Music News

Music News Digest: The National Music Centre Celebrates The Beatles' First Trip to Canada

Also this week: Sappyfest announces its lineup, the winner of the Jim Beam National Talent Search is named, and news on a handful of programs for emerging musicians to develop and break into the music industry.

The Beatles photographed in 1965.

The Beatles photographed in 1965.

FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

Awards news

During Canadian Music Week, The Jim Beam National Talent Search, presented by CMW, announced musician, dancer and actor Myles Erlick as its 2024 winner. The Burlington, Ontario, native opened the 23rd Anniversary INDIE Awards with a performance on June 6, at Danforth Music Hall in Toronto.

The other finalists of the National Talent Search were Bad Skin (Montreal), Jaimeson Rhy (Victoria), Katelyn Lehner (Saskatoon) and Megan Soo (Toronto). All received a paid trip to Canadian Music Week with access to conference and festival events plus the opportunity to perform in the CMW Jim Beam Showcase in Toronto. Other prizes received by the winner include a live performance Masterclass with Tom Jackson, a songwriting and recording session, coverage in CMW’s Making Noise series and prize packages from Long & McQuade and Canadian Music Spotlight.


Erlick has created viral YouTube covers, starred in Billy Elliot the Musical on Broadway, the Snow Day and recent West Side Story movies and Disney’s hit series The Next Step, amongst other credits.

Festivals news

Some prominent additions to the performance lineup for Sackville, New Brunswick's Sappyfest have been announced. They include Jon Mckiel (just named to the Polaris Prize Longlist), Bry Webb (ex-Constantines), Nicolette & The Nobodies, Dog Day, Annie-Claude Deschênes and General Khan. The 19th edition of the event runs Aug. 2-4, and it also features artist talks, film screenings, karaoke, readings, the Sappy Street Market, workshops, a Zine & Craft Fair and more. Passes are now on sale here. Single-day passes and tickets go on sale later this summer.

– The CONTXT Jazz Festival runs at the CONTXT by Trane venue in Toronto, June 26-30. The strong and diverse lineup includes the Phil Jiminez Trio, Maurice Gordon Quintet (honouring Ernest Ranglin and Don Drummond), Ali Bros (Brownman and Marcus Ali) and the Nick Maclean Quartet. More info here.


– The free Its Your Festival Canada Day Weekend festival at Gage Park in Hamilton features a strong all-Canadian lineup. Headliners on the three days (June 29 and 30, July 1) are, in order, Sass Jordan, Big Sugar and The Jim Cuddy Band.Also recommended are Tim Gibbons and The Swampbusters, on July 1. Check the full lineup here.

Industry news

The Canadian Independent Music Association (CIMA) is programming two Artist Development Days at the North By Northeast (NXNE) Festival in Toronto this week. Titled Empowering Independent Artists for Success, they are running June 13 and 14 at It's OK* (468 Queen St. West), and are open to all NXNE attendees and CIMA members. Register here.

– Presented by Canada’s Music Industry Associations and SODEC and hosted in Toronto in the fall, Come Together is an initiative for artists ready to break into Canada’s largest music market. It features two days of of industry showcases and meetings in Toronto, and is aimed at artists, labels, agents, managers, publishers, music supervisors, publicists, and more. Participants will work directly with their music industry association to identify key music business contacts to invite and meet with. Artists must be available to attend both days of programming & showcasing: Nov. 25 & 26. Apply here by July 1.


– The National Music Centre (NMC) in Calgary has announced that its next exhibition will be From Me to You: The Beatles in Canada 1964-1966. As that title indicates, this is a tribute to the arrival of the Fab Four on Canadian shores for the first time, 60 years ago, at the height of Beatlemania. Many of the items have been loaned by Piers Hemmingsen, a music historian and author of The Beatles in Canada: The Origins of Beatlemania. He notes that “while much of the attention around Beatlemania was focused on the U.S., Canada was first to recognize the band and embrace its music."Theexhibition runs at Studio Bell from July 10, 2024 to January 5, 2025. More info here.


– On June 23, The Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto hosts a Celebration of Life in honour of a key player in its storied history. Michael 'X-Ray' MacRae was a co-owner and music booker of the venue, and was much-loved by both artists and industry types. The night is a benefit for the Shine Music Bursary, and featured performers will be Union Duke, Stephen Stanley & Chris Brown, Tom & Thompson Wilson (Tom hosts), Bazil Donovan, David Owen and some very special guests. Sure to be a night to remember. Tix ($25) here. Read the Billboard Canada obituary of MacRae here.

Canada’s Walk of Fame presents the 12th edition of its Emerging Musician Program, designed for solo artists and groups (ages 15-35) eager to advance their careers. Five winners will be selected to receive a comprehensive support package that includes mentorship from industry experts, performance opportunities, video production services, and travel allowances. Submissions are now open here.

– Critically-acclaimed American singer-songwriter Neko Case is often considered an honorary Canadian, based on her time in Vancouver band Cub and collaborations with The Sadies, amongst other links. Look for some of those experiences to be included in her just-announced memoir, entitled The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You. A publication date next Jan. is expected.

– The Annual General Meetingof theAlberta Music Industry Association will be held online on June 26, at 7 p.m. local time. Deadline to RSVP is June 24. A link for the meeting and voting will be sent directly to members at a later date.

Patrick Duffy is the newly elected Chair of the Country Music Association of Ontario (CMAOntario).

SaskMusic has announced its support of National Indigenous History Month, and its website has a detailed list of related events taking place in Saskatchewan this month. Check it out here.

Eclectic Local 2024 is the title of a free outdoor concert series in downtown Hamilton. Presented by Hamilton Music Collective, The Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra and The Incite Foundation for the Arts, it launches this year with all-star soul-funk locals Who It Is! on July 6. Later concerts feature Tadioli Duo, Junestone, and the HPO String Quartet with renowned tenor vocalist Bud Roach. More info here.


Music Managers Forum (MMF) Canada is joining MMF US members and industry in a casual virtual networking event on June 26 (1-2 p.m ET) via the Remo platform. Registration info here.

Don Cramer, drummer in Hamilton proto-punk band Simply Saucer, died on June 4, at age 67. Simply Saucer leader Edgar Breau informed Billboard Canada that Cramer played with his band, 1976-79, "appearing on our 1977 45 on Pig Records, 'She’s a Dog'/'I Can Change My Mind,' and on the double vinyl LP Saucerland (French label Monotone)."

Blaine Pritchett, a Toronto sound tech, guitar tech and road manager, passed away on June 5, at age 76. As a drummer, he played with such '60s bands as the Real Mystics and Atlantis. He then became a roadie, sound man and guitar tech for the Rogues, Mandala and the Guess Who, followed by a stint as the road manager of the Domenic Troiano Band.


Artists news

– Acclaimed and Juno-nominated Toronto singer-songwriter Lori Cullen has just released a new album, The Thunder And The Bay. Her previous eightalbums have drawn upon orch-pop, folk, jazz and bossa elements, and she enters the new terrain of EDM/electronica here. Cullen tells Billboard Canada that this new record "for me is more accessible than anything I have ever done. Not by design but I think by raising an 11 year old who loves modern top 40 and also by finding a genuine connection with an electronic producer last year." The material was co-written and produced with James de Pinho AKA Beta One, while A-list players Rich Brown, Kevin Fox, Thom Gill, William Sperandei and Kurt Swinghammer (a regular Cullen collaborator) add organic flavours. An adventurous effort well worth your attention. More info here.

– Those who have followed the career of veteran Toronto singer-songwriter Blair Packham through The Jitters and his solo work know he is one of the wittiest songsmiths and performers around. He informs Billboard Canada that "Deane Cameron [head of Jitters label EMI Canada] once told me, as an admonishment, that 'humour and music don't mix.' I think he was trying to get me to stop joking around between songs!" Now Packham is diving right into comedy as one half of Scott 'N' Scooter, a comedy/music duo also featuring Janet Van De Graaff (Second City, Go Girl), and he tells us that "working with Janet is a dream — we laugh so much as we write our Scott 'N' Scooter songs! One of the best co-writers I have ever had." Check out their work when Scott 'N' Scooter play Hugh's Room Live in Toronto on June 27. Tickets via Showpass.

Clever Hopes (aka Nova Scotia-based singer-songwriter Andrew Shaver) has just released a second album, New Kind of Familiar. It is helmed by Matthew Barber, with the likes of Joe Grass and Josh Van Tassell guesting, and is being launched with a show at the Sanctuary Arts Centre in Dartmouth on June 22. Shaver will also be performing there on July 16 at the Cameron House in Toronto.

– It is not officially a CanCon outfit, but international punk rock supergroupUltraBomb is worthy of inclusion here as it features Toronto-based vocalist-songwriter Finny McConnell, of The Mahones fame. He joins American legend Greg Norton (Husker Du) and Anglo Jamie Oliver (UK Subs, SNFU), and the band has just released a potent second album, Dying To Smile, via DC-Jam Records. Let's hope for Canadian gigs soon.

Buju Banton

Buju Banton


Legendary Jamaican Artist Buju Banton Coming To Toronto On North American Arena Tour

The show will come as part of the reggae artist's first U.S. tour in 13 years. Don Toliver and Snotty Nose Rez Kids have also revealed upcoming Canadian dates.

A legendary Jamaican artist is making a major return to Canada.

Grammy-winning reggae and dancehall musician Buju Banton will perform at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto on October 13, for his first Canadian show in over fifteen years.

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