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Karen Bliss Reports On CIMA's Lula Lounge Workshop

The Canadian Independent Music Association (CIMA) held a networking brunch and panel, 'The Long Game - Building Global Careers in the Indie Sector', at Toronto’s Lula Lounge on the morning of May 1

Karen Bliss Reports On CIMA's Lula Lounge Workshop

By Karen Bliss

The Canadian Independent Music Association (CIMA) held a networking brunch and panel, 'The Long Game - Building Global Careers in the Indie Sector', at Toronto’s Lula Lounge on the morning of May 13.


Over mimosas and sandwiches, about a hundred members of the independent music industry from across the country — many of whom had not seen each other since the pandemic began in March 2020 — gathered to hear five U.S.-based industry experts offer advice on how to utilize data and social media platforms to break acts globally.

“It’s great to see everyone in your analogue form,” quipped CIMA president Andrew Cash before the panel got underway.

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He then cited statistics from a 2021 blog post by Midia Research’s Mark Mulligan, which, after an exhaustive survey, “found that contrary to popular belief, globally the market share for independent music is at around 43%,” which Cash noted was “what we’re seeing here at the Junos.

“In 2018, 69% of all nominees at the Junos were from the indie sector; today, four years later, that number is 79%. In fact, there are 23 categories at this year’s Junos where every nominee is an indie artist,” including contemporary R&B recording, breakthrough group, and electronic album.

Cash said he felt the industry is “at an inflection point,” reflected in those upwards examples, but also cited the accomplishments of two CIMA members, both labels.

“Just throwing out Patrick Watson, as an example, over six million monthly subscribers on Spotify. He’s on an indie label from Montreal called Secret City…and they just did the global release of [his] most recent album [Better in the Shade].”

Cash also touted Monstercat, which aims “to build the world’s most innovative music company, leading the movement towards artist sustainability.”  He said their artists exceed 200 million streams monthly. “They’re known for their non-exclusive deals, 50-50 split model, paying their artists every month, to build towards a system where artists can make a living.”

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Of the topic selected for the panel, The Long Game - Building Global Careers in the Indie Sector, he said, “I believe that the growth we see in the indie music sector is happening at the same time that the digital platformization of the sector reaches scale. It’s no coincidence that the two are combined. It gives us a unique opportunity to turn that feast or famine equation on its head and move our sector, for both artists and entrepreneurs, to one where stable long-term careers are built.”

The panel was moderated by Lisa Logutenkow (VP, Canada, The Orchard) and featured Jade Lewin, senior director of artist services, The Orchard  (NYC); Canadian-born Livia Tortella, CEO, founder of Black Box (LA); Michael Epstein, director of digital marketing & partnerships, Cinematic Music Group (NYC); Andreas Katsambas, president & COO Chartmetric (NYC); and Ibi Lagundoye, A&R, Human Re Sources (LA).

The takeaways included paying close attention to the data (the other panelists all use Chartmetric, religiously, it appeared) and zeroing in on the markets that have already shown interest; getting artists to experiment and try things on social media, from Tik Tok to Triller, depending on genre, without being afraid if something doesn’t work; showing fans the real artist, such as the everyday things they like do outside of music, but also trying in-person fan meet-ups and pop-ups.  Ultimately, as Lagundoye pointed out, it’s the music that matters; no amount of followers will ever take the place of a great song.

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CIMA's Networking Brunch and Panel:  (L to R): Moderator Lisa Logutenkow (VP, Canada, The Orchard); Jade Lewin, senior director of artist services, The Orchard  (NYC); Livia Tortella, CEO, founder of Black Box (LA); Michael Epstein, director of digital marketing & partnerships, Cinematic Music Group (NYC); Andreas Katsambas, President & COO Chartmetric (NYC); and Ibi Lagundoye, A&R, Human Re Sources (LA)  photo credit: KarenBliss.

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Sidhu Moose Wala
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Sidhu Moose Wala

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