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Notes From CIMA, MusicOntario's Joint AGM

The annual included a lengthy recounting of accomplishments and a strong agenda for the coming year, along with the election of a new slate of CIMA directors working with recently anointed org president (pictured) Andrew Cash. Karen Bliss sat in on the Zoom call and took extensive notes and recounts the highlights here.

Notes From CIMA, MusicOntario's Joint AGM

By Karen Bliss

The Canadian Independent Music Association (CIMA) and local division MusicOntario again held their Annual General Meeting virtually on Zoom, Oct. 28.


During the hour-long recap and statement of future plans, there were also two pre-recorded performances from NEFE, and Josh Sahunta, as well as an intro-to-NFTs discussion between Jay Devonish and Jesse Galati of The NFT Agency. The newly elected CIMA board members were also announced.

New president Andrew Cash, who replaced Stuart Johnston at the end of March, outlined the important issues CIMA has faced during the pandemic and the association’s goals for 2022 and beyond. 

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He began by saying that he wasn’t surprised “that those in the Canadian indie sector quickly and cleverly adjusted, reinvented and transformed,” believing that “The 20 years of digital disruption that the music sector has had to deal with, all of that work has led to the sector having the necessary skills to really weather this global pandemic, and now that we look, hopefully, towards a post-pandemic economic recovery, those same tools have positioned the Canadian-owned music sector to be a key and important contributor to this country’s post-pandemic economic recovery.”

Kevin Dales on the audited financial statements:

“CIMA reported earnings of $47,415 in the last fiscal year. The key drivers were both the wage subsidy [and] rent subsidy. There was a Canada art grant that was related to the pandemic, and then CIMA and MusicOntario, as well, did both online events and professional development, which enabled us to get funds as well from Ontario Creates and from FACTOR. With all that combined, we managed to still make money in the end,” Dales said. “I wanted to point out…that our cash balance was basically a million dollars at the end of the year.” Dales also said that under net assets, as a not-for-profit, looking at CIMA and predecessor CIRPA (founded in 1975), “We basically had unrestricted, or retained earnings, life to date of $716,000. So again, that's a surplus of all the years.”

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CIMA chair Tim Potocic:

“I’m hoping that 2022 is going to be a record year for all of us on the call and in the industry in general,” Potocic said, acknowledging there’s “some provinces that are having some issues,” while “Ontario is finally getting back, it seems like, to something close to normal.”

Reflecting on the year at CIMA, he said Cash has “taken CIMA by the horns and, in short order, established himself as the leader we had all hoped and dreamed he would be when we hired him,” adding, “The board is very excited with Andrew’s thoughts and ideas in moving into the future.”

He said in the past 18-months to two years CIMA made “some real drastic changes to its business model,” referring to taking everything online.

“With Andrew at the helm now, I hope CIMA is able to soon scrap those Zoom models, including this one [the AGM], for some real in-person events. In 2022, I hope and expect we’ll all be meeting in person.”

Potocic recapped the lobby efforts CIMA and other music entities took to help get the funding from the provincial and federal governments, in addition to what he calls the “top-up funding” for phase 1 and 2. “This lobbying will continue into 2022 and beyond,” he said, explaining, “There are recovery models being implemented at the government level which include direct financial support and new models of programs to assist with wages, so hopefully those will get on the rails quickly.”

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He also noted that Bill C-10 — the amendment to the Broadcast Act — didn’t have time to pass. It died when Trudeau called an election. “I will begin a consultation process to redraft the bill and move it forward in 2022,” Potocic said. “We do urge all our members to be active with their comments and participation as this bill is an important piece of legislation for the entire Canadian industry.”

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CIMA president Andrew Cash:

“The common refrain he heard in first six months in the job” is lack of “good up-to-date” data on, and for, the independent music sector,” Cash said, calling it “a real barrier for growth and a major weakness in our sector.” He said most of the available data includes the major labels, which skews the results.  To correct this, CIMA will be expanding its data and market research capacity and will look to hire a full-time information data manager. They will be sending out what he calls “short blast surveys” that won’t take more than a minute to fill out. “We have to constantly track demographics, industry trends, the national and global market, as well as key economic challenges in the sector,” he said.

He also provided an update on 2020’s 10-part roundtable video series Breaking Down Racial Barriers, facilitated by CIMA but co-curated by David “Click” Cox and Ian Andre Espinet, and viewed by over 20,000 people. Based on these open discussions, Espinet wrote up a Vol. 1 report and also initiated the BDRB Declaration Against Anti-Black Racism in the Canadian Music Industry — created in partnership with CIMA and Advance, Canada Black Music Business Collective — which invited music businesses and organizations to publicly sign the 7-point commitment on June 2 (the one-year anniversary of viral protest Blackout Tuesday). Cash called it a “watershed moment.”

One of the goals is to “collect better demographic statistics in order to identify systemic barriers” for BIPOC, as well as measure the success of Diversity, Equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. For its part, Cash said CIMA created an equity committee; is working with an equity consultant, Neil Brown, “to help further CIMA’s programming and training;” and will soon post its first equity statement on its website. This will serve as a reference for the many independent businesses that don't have human resource departments or staff.

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CIMA also hired Tenniel Brown, founder of the Centre for Anti-Oppressive Communication, to design a program set to launch next month called the Emotional Liberation Circles for self-identified BIPOC community members. The 90-minute discussion will cover “skill-building training for BIPOC artists and independent music industry employees to define and explore racial trauma.” Cash said additional resources will go towards establishing an affinity group. He added that the video of the discussion will be posted for other CIMA members “and possibly partner organizations,” as it’s important to “share the resources.”

Like Potocic, Cash also brought up the fact that Bill C-10 “got sidelined by the election,” but pointed out that during the election the Liberals’ campaign platform promised to increase the Canada Music Fund to $50 million a year. In 2019, he reminded its members of the increase from $26M to $36M, and then the “temporary $10M” infusion when covid hit. He called the new bump “a huge victory.” He said Bill C-10 will be a priority in the first 100 days of Parliament, expected mid-Nov. Cash acknowledged that CIMA members also need and have relationships with the tech companies the Bill is going after for reforms. “[We] may be in for a bit of a bumpy ride, but I’m ready for it.”

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He added that while the focus is C-10, in terms of copyright reform the industry has been “asking for specific things that could bring in an extra $80 million a year into the music sector if they went through.”

Besides these big steps, Cash said CIMA presented over 50 professional development event and international showcases, including 24 international events; worked with 20 partnered countries.

To conclude his first AGM, he said the goal of making CIMA more service oriented “requires a rethink of our brand, our front-facing communications, our website, and some of our internal operations. So, we are at the beginning stages of going through a brand renewal process and getting the building blocks together for a new strategic plan. That’s going to set us up to service you and serve the people that you serve in a much better way and really increase the voice of the independent sector, increase the voice and the consciousness among Canadians of what we do, and why Canadians should support independent music in Canada.”

New 2021-2024 Board of Directors

Voting took place electronically prior to the AGM. “Each year they are looking at renewing five new spots,” said Cash.

CIMA members re-elected incumbents Shauna de Cartier (Six Shooter Records), Sandy Pandya (ArtHaus Music/Pandyamonium), Kieran Roy (Arts & Crafts Productions Inc.), Kesi Smyth(604 Records), and Iain Taylor (Cadence Music Group) to 3-year terms also re-electing Amanda Rheaume (Ishkode Records) and Jake Gold (The Management Trust Ltd.) to one-year terms. Newly elected one-year term board members include Gourmet Délice (Bonsound), Meagan Davidson (Tiny Kingdom Music), Susan de Cartier (Starfish Entertainment), and Daniel Turcotte (Monstercat). These directors will be joining incumbents Tim Potocic (Sonic Unyon Records); David “Click” Cox (CLK Creative Works); Gord Dimitrieff (Aporia Records); Simon Mortimer-Lamb (Nettwerk Music Group); and Justin West (Secret City Records).

MusicOntario executive director Emy Stancheva:

Stancheva reminded members that coming out of 2019, MusicOntario had delivered 56 events in five countries, across 17 cities, showcasing 118 artists, “and supported the business objectives and professional development trajectories of hundreds of Ontario small music companies.”

She said, “I was so stoked to keep that going and do more and more, but covid forced us to take a step back,” adding, “The silver lining was we were able to slow down and dedicate some time and resources to some complex projects that humbled us.”

One such initiative was Canada’s first-ever Trans in the Music Industry summit, held this past May over two days. “We learned so much about how our work as an association can be more effective and accessible in supporting underserved creatives and professionals.”  CIMA provided three sessions before and after the summit to the industry at large to encourage them “to think beyond gender binaries and better understand how to work with trans communities from a place of harm-reduction.”

MusicOntario also presented virtual showcases for Folk Alliance in Kansas City, The New Colossus in New York, Great Escape in Brighton and Hove, England, and New Skool Rules in Rotterdam.  She said, overall the organization hosted 35 events this year and showcased 81 artists in 2020-2021. The first in person was at Toronto’s The Dive Shop in partnership with long-running female singer showcase Honey Jam. They just wrapped up the 7th annual Songwriter Challenge in London, Ontario, capped with the Music Sync Summit, as part of the Forest City Film Festival.  “Feels like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” Stancheva said.

“Before we get too comfortable, settling into how things once were,” she said she wanted to add that in addition to capital to sustain their operations and employees, “We need social supports, including access to childcare, access to safe and affordable and stable housing, access to affordable professional spaces like studios, rehearsal rooms, and creative hubs…access to mental health support and more affordable healthcare for crucial things that aren’t covered by OHIP, access to education and professional development…mentorship and real-time skills training and networking in the music industry, […] and access to high-speed Internet.” She explained that a “great many in Ontario don’t have access to internet that functions well enough for professional needs” and that “these issues disproportionally affect Black, Indigenous and people of colour, women, primary caregivers, and non-binary, neurodiverse and disabled folks, the 2SLGBTQ2A+, immigrants, and newcomers and the many intersections therein.”

She concluded her ATG portion by revealing there would be an in-person day-time event on Nov. 15 called Come Together, put on by seven music associations — CIMA, MusicOntario, Music Alberta, Music BC, SaskMusic, Music Nova Scotia and Manitoba Music — replete with mingling, hors d’oeuvres, drink tickets, “all the things we know and love,” Stancheva said. “It’s a really important opportunity for all of us to reconnect as a Canadian music industry in Toronto.” Venue TBA.

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