Sunday, June 20, 2010

"A Reflection of Urban Music in Canada" @ NXNE

On Saturday, June 19, 2010 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel downtown Toronto, UMAC (The Urban Music Association of Canada) hosted two panels dedicated to uplifting and educating musicians through expert commentary and group discussion at the North by Northeast (NXNE) conference.

The first panel, co-presented by the McKee Agency, featured (l-r) DJ Carl Allen, Michie Mee, Will Strickland, Derek Brin, and Chase Parsons. The Canadian music industry legends participated in a discussion entitled "How We Got Here: A Reflection of How Urban Music in Canada Got to Where it is Today" and shared their wisdom with the NXNE attendees.

Moderated by Will Strickland, UMAC President, the guest speakers shared their experiences and perspectives on where Canada's urban music industry was as they were beginning their journey in the business, and also articulated where they believe the industry can and will go with the right support.

Chase Parsons, of Chris Smith Management, believes that this generation works better together than previous Canadian artists did, a sentiment that was shared by the other panelists. Chase stressed that maintaining this unified front would be beneficial not only to individual artists, but to the Canadian urban industry as a whole. He encouraged honest critique, and noted that he would like to see more interest from the urban community in other areas of the music business, aside from just performance, in order to strengthen the infrastructure in preparation for future growth and development of the urban genre.

Rapper/actress Michie Mee, a pioneer of the urban music scene in Canada, recalled that as she was starting out as a performing artist, that the urban "industry" didn't exist. Each artist worked independently trying to figure out their way, and learn as they progressed. Michie encouraged artists to know themselves, know their craft, and believe in their art...if an artist doesn't have a true sense of who they are, she stressed that the audience "will call you out" and question your authenticity.

Carl Allen, restaurant owner, DJ, and long-time CKLN radio host, believes that urban Canadian artists have now surpassed the urban Canadian music industry. The power of community radio in Canada was praised, as this outlet is what has kept artists relevant, and also accessible. Carl believes that the community has a great role in supporting, encouraging, and lifting their artists up.

Producer Derek Brin reminded artists that they need to develop their brand and be consistent in their approach. He encouraged collaboration, reaching out to as many relevant individuals as you can, and taking risks and making an effort to travel, go out of your comfort zone, and connect with others to increase you knowledge and opportunities. Derek also noted that sharing information with your peers should be a part of the process, helping to bring others up as well.

In closing, Will Strickland also encouraged attendees to utilize their resources, network, and get to know the people in their field. "The industry you seek is in this room right now," said Strickland. "Before you jump across the border, look right here."

The second panel of the afternoon, "Ya Heard?! Demo Listening Session" was moderated by UMAC Vice President Dwayne Dixon, and featured (l-r) Flo King (TO-FLO blogger and radio host), DJ Mel Boogie (DJ, radio host, and UMAC Communications Director), Chris Perry (songwriter/producer), Kyron "Kid" Clarke (Urbanology magazine columnist), and Priya Ramanujam (editor in chief of Urbanology Magazine).

Musicians had the opportunity to submit their demos for feedback from the panel and other attendees. The following suggestions were made from the various panelists:

*Packaging is important, make sure your product is polished and professional before submission (Flo)

*Personal relationships matter, make every effort to connect with people you are submitting to (Mel)

*Songwriting, lyrics, and melodic hooks are important elements when composing your songs: make sure they are memorable (Chris)

*Be consistent in your approach, and try to stay away from gimmicks and cliches (Kyron)

*Give depth to your story, and provide another element aside from your music to draw people in (Priya)

For more information about UMAC, The Urban Music Association of Canada or to become a member, please visit

For more information on the conference, please visit

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