Regional Music Spotlight: Manitoba

January 19, 2015

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Music Association Name: Manitoba Music 

Location: Winnipeg

What are some of the province’s musical highlights from the past year? 

Winnipeg was the capital of Canadian music as excitement amped up for The 2014 JUNO Awards, which recognized homegrown acts with 13 nominations. The massive event took over Winnipeg in March for a week of fun including packing local venues for JUNOfest, a glittery invite-only gala, and the big ticket televised spectacle at the MTS Centre. Winnipeg also hosted many lead-up events and “Random Acts of JUNO” everywhere from transit buses to shopping malls and frozen skating trails to indie coffee shops, proving that here in Winnipeg, we really do speak music.

The JUNOS wasn’t the only major music event to converge on Winnipeg. The 12th annual BreakOut West rolled into Winnipeg in October with a two-night music festival, industry conference, the Western Canadian Music Awards (WCMA), where local artists and industry landed 44 nominated and won an unprecedented 17 awards.

Del Barber_840pxManitoba songsmith Del Barber won big at the 2014 WCMAs. Photo credit: Mark Maryanovich. 

Local artists and music entrepreneurs earned quite a few accolades this year, with over 100 nominations and 33 awards. Aboriginal rock outfit Indian City and roots singer/songwriter Del Barber led the locals with eight and six award nominations, respectively. Indian City picked up honours at the Indian Summer Music Awards and Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Awards while Barber was a double winner at the WCMAs.

What were some of the accomplishments made by Manitoba Music specifically?

Manitoba Music continued its focus on presenting successful market development showcases and networking events in major music markets in Canada, the U.S., the U.K., Germany, and Australia, including International Folk Alliance, The Great Escape, SXSW, NXNE, M for Montreal, Folk Music Ontario, the Americana Music Festival, BigSound, Reeperbahn Festival, as well as an inaugural industry showcase in Minneapolis. These events have helped Manitoba artists and music companies connect with influential international industry names, build important business relationships, and reach new markets.

Manitoba Music launched career development events for the Western Canadian Francophone music industry via the new Francophone Music Program, including Rame à la rencontre de l’industrie de la musique francophone in Winnipeg during Festival du Voyageur and again in Montreal, and Le camp de la musique francophone de l’Ouest canadien. 

This year, Manitoba Music celebrated the 10th anniversary of one of its most acclaimed initiatives, the Aboriginal Music Program (AMP). The Pyramid Cabaret played host to an all-out bash and special open mic, featuring the talents of C-Weed, along with appearances by Eagle & HawkJoe Maxim BandAli FontaineWinnipeg Boyz,Rhonda Head, and many more. AMP also kept things busy with the seventh edition of the Aboriginal Music Performers Camp; the Aboriginal Music Mentors Program; and the launch of a new live performance video series, AMP Sessions, featuring performances by Leonard SumnerRescued by DragonflyzCassidy Mann, and 2014 JUNO nominee Desiree Dorion.

Leonard Sumner performing “Best of Me” as part of AMP Sessions.  

Manitoba Music’s other video project, the Loft Sessions returned this year, featuring live performances from eight buzzworthy local bands. Filmed in the brick and hardwood splendour of 100-year-old Exchange District heritage buildings, director Chris Gaudry and his team, which included award-winning sound engineer Cam Loeppky, shot a diverse set of videos with Del Barber, Curtis NowosadIndicator IndicatorYes We MysticSweet AlibiErin ProppThe Crooked Brothers, and Slow Leaves, attracting thousands of YouTube views along the way.

Sweet Alibi performing “Deep” as part of Loft Sessions.  

To continue to facilitate artistic and business growth of the local music scene, Manitoba Music presented 25 workshops and panels on a wide variety of topics, as well as mentor sessions with local industry pros and songwriters in residence. This year also saw the launch of our inaugural winter industry conference, January Music Meeting, which brought together music industry pros from across Canada for three days of intensive panels, networking, and one-on-one meetings. Manitoba Music hit the road for training events in Brandon, including workshops during the Manitoba Arts Network’s annual Manitoba Showcase.

Who are some of the Manitoba acts that broke out big in 2014?

Groundbreaking Nunavut-born, Brandon-based Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq won not only the prestigious Polaris Music Prize, but also the souls and minds of fans and critics, and pretty much the whole internet. After inking a management deal with Six Shooter in 2013, Tagaq released the much-lauded Animism and promptly landed in major media, picked up a Canadian Folk Music Award for “pushing the boundaries”, and played to astounded audiences in sold out concert halls across North America, and more.

Tanya Tagaq performing “Uja” and “Umingmak” during the 2014 Polaris Music Prize Gala. 

Royal Canoe continued to be everywhere in 2014. Continuing to tour its debut full length album, Today We’re Believers (released on Nevado Records in Canada and Roll Call Records in the U.S.), the indie electro pop act played rooms and fests all over Canada and U.S., including spots at Bonnaroo and Osheaga, and several U.S. dates with indie darlings Bombay Bicycle Club. The band also garnered a JUNO Award nomination for Alternative Album of the Year and an overseas nod from the AIM Independent Music Awards for its video for “Birthday” and racked up some big media mentions from the likes of NME, Rolling Stone, Noisey, The Globe and Mail, Much Music, MTV, and more.

Royal Canoe’s video for “Exodus of the Year” is a beautiful and gritty love letter to Winnipeg.

Another one of the year’s biggest stories was country blues outfit The Bros. Landreth. The band signed on to the Paquin Artist Agency roster, hit stages across Canada and the U.S. in support of its critically-acclaimed debut Let It Lie, including coveted showcase spots at Nashville’s Americana Music Festival and JUNOfest, struck a deal with U.S. label Slate Creek Records, landed in the likes of Billboard and Washington Times, picked up numerous award nods and won a Canadian Folk Music Award for best new act, and launched a video on CMT.

Any other Manitoba industry news? 

In June, we lost one of our greatest supporters, Kevin Walters, who served many years on Manitoba Music’s board of directors, most recently as our president. A true and passionate champion of Manitoba’s music community, Kevin was one of the primary masterminds behind bringing the JUNOS to Winnipeg and celebrating 2014 as the Year of Music, and so so much more. His loss has been felt keenly and deeply, and we continue to honour his memory with proceeds from the annual Manitoba Music Rocks Charity Bonspiel now going to the Kevin Walters Memorial Fund.

At the end of December, we bid farewell to executive director Sara Stasiuk, who will become Six Shooter Records’ new Winnipeg-based director of operations after 13 years with Manitoba Music. We will kick off what is sure to be a busy and exciting 2015 with our esteemed program manager, Sean McManus, stepping into his new role as Manitoba Music’s executive director.

What are you looking forward to in 2015? 

MusicWorks/January Music Meeting: In January, we will launch our next season of professional development workshops, panels, and mentor sessions. We will also launch the second edition of our January Music Meeting, a mini-conference featuring nearly a top industry names from across the country covering important business topics. It will coincide with the fourth annual Big Fun Festival, providing us with an excellent showcasing opportunity. We’ll have a showcase during Big Fun, too.

Manitoba Music On Ice: Bundling up for our third annual live music event in partnership with local festivals and venues featuring acoustic performance by Manitoba artists in the innovative warming huts along the frozen River Trail. Here’s a look at last year. Also, there are a bunch of short videos from last year.

Manitoba Music Rocks Charity Bonspiel: Manitoba Music and Manitoba Film & Music will host the fifth annual curling bonspiel on February 28 in Winnipeg. This year’s event will raise funds for the Kevin Walters Memorial Fund.

Youth Mentorship Program: Starting in February, Manitoba Music will partner with the ACI Manitoba for the seventh year to run a program aimed at Manitoba youth interested in careers in the music industry, focusing on marketing, promotion, and music management. Here’s a look at last year.

Market Builder Residency for Aboriginal Artists and Industry: We’re partnering with the Canada Council for the Arts to produce a new residency that will provide eight export-ready artists and up to five mid-career industry professionals (managers, agents, publicists, publishers, or label representatives) from across Canada with a week of networking and development opportunities in Toronto, February 9-13, 2015. Here’s a bit of info.

International Folk Alliance: Manitoba Music will host showcases and a have a presence at the trade show at this year’s event in Memphis, February 19-23.

Festival du Voyageur: Through our Francophone Music Program, we will be partnering with February’s destination event, the Festival du Voyageur, which celebrates Francophone culture. Here’s a look at last year.

South by Southwest: Manitoba Music will head to Austin once again to co-host its annual party with Manitoba Film & Music and present a showcase of Manitoba acts for the third year, March 17-22.

Reservation Economic Summit: We are presenting a showcase of Manitoba Aboriginal artists at the 2015 Reservation Economic Summit in Las Vegas during the National Centre for American Indian Enterprise Development’s (NCAIED) VIP reception for tribal leaders, corporate sponsors, and other invited guests and conference delegates, March 9-12.


— Compiled by Rachel Stone, Association & Communications Manager at Manitoba Music

For all of the latest updates from Manitoba Music, go to or follow them on Twitter @manitobamusic.

About the Author

Julijana Capone

Originally from Winnipeg, Julijana is NMC’s senior publicist and the managing editor of Amplify. In addition to her role at NMC, she is the founder of Light of Day Publicity, a company she formed to promote the work of emerging Canadian artists.

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