Music News Digest, Jan. 7, 2021
Neil Young (pictured) signs a blockbuster deal with Hipgnosis, Linus takes over the Borealis Records roster, and the Northern Power Summit goes virtual. Also in the news are The Weeknd, Maple Blues Awards, Canadian Independent Music Awards, the Rolling Stones, vinyl sales, The Toronto Arts Foundation, Dropout Entertainment, MMF, Soul Nation Radio, Ontario Creates, and farewell Steve Brown, Phyllis McGuire, and Alexi Laiho.
By Kerry Doole
In major news for the Canadian roots music scene, the catalogue of noted Toronto-based label Borealis Records will shift to the management of Linus Entertainment, a leading Canadian rights management company whose portfolio of labels includes True North Records, Stony Plain Records, The Children’s Group, and Solid Gold Records. Borealis principals Grit Laskin and Bill Garrett announced the move publicly yesterday (Jan. 6), and it took effect on Jan. 1. In a joint statement, Laskin and Garrett said of the transition, “We have partnered with Linus Entertainment for some 13 years in distribution and they have been our partners in the best sense.”
Geoff Kulawick, Linus President and CEO, said of the move, “Taking on the responsibility of managing the Borealis catalog, which includes many evergreen musical gems of Canadian culture and folklore, was a natural fit as we know the music well, so the transition for the artists and our global distribution partners will be seamless.” Laskin and Garrett pledged that “although we leave the business of running a record company behind we by no means will be leaving music.” Laskin is known as a master maker of acoustic guitars and Garrett is in demand as a producer.
Formed 25 years ago, Borealis has released albums by such Canadian folk/roots greats as Stan Rogers, Ron Hynes, Shari Ulrich, Les Bottines Souriante, Oliver Schroer, Ken Whiteley, Laura Smith, BTU, Pharis and Jason Romero, and Jon Brooks.
– Blockbuster publishing deals involving veteran legends of rock are continuing apace. In the latest move, Hipgnosis Songs Fund has announced a partnership with Neil Young in which it has acquired 50% of the worldwide copyright and income interests in Neil Young’s entire song catalog, comprising 1,180 compositions. MBW reports that this deal, reportedly worth $150M (US), includes both 50% of the publisher share and 50% of the writer’s share in Young’s music, spanning his work with Buffalo Springfield, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and Crazy Horse, in addition to the singer/songwriter’s full solo catalog. Of note: Hipgnosis is led by fellow Canadian Merck Mercuriadis.
– Northern Power Summit (NPS) will deliver its 5th annual urban music conference virtually as a 3-part series beginning on Jan. 23. Parts 2 and 3 will take place on Feb. 20 and March 20 respectively. The online series will continue to provide education and tools, as well as access to individuals to help Canadian artists and industry professionals develop their careers. “Traditionally, our focus has been on how artists can develop their career internationally – and that is still a focus, but we want to offer support and guidance to artists that are dealing with the effects of the pandemic,” says NPS Co-founder D.O. Gibson. Keynote speakers include Canadian rapper Tom MacDonald and hip-hop music executive Wendy Day.
– The Weeknd continues to attract attention regularly, and a highly-anticipated halftime appearance at The Superbowl will certainly earn him more. So will his brand new video, for the track Save Your Tears. Directed by Cliqua, it continues the theme of body reconstruction that is featured in such recent videos as In Your Eyes and Too Late. Check it out here. Source: Pitchfork
– The Toronto Blues Society’s annual Maple Blues Awards will be held virtually and streamed from four cities across Canada on each Monday of the month of February. Multiple award winners will host and perform for the awards events, beginning with Alana Bridgewater and Johnny Max hosting from Toronto on Feb. 1, with performances from Dione Taylor and Jack de Keyzer. On Feb. 8 Angelique Francis and Matt Sobb will host the stream from Ottawa, with JW-Jones and Crystal Shawanda performing. On Feb. 15, Dawn Tyler Watson and Ben Racine host from Montreal, with Durham County Poets and Matt Andersen performing, while the final night of the Maple Blues Awards stream comes from Vancouver Island on Feb. 22, with Dalannah Gail Bowen and Jim Byrnes hosting, and Liam Docherty and Lindsay Beaver performing. The 24th Annual Maple Blues Awards will be streamed at 8 pm EST via Facebook here .
– Canadian Music Week announces that nominations are open for the 20th Anniversary Canadian Independent Music Awards presented by Jim Beam. The Awards will be live-streamed on May 21. Submissions are now open through indies.ca until Feb. 5. Artists or their representatives (including labels, agents, managers, and publishers) can submit nominations on their behalf. The eligibility period for all awards categories runs from Jan. 1, 2019 through Jan. 1, 2021. Nominees must have been active during the eligibility period and are based on the performance of the group or artist. For complete submission details, eligibility criteria and award categories, see "Criteria" on the Indies website.
– The Canadian premiere of The Rolling Stones | UNZIPPED exhibition at THEMUSEUM in Kitchener has been postponed from Nov. 2 until Nov. 30, 2021 and will run through Feb. 27, 2022. Read our earlier preview of the show here.
– Toronto Blues Society (TBS) presents a webinar entitled Money Matters: Managing Your Finances & Bookkeeping for Musicians, on Jan. 17, 2-3 pm EST. The free online event will cover a variety of strategies to help musicians, industry professionals, and music supporters to help manage their finances. Hosted by musician Julian Taylor, it has panel speakers who will also take questions from participants during the Q&A. The event will be live streamed on the TBS Facebook page as well as on Zoom.
– Over the holiday season, US vinyl sales reported its best sales week ever since Nielsen/MRC Data began tracking sales information in 1991. Billboard reports there were 1.842 million LPs sold in the US during the week leading up to Christmas, ending on Dec. 24. The previous record was achieved just a week prior, when 1.445 million vinyl records were sold between Dec. 10 and Dec. 17.
For the first time in 34 years, LP sales outpaced CDs during four separate weeks in 2020 (all of them since September), which was a prediction that experts made back in 2019 as vinyl saw its 12th straight year of steady growth. For reference, there were 18.84 million US vinyl sales in 2019 compared to less than a million in 2007 and less than 10 million in 2014. The top-selling vinyl album last week was Paul McCartney’s new solo effort III, which sold 32,000 units, making it the third-largest sales week for a vinyl record since 1991. Source: Consequence of Sound
– The Toronto Arts Foundation Awards will include a 2021 Emerging Jazz Artist Award. On Jan. 26 (noon-1.30 pm EST), The TAF is holding an Info session webinar to explain the award being presented in 2021, including how to get started, who is eligible and what makes a strong nomination. There will be time for questions. Register here. The Emerging Jazz Artist Award is a $10K cash prize with finalists receiving $1K. Established in 2014, the award, supported by Cheryl and Manuel Buchwald, will be given out annually for at least 10 years. It is part of the Vision Awards, presented every year at the TD Toronto Jazz Festival. More info here
– Nominations for the third annual Canadian Independent Music Video Awards have been announced by Dropout Entertainment. The public can vote until Jan. 17, once per genre per day. Two videos from each genre move on to the final round based on fan votes, with two being selected by judges. Vote here.
– Music Managers Forum Canada presents a webinar, Funding 101 - The FACTOR Edition: Profile Reviews, on Jan. 27. Sign up for the free session here.
– Our congrats to regular FYI contributor Bill King and son Jesse King (aka Dubmatix) on the news that their Soul Nation Radio show has just been picked up by Spotify. The show runs weekly and exclusively on Toronto's Jazz.Fm91. Bill informs us that "we had a 2300% jump in listenership in last book to over 30,000 tuning in Tuesday 9-midnight. On Spotify, we will be running hour one of three. We focus on funk, soul, neo soul, hip hop, spoken word and contemporary gospel." Catch it here.
– Ontario Creates has announced that From Page to Screen 2021 will be an all-virtual event, held on March 2. It has been created to promote the adaptation of Canadian fiction, non-fiction and children’s literature published by Ontario publishers to the big and small screens. It will provide a forum for Canadian film and television, and interactive digital companies to meet with the publishers in one-on-one scheduled meetings. The deadline for applications is Jan. 15 at 5 pm. Applications must be submitted via Ontario Creates’s Online Application Portal here.
Steve Brown, English record producer for Wham!, Manic Street Preachers, The Cult, and more, has died, at age 65, after a short illness following a fall in December.
The Guardian reports that "Brown brought crisp and anthemic production to some of the UK’s biggest music acts in the 1980s and 90s." He produced hits such as the Cult’s She Sells Sanctuary, Wham!’s Club Tropicana and the Manic Street Preachers’ Motorcycle Emptiness.
His career began in the early 1970s as a teenager, after a chance encounter with Elton John at a petrol station Brown was working at. That led to a job as a drum roadie, then as a tape operator in a studio alongside an old schoolfriend, Steve Lillywhite, who would go on to become one of the UK's most successful producers.
Brown worked his way up to the role of engineer, for hits including Wizzard’s I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day. He stepped up to a co-producer role alongside Robert “Mutt” Lange for the Boomtown Rats in the late 1970s, and segued into the glossy pop of the 1980s, producing hits like Tears Are Not Enough for ABC. His biggest success came in 1983, producing Wham!’s debut album Fantastic, including singles Young Guns (Go for It) and Club Tropicana.
Brown turned away from synthpop and back towards guitars – “I like to produce sounds that you want to turn up,” he said in 1985 – and helped make the Cult’s She Sells Sanctuary into one of the great rock anthems of the 1980s, while also producing with Freddie Mercury, Alison Moyet, The Alarm, and more that decade. The Cult paid tribute, saying: “He was hugely influential in the Cult’s evolution and shall forever be entwined in our DNA.”
In the 1990s, he brought a similar stadium sound to the Manic Street Preachers’ single Motorcycle Emptiness, with bassist Nicky Wire also paying tribute, saying they “had so much fun working with Steve. He taught us so much.” He also worked on Mansun’s hit Britpop album Attack of the Grey Lantern. Source: The Guardian
– Phyllis McGuire, the last surviving member of the 1950s vocal harmony group The McGuire Sisters, died in Las Vegas on Dec. 29, age 89.
Phyllis, who was the youngest of the three McGuire sisters, was just four when the group started performing at local churches, funerals and other events. By 1949, the group was performing at military bases and veterans’ hospitals and had expanded their repertoire to include secular material.
In 1952, the McGuires signed with Coral Records but didn’t achieve their first hit until the following year with the release of Pine Tree, Pine over Me, which spent a week at #27 on the Cash Box magazine Best-Selling Records chart.
Over the next several years, they followed their initial success with a string of hits, including the #1 recordings, Sugartime and Sincerely as well as top ten hits such as Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight, He, and Something’s Gotta Give.
Along with recordings and live performances, the group also maintained a regular presence on television, appearing on shows such as Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts, as well as variety programming such as the Ed Sullivan Show, and the Red Skelton show.
Phyllis gained notoriety for her personal relationships with influential figures, including reputed Chicago mob boss Sam “Momo” Giancana, as well as U.S. President John F. Kennedy, and his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy.
However, it was her relationship with Giancana that may have led to the band’s ultimate retirement in 1968 after they were reputedly blacklisted for their connection with the organized crime figure.
Following the band’s retirement, McGuire continued to perform as a solo artist for several years before retiring herself and opening a restaurant McGuire’s Pub in Florida.
The McGuire reunited several times, including in 1986, when they performed at Toronto’s Royal York Hotel, followed by a series of shows in gambling meccas such as Las Vegas and Atlantic City.
Phyllis was preceded in death by her sisters Dorothy, who died in Arizona in 2012 and Christine, who died in Las Vegas in 2018. Source: Celebrity Access
Alexi Laiho, the acclaimed guitarist and frontman for the Finnish metal outfit Children of Bodom, died at the end of December, age 41. A cause of death was not given. The statement from his management said Laiho “had suffered from long-term health issues during his last years.”
In 1993, Laiho and drummer Jaska Raatikainen formed the band Inearthed, releasing a debut album in 1997, under the band’s new name, Children of Bodom.
Children of Bodom’s profile grew in the ensuing years as they released a steady stream of albums and toured Europe. By 2003’s Hate Crew Deathroll, they’d firmly established a devoted following in the United States as well, and in 2008 they released arguably their most successful album, Blooddrunk.
After a covers LP, Skeletons in the Closet, Children of Bodom would release four more studio albums, ending their run in 2019 with Hexed and playing their final show together in December of that same year. Source: Rolling Stone