Music Biz Headlines, Dec. 7, 2020

Super-manager Sal Slaiby (pictured with The Weeknd) is profiled, Harmonium get symphonic, and a rave review of the new Shawn Mendes album. Others in the headlines include Ron Hawkins, Lyor Cohen, Commodore Ballroom, Stars, Jully Black, Drake, Opera Atelier, RCM, Hipgnosis, Human Re-Sources, Stevie Nicks, Roland Gift, Black Sabbath, Miles Davis, and Prince.

Music Biz Headlines, Dec. 7, 2020

By Kerry Doole

Super-manager Wassim ‘Sal’ Slaiby on helming the careers of The Weeknd, Doja Cat, Brandy and more

The Weeknd, Doja Cat, Ty Dolla $ign, Brandy, Bebe Rexha, Nav, Bryson Tiller, French Montana — that’s not the top of a 2020 singles or albums chart. Those are just a few of the artists handled by the rapidly growing Salxco, the management-and-more concern founded by Wassim “Sal” Slaiby. The company, which has a partnership with Live Nation, also manages producers and houses the Weeknd’s XO label under its umbrella. – Jem Aswad, Variety

Iconic Quebec band Harmonium gets the symphonic treatment from OSM

"The fact that my voice is not there, I prefer that," says singer Serge Fiori. "It opened a whole musical universe." – Brendan Kelly,  Montreal Gazette


Shawn Mendes swings for the fences on ‘Wonder’

“Wonder,” the fourth studio album from the Pickering pop sensation Shawn Mendes, is a game-changer for him. In a process that began with his self-titled album from 2018, Mendes has largely left the folkish, boyish strains of acoustic guitar behind and settled more for a piano-and-electronic-keyboard sound that sonically bounces between intimate tenderness and epic explosiveness. – Nick Krewen, Toronto Star

Ron Hawkins on bands, borders and 'leaning into the weirdness'

In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, my inbox welcomed a rash of letters that shared a theme. Music lovers were lamenting the lack of what has become a well-established tradition in Buffalo – Canadian alternative band the Lowest of the Low’s annual Thanksgiving Eve celebrations at the Town Ballroom. – Jeff Miers, Buffalo News

YouTube’s global head of music Lyor Cohen loves Faouzia, hates the Grammys

This week marks the launch of YouTube’s Artist on the Rise feature in Canada, the first market outside of the United States to offer the platform. The inaugural spotlighted artist is Faouzia, a trilingual 20-year-old Morocco-born singer-songwriter and Spotify star from Winnipeg. .Former Def Jam and WMG executive and current YouTube global head of music Lyor Cohen spoke to us not only about Artists on the Rise, but his sour taste for the Grammys and the troubling issue of musicians starving on streaming wages. – Brad Wheeler, The Globe and Mail


How Canadian band Stars is finding new revenue streams during the pandemic

 In Amy Millan, a singer/songwriter and mother of two, plays in the Montreal-based indie rock band Stars. While touring has been halted due to the pandemic, it has also presented other opportunities for the band, she explains. “We’re doing things we never thought we would. Lessons, surprise downloads and meet-and-greets at future concerts." – Ross Andersen, CTVNews

R&B star Jully Black says its time to invest in opportunity for those needing it most

Opportunity changes everything. If this sentence doesn’t resonate with you, then maybe opportunity wasn’t something you had to think about. Or maybe you had to create your own opportunities — but doors were still open to you and so “changes everything” doesn’t hit the same. – Jully Black, Toronto Star

This simple tool allows you to buy your Spotify playlists on Bandcamp

It feels like everyone's talking about Spotify this week. If you've been using the service and want to put some money in the hands of the artists rather than the tech bros, however, there's a new tool to make that possible. Hype Machine's Merch Table site allows users to paste the link to a Spotify playlist into a search bar that then combs Bandcamp for the songs within and allows you to purchase them. – Josiah Hughes, Exclaim!

Want your room to smell like Drake? You're in luck

'Tis the season... to smell like Drake. The Toronto MC is preparing to break into a new merch universe with a line of five scented candles through Better World Fragrance House, including one offering, Carby Musk, described as having a "smooth musk fragrance" that "actually smells just like Drake." The $80 candle, which is already sold out on the Revolve website. –  Gil Kaufman, Billboard


From A to Zamani 

How the Halifax R&B singer-songwriter/producer made 2020 her year. – Morgan Mullin, The Coast

Commodore gigs remembered for venue's 90th birthday

The famed music venue celebrated its 90th birthday on Thursday (December 3), which the City of Vancouver has proclaimed as Commodore Ballroom Day. Colin James performed two livestreamed shows from the hallowed venue, marking the 33rd time he's been booked there. – Steve Newton, Georgia Straight


Opera Atelier premieres a new season with a streamed production and superstar soprano Measha Brueggergosman

How does a new season of opera performances get underway with theatres shuttered amidst a pandemic? In the case of Opera Atelier — the Toronto opera and ballet company that focuses on the Baroque era — you do it as a 35th-anniversary party. And to do that meant a pirouette from the cancelled full opera to a dreamy, streamed production filmed live onstage at Koerner Hall, with superstar Canadian soprano Measha Brueggergosman. – Robyn Grant-Moran, Toronto Star

The best online holiday shows to see in Toronto

Even though live concerts, plays and musicals are cancelled, there are plenty of festive live streams this season. – Glenn Sumi and Richard Trapunski, NOW

A pandemic can’t stop the Royal Conservatory of Music from celebrating Beethoven’s 250th birthday

Strictly speaking, Ludwig van Beethoven was only 56 when he died back in 1827. This year, however, the musical world is celebrating his 250th birthday, arguing that he is still very much among us. – William Littler, Toronto Star


UMPG scores the mother lode of Bob Dylan’s catalog

In a monumental publishing deal, Bob Dylan’s entire song catalog has been acquired by Universal Music Publishing Group. The Nobel Prize-winner’s catalog encompasses six decades and more than 600 song copyrights. The acquisition, announced by UMG in the early hours of 12/7, proclaims, “The deal is the most significant music publishing agreement this century and one of the most important of all time.” You’ll get no argument from us on that score. – Hits Daily Double

Hipgnosis Songs Fund is now worth $1.7bn... and is on course to generate $120m-plus this year

It's been a big week for stats regarding publicly-traded music companies. Dec. 4 brought another set of blockbuster numbers from a public company: the Merck Mercuriadis-led rights house Hipgnosis Songs Fund, which floated on the London Stock Exchange in summer 2018. The first of those blockbuster numbers comes from Mercuriadis himself: "We’ve been one of the FTSE 250’s biggest yielders and have now reached a £1.25 billion market cap." – Tim Ingham, MBW


Merck's buying spree pays off

Merck Mercuriadis’ Hipgnosis Songs Fund more than doubled its net revenue in the six months ended 9/30, to £44.8m, as operating profit topped £10m. The company’s investment adviser, The Family (Music) Limited, is in advanced-stage discussions on an investment pipeline of more than £1b.– Hits Daily Double

Distribution and label services company Human Re-Sources has been acquired by Sony Music

LA-based Human Re-Sources was founded by J. Erving in 2017 and merged with Troy Carter's own distribution and services startup, Q&A, last year. MBW has confirmed that following Sony's acquisition of Human Re-Sources (from Q&A), Erving's company will become part of The Orchard, Sony's global independent distribution and artist/label services arm. Human Re-Sources will continue to sign and develop artists as part of The Orchard. – Tim Ingham, MBW

Stevie Nicks sells a stake in her song catalogue

Stevie Nicks closed a deal to sell a majority stake in her publishing catalogue late last month, on the heels of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” hitting the Billboard charts for the first time since 1977. Music publisher Primary Wave purchased an 80 percent interest in the copyrights, which are valued at about $100 million (all figures U.S.), according to people familiar with the deal. –Anne Steele, WSJ

Chance The Rapper sued by ex-manager – and the music biz will be talking about it for years

On November 30, Chance’s long-time manager, Pat ‘The Manager’ Corcoran, filed a lawsuit against the artist, claiming that he is owed more than $3 million in unpaid commissions. The suit, filed in Illinois, revealed that Chance sacked Corcoran on April 27 this year, replacing him with Chance’s brother (Taylor Bennett) and father (Ken Bennett). – Tim Ingham, MBW


Fine Young Cannibal Roland Gift: 'I went back to where being pretty didn't matter'

He was ‘the first black punk in Hull’ and was named one of the world’s 50 most beautiful people. But the singer turned his back on pop stardom. He reveals why he’s returning with a gritty musical about a band called The Blacks. – Dave Simpson, the Guardian

Black Sabbath to release expanded Vol. 4 box set

Black Sabbath will have a massive 4CD or 5LP edition of ‘Black Sabbath Vol. 4’ to be released in February. The new edition comes 18 months ahead of the 50th anniversary of the album, ‘Black Sabbath Vol. 4’ was the first Black Sabbath album produced by the band, and the new edition has been remixed by Stephen Wilson.  As part of the new package, a live concert from 1973 will also be included in the box set. – Paul Cashmere, Noise11

Google completely kills off the music app Android Auto users truly loved

Google Play Music has long been one of the top music apps on Android Auto, but not a long time ago, the Mountain View-based parent company announced a plan that was received with mixed feelings by the community. – Bogdan Popa, Autoevolution

The 100 best songs of 2020

Welcome to a whopper of a mixtape. If you've been living under the rock 2020 dropped on all of us back in March and spent the last nine months finding comfort in the sounds of your childhood (hell, even 2019), we have some good news for you: As crappy as this year has been for anyone with a shred of empathy, the jams were ample. – Marissa Lorusso and Lyndsey McKenna, NPR

The Ballad of Miles Davis and Prince

In the mid-1980s, two creative titans met one from the jazz world and one from the pop world. A newly expanded, multi-disc exploration of Prince’s ’87 masterpiece Sign o’ the Times partly reveals what happened—and what could have been—between them. – A.D. Amorosi, Jazz Times

Music education in UK schools devastated by pandemic, survey finds

Music education in schools is facing an “unprecedented crisis” as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, with singing, instrumental lessons, extracurricular activities and end-of-term concerts all badly hit, a new report says. There is “genuine cause for alarm" over the situation. – The Guardian

Big Boi

Big Boi


CNE Bandshell Gets Big Boi, Sloan, Big Wreck And More For Throwback Summer Concerts

The headliners tie together the Toronto waterfront series' '90s and 2000s revival theme, while contemporary acts like MacKenzie Porter, Ruby Waters, Tynomi Banks and more will keep things current.

Toronto's CNE Bandshell concert series is leaning into big nostalgia this summer, with major '90s and 2000s acts headlining the throwback-themed lineup.

OutKast rapper Big Boi, Canadian-American rock band Big Wreck, and east coasters Sloan are leading the summer music programming at the Canadian National Exhibition, a major entertainment fair that takes over the Exhibition Place grounds every August.

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