far as bigger artists who should be huge, I think Mother Mother is the band that everyone needs to discover around the world. They are brilliant.
— Julijana Capone
Wanna talk music? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on Twitter @thejulijanaruin.