Regional Music Spotlight: Prince Edward Island

March 25, 2015

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Music Association Name: Music Prince Edward Island

Location: Charlottetown

What are some of the musical highlights from the province and Music PEI over the past year? 

Prince Edward Island is no stranger to producing excellent talent. The true beauty and culture of the province has been well represented by Island singer-songwriters, who seek inspiration from deep beneath our singing sands.

In January of 2014, Music PEI presented the 13th annual Credit Union Music PEI Week, a festival and conference that celebrates the accomplishments of Island artists. Thirty awards were handed out, and 23 concerts and showcases, featuring 35 PEI artists were presented to the public.

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Meaghan Blanchard with Tim Chaisson during Bell Aliant Music PEI Unplugged at Credit Union Music PEI Week. Credit: Ryan McNeill.

Artists and delegates descended upon Charlottetown in April of 2014 for East Coast Music Week (ECMW), bringing  big wins for many of our members, including Meaghan Blanchard for her album She’s Gonna Fly, and Gordie MacKeeman and his Rhythm Boys for Pickin N Clickin. The Music PEI Showcase during ECMW featured 34 artists over three sold-out nights at The Guild.

The year 2014 also marked the 150th anniversary of the 1864 Charlottetown Conference, which originally brought together Sir John A. Macdonald and other Fathers of Confederation to plan the formation of Canada. The anniversary was feted with a year-long, province-wide program of events funded through PEI 2014. The added funding allowed for the creation of new music festivals and events across the Island, including the 2014 Celebration Zone.

Located in the centre of Charlottetown, the Celebration Zone was a hub for music in 2014. Beginning in July, Island artists and special guests from each province across Canada had the opportunity to perform on stage from 10 am to 10 pm daily. There was no entry cost for these performances, and many popular acts made appearances, including Burton Cummings, Serena Ryder, Walk Off The Earth, and more. Other musical highlights brought together by PEI 2014 include: a memorable performance by Johnny Reid during the official kick off to the PEI 2014 celebrations, the Rankin Family’s New Year’s celebrations in Summerside, and Shania Twain’s headlining slot during Founders Week.

The Cavendish Beach Music Festival also featured big-name performers, such as Kenny Chesney, Lady Antebellum, Taylor Swift, Brad Paisley, and many others. Keith Urban and Eric Church have been announced as the festival’s headliners for 2015.

Last fall, Showcase PEI once again brought delegates from around the world to attend showcases featuring PEI’s top export-ready acts—among them the Irish Mythen, who was named the 2014 Showcase Artist of the Year. Since 2008, the three-day event held every September, has recruited over 200 buyers and created over $1.25 million in work for Island artists.


“The Wicked and the Wild” by the Irish Mythen, who is nominated for Roots/Traditional Recording of the Year at the 2015 East Coast Music Awards, which happens on April 9 in St. John’s, Nfld.

The Artist Exchange Program, a partnership between Music PEI, the English Folk Dance and Song Society, and Wales Music Tradition, also took place during Showcase PEI. The program pairs two artists from PEI with an artist from Wales and one from England to co-write and tour both in Canada and the UK. The results have been excellent for our artists. In 2014, Ashley Condon and Tim Chaisson were paired with Maz O’Connor and Kizzy Crawford, respectively.


Country artist Tim Chaisson performing “The Healing” on CMT Canada’s Live at the Edison.


“The Great Compromise” by folk songstress Ashley Condon.

Music PEI had a record number of six showcasing artists at Folk Music Ontario in October, resulting in an all-PEI showcase stage with performances by Amy & Rachel Beck, Irish Mythen, Tim Chaisson, Dennis Ellsworth, Dylan Menzie and Nudie.

In November, Music PEI attended The Association of Festival Organisers conference in England, and showcased Meaghan Blanchard and Tim Chaisson.

Tim Chaisson embarked on his sixth tour of Australia; Gordie MacKeeman and his Rhythm Boys hit seven countries, including Australia and Malaysia; Paper Lions surpassed five million views on YouTube for their music video for “Travelling”; and Ten Strings and A Goat Skin completed their first tour, playing festivals in the U.S. and Europe. PEI artists continue to circle the globe as ambassadors to our little island.

Additionally, the Music PEI Grant Program distributed $86,000 in grants to 25 different projects.


Paper Lions’ 2007 track “Travelling,” surpassed five million YouTube hits in 2014.

“Huginn and Muninn” by Ten Strings and A Goat Skin, off their 2013 album Corbeau.

Were there any challenges?

There are challenges faced by Island artists that choose to remain here and build their careers. The cost of travel for a touring artist living on Prince Edward Island is significantly more than other parts of Canada, and the presence of small local markets means touring is an absolute necessity.

Government funding is becoming increasingly challenging given the fiscal realities at all levels of government. The Island government is about to embark on a Cultural Strategic Plan, which will hopefully bode well for the future of investment in the cultural industries.

What is the best thing about the PEI music scene? What do you want the rest of Canada to know?

There is a lot of musical diversity for such a small place—from the country croons of Tim Chaisson and gorgeous folk of singer-songwriter Catherine MacLellan to the pop-tinged rock of Paper Lions or The Meds, there are a lot of great examples.

The collaborative nature of our music community is also worth noting. It is one of the most nurturing musical communities anywhere.

The number of internationally touring artists for a province of 140,000 is incredibly high, and has grown by about 300 percent since 2008 when Music PEI became a full-time music industry association.


Catherine MacLellen’s album The Raven’s Sun won a 2015 JUNO Award and is nominated for several 2015 ECMAs. 


The Meds are nominated for an a 2015 ECMA for Rock Recording of the Year for their album South America.

What are you looking forward to in 2015?

Music PEI is embarking on our most ambitious event to date with the creation of a new conference and festival in May of 2015. The Canadian Songwriter Challenge is a new Music PEI initiative and part of the new annual Bell Aliant Canadian Song Conference (CSC) taking place May 11–14, 2015. The CSC is a unique conference that will bring leading music industry professionals from across North America together to examine and discuss the art and commerce of songwriting.

The CSC, sponsored by Bell Media, is a project built on a partnership with Music Ontario, Manitoba Music, SaskMusic, Alberta Music and Music BC. The CSC will put one artist from each of the five provinces together with five artists from PEI.

The five pairs will collaborate together for two days to co-write and record a demo each day. On the third day, the five pairs will pitch their songs to a super panel of 20 of the top music supervisors and publishers from Canada and the U.S. Participating artists will also have an opportunity to pitch their own catalogue of songs. Registration for the conference can be found on the Music PEI website.

Following the CSC, the Credit Union May Run Music Festival will run May 14–17, 2015. Building on Music PEI’s past successes, the event will grow significantly in scope, incorporating numerous concerts and showcases featuring Island artists, alongside exciting headliners from across Canada. Popular favourites, such as the Songwriter’s Concert, Country Jubilee and House of Rock, will also be back. In addition, Music PEI will be introducing some brand new showcase opportunities.

The festival will feature a performance by the five Canadian Songwriter Challenge guest artists, Dan Mangan, Jay Semko (of The Northern Pikes), Tim Hus, the Small Glories and one artist from Ontario, who will play with their PEI counterparts. Then, Montreal indie pop sensations Stars, along with Plants and Animals, and two PEI artists to be announced, will close the weekend.

Additionally, the 14th annual Music PEI Awards will be handed out during various concerts and events associated with the festival. Tickets will be available through Ticketpro and the Music PEI website. Tickets include individual concert tickets, showcase wristbands and all-access passes.

Any other industry news?

Music PEI is close to finalizing Little Island, Big Voice: An Economic Impact Analysis conducted by Nordicity. It will be the first time a study of this kind has been commissioned and should yield interesting data. Following the study, Music PEI will engage in a strategic planning session in order to plan a course of action for the organization and the PEI music industry.

Music PEI will continue to develop new opportunities for our artists through our funding program, as well as export development initiatives and act as an advocate for our industry.

 

—Compiled by Carolyn Chaisson, Assistant to the Executive Director at Music PEI

For all of the latest updates from Music PEI, go to musicpei.com or follow them on Twitter @musicpei.

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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