Cathie Faint - A Pioneering Agent Still Going Strong
She was the first Canadian female agent to exclusively service the Canadian country market in the mid-90s and has won countless accolades from the CCMA since. Catherine Faint Entertainment Inc. is still going strong today with an impressive list of international clientele.
By Nick Krewen
According to agent extraordinaire Cathie Faint, who has been in the business for 40-plus years, it only seems like yesterday that it all began for her.
“It seems like all this has happened in a blink of an eye,” the founder and president of Catherine Faint Entertainment tells FYIMusicNews.
“Regardless, it continues to be a great journey.”
That journey began in the late ‘60s before the Toronto-born-and-raised Faint left high school, bitten initially by the bug after seeing such bands as Led Zeppelin and the Moody Blues perform.
“In my last few months of high school, I met a bass player, and I was hooked,” Faint recalls. “ This was a side of life I had not experienced, and the energy was intoxicating, but as much as l loved the music, I felt so far away from it all. When I met this bass player and his group of musicians, they were kindred spirits. This industry has been a big part of my life from that day onward.”
The band – Tangerine - was managed by Carl Hasanhindle and future Glass Tiger manager Gary Pring and was making the rounds at downtown clubs Yonge St. Station, the Piccadilly Tube, and Knob Hill among others.
“I saw Gary and Carl all the time and was quite fascinated with that side of the business,” Faint remembers. “I wanted to learn more.“
She ended up starting as a receptionist at Record Week for Joey Cee, forging networking relationships with the likes of the artist, songwriter, and future MuchMusic VJ Christopher Ward, andcontributing editors David Farrell and Marty Melhuish.
“(Future S.L. Feldman & Associates president) Vinny Cinquemani was in sales and his wife Florence did the typesetting,” Faint recalls. “These people are still in the business after 40 years! It was a great job and a great intro into the live music business.”
After Record Week, Faint transitioned to Music Shoppe International, working as an assistant to agents Ralph Jolivet, Peter Kewley and Greg Brown, who booked such acts as Rush Max Webster and Coney Hatch.
“That was crazy fun,” she laughs. “It was a very loose and casual atmosphere in the office, and I had some amazing times. That’s when I realized, ‘oh, shit! I want to be an agent!”
She then jumped to The Agency – and the first act that she was the responsible agent for was Alannah Myles, who, with her self-titled debut album, would become the first Canadian female artist to sell 1 million copies domestically.
Throughout the ‘80s, Faint also worked with Downchild Blues Band, David Wilcox and Men Without Hats and others, later joining an event production company and then taking some time off to raise a family.
She returned to The Agency in the mid-90s and shifted her focus to country music – one of the few female agents in the business.
As the Head of The Agency’s Country Division, Faint looked after such Canadian country heavyweights as Anne Murray, Prairie Oyster, George Fox, Charlie Major, k.d. lang, Michelle Wright, Terri Clark, and Paul Brandt as well as many, many others.
She was named the Canadian Country Music Association’s Agent of the Year Awards for five years running, 1994-1998.
Looking back in this #MeToo era of awareness, Cathie Faint says she never felt intimidated or disrespected by the Canadian male-dominated music industry.
“I did not find it difficult to work as a woman in this business,” she states. “Honestly, I was always treated well and fairly.
“The biggest difference in being a woman in the agency world is that we are more nurturing; and I think we may take it more personally.”
She said the only burden she felt was to perform for her clients.
“Sales and competition were tough, and when your artists didn’t get the gig, and you knew they depended on this to put food on their table, it absolutely put pressure on you,” she admits.
In 2000, following The Feldman Agency’s acquisition of The Agency, Faint formed Catherine Faint Entertainment Inc.,
“I expanded my services to include talent buying and producing events like the annual Shaw Boxing Fundraiser, Power Within Series, Toronto Symphony Orchestra on Toronto Island for multiple years, and a variety of corporate and fairs.
“Now with my attention focused on my client list and not an agency roster and armed with the knowledge that I alone was responsible for my destiny, I felt really good.”
Cathie Faint Entertainment was still a one-woman operation when establishments like Casino Rama and Fallsview Casino dove into entertainment booking.
“New opportunities arose, and I was able to secure a license to provide a number of entertainment-related services,” Faint remembers. “It initially started with securing artists, border services, and then providing the local stage and tech crews to various casinos.”
It was time for her own expansion.
“Business was booming, and I needed a team,” she explains. “I asked my good friend Sylvia Mason, who had worked at Savannah Music for a number of years during Michelle Wright’s rise to fame, to come to the sticks and work with me. Amazingly, she said yes and moved her family across the city to accommodate me.
“Sylvia is a talent buyer, our Human Resources department and runs all our labour services. Because of her efforts, we employ approximately 150 people on a temporary, casual basis.
“That part of the business is always expanding, and we are proud to say that we are providing labour as well as border and talent buying services to a number of corporate clients in Central Ontario.”
Judy Ashby was added for accounting and payroll, and later, Cindy Sutch provided the team with added expertise as a talent buyer, marketing guru and “our border service specialist,” according to Faint.
In 2009, Faint bought and relocated to a farm outside Port Perry, Ontario, renovating one of the buildings to serve as the organization’s office.
“It’s quiet, beautiful and I can just run across the yard to work, “ she exclaims.
Today, Faint’s international clientele includes representation from the pop, rock, comedy and country genres: Tony Bennett, Reba McEntire, Z.Z. Top, KISS, The Beach Boys, Burton Cummings, Roger Hodgson, George Thorogood and Better Midler among them.
A four-term term Country Music Association of Ontario (CMAOntario) Award Show Chair and currently its vice-president, Faint says she is “very proud” of the organization’s work.
“As of 2018, we have approximately 600 members and five sold-out award shows,” declares Faint, who also sits on the CCMA’s Award and Balloting committee. “Our mandate is to provide new and established country artists more performance opportunities, mentoring, workshops and an annual Award Show - and this board has been very successful in delivering the goods.”
Reflecting on her career, Faint says her greatest reward has been the camaraderie, companionship, education and the music she’s experienced throughout the years.
“I’ve seen a lot of changes in the 40-some years, but what endures are the people that I’ve met and worked with along the way.
“I am so appreciative of everything I have learned from them as well as the friendship, the laughter, the countless poker games, and horse races, the work and the always great music from these gifted artists.”
As for advice for the upstarts in this business, Cathie Faint offers three words: “Integrity, integrity, and integrity.”
“Don’t promise what you can’t deliver, stay focused, have fun and appreciate the creativity we all bring to the table.”
She’s not about to end the fun anytime soon.
“I am just a small fish in a big pond, but I love it!”