How The West Was One: A Brief History of the WCMA

by SaskMusic

August 6, 2009 in Industry Developments

Boys and girls, gather round and I'll tell you the story of how the Western Canadian Music Alliance came to be.

Once upon a time, while the Saskatchewan Recording Industry Association was still in its infancy, we set out to create a really cool educational and networking event for our members. It was called Music Industry Weekend, and it was good. From 1988 to 1994 we put on conferences/festivals, bringing in speakers from all over (like Mark Ringwood of Marco Polo in the U.K., William "Skinny" Tenn, Sylvia Tyson, Karen Taylor-Good, Bob Wiseman, Ron Hynes, Shari Ulrich, Paul DeLong, Bill Runge, Bill Henderson, Ralph Murphy...the list goes on).

Now during this time, some of the other music industry associations were also putting on their own events for their own provinces - like the West Coast Music Awards in B.C. and the Alberta Recording Industry Association Awards.

This was a lot of work for everyone, so in 1995 the music industry associations (MIAs) of Manitoba, Alberta and Saskatchewan got together to take turns hosting the independent music festival and conference known as All Indie Weekend. This was also a good thing, as since the event travelled around each year it gave our staff members a break, and gave our members a chance to network with peers from THREE provinces instead of just their own.

It was all going so well that the three associations decided to make it official, and create a new entity to further promote prairie music to the world. To do this, an awards component was added. (Awards show are a great draw for media, and we had as our model the East Coast Music Awards, which were doing one heckuva job of putting the spotlight on Maritime artists.) This new organization was named the Prairie Music Alliance Inc., and members in good standing with any one of the MIAs were automatically members of PMA, too. From 2000 to 2002 the PMA put on a fabulous conference, festival and awards show known as Prairie Music Week.

Now, things was rolling along nicely when the PMA was approached by British Columbia and the Yukon, who also wanted to join the party. After some debate and a tad of controversy, The Western Canada Music Alliance Inc. was born. With five siblings it appears the family is now complete. And while the WCMA is a relatively young event, there is a strong sense of history because of its roots in the early events and experiences of each MIA (see the SaskMusic chronology below).

The five participating MIAs are:
• SaskMusic
• Manitoba Music
• The Alberta Music Industry Association
• Music BC
• Music Yukon

So, if you're a voting member of one of those, you are a member of the WCMA too. Through the years, the who's who of Western Canadian music have performed at the festival and on the awards shows. There are always a few surprises and brand-spankin'-newcomers in the award nominations. The conference is always a great place to learn something new or meet someone new. It's your event, so please don't miss your chance to participate - especially since it's right here in Saskatchewan in 2007!

The SaskMusic/WCMA Chronology

1988: the first Music Industry Weekend (MIW) is held in Regina.
1989: MIW in Saskatoon
1990: MIW in Regina - "Vital Connections"
1991: MIW in Saskatoon - "Vital Connections"
1992: MIW in Regina - "The Indie Edge"
1993: MIW in Saskatoon - "You Can Get There From Here". SRIA Lifetime Achievement Award presented to Joni Mitchell.
1994: MIW in Regina - "Surviving the Jungle". SRIA Lifetime Achievement Award presented to Buffy Sainte-Marie.
1995: MIW in Saskatoon - "From Myth To Reality: The Indie Road Map"
1996: All Indie Weekend (AIW) in Winnipeg
1997: AIW in Regina - "The Cutting Edge"
1998: AIW in Calgary
1999: First Prairie Music Week in Winnipeg
2000: PMW in Saskatoon
2001: PMW in Edmonton - "From Green to Gold"
2002: PMW in Winnipeg - "No Smoke No Mirrors"
2003: First Western Canadian Music Awards in Regina - "Let's Make a Deal"
2004: WCMA in Calgary
2005: WCMA in Vancouver - "Where the West is One"
2006: WCMA in Winnipeg

Saskatchewan Winners - PMAs and WCMAs
• Chester Knight and the Wind: "Falling Down", Outstanding Aboriginal Recording (1999)
• Wide Mouth Mason: "Where I Started", Outstanding Rock Recording, SOCAN Songwriter of the Year, Entertainer of the Year (1999), and their designer Chris Spillios also picked up Album Design of the Year; for "Stew", Outstanding Album (Major Label), Outstanding Songwriter(s), Outstanding Rock Recording (2001); for "Rained Out Parade", Outstanding Rock Recording (2003)
• Jared Kuemper, Engineer of the Year (1999)
• Cam Fuller - Saskatoon Star Phoenix, Media Person of the Year (1999 and 2000)
• Grind Recording, Studio of the Year (1999)
• The Johner Brothers: "Maybe She'll Change Her Mind", Outstanding Video (2000); The Johner Brothers, Outstanding Producer (2000)
• Downhere: "Downhere", Outstanding Contemporary Christian Recording (2000); Downhere, Outstanding Festival Act (2000)
• Eileen Laverty: "Dancing with Angels", Outstanding Roots Recording (tie) (2000)
• Bob Evans: "Caffeinated Coffee", Outstanding Instrumental Recording (2000)
• The Poverty Plainsmen: "There's No Lookin' Back", Outstanding Country Recording (2000)
• Hal Schrenk: Michel Marchildon's "Changer De Peau", Best Album Design (2000)
• The Beachcombers, Outstanding Festival Act (2001)
• The Northern Pikes: "Truest Inspiration", Outstanding Pop Recording (2001)
• Inshaalha: "Inshaalha", Outstanding Dance/Urban Recording (tie) (2002)
• Winston Wuttunee: "The Best of Winston Wuttunee", Outstanding Aboriginal Recording (2002)
• Brad Johner: "Free", Outstanding Country Recording (2003)
• Polly-Esther: "Les cent pas", Outstanding Francophone Recording (2003)
• Bob King; "Rock & Roll Teachers", Outstanding Children’s Recording (2005)
• Jack Semple: "Qu’Appelle", Outstanding Instrumental Recording (2005)
• Johnny Gasparic, Engineer of the Year (2005)
• Andrea Menard: "Simple Steps", Outstanding Aboriginal Recording (2006)
• La Raquette à Claquettes: "Quand La Pluie Viendra", Outstanding Francophone Recording (2006)
• Joël Fafard: "…and another thing…", Outstanding Instrumental Recording (2006)

Hall of Fame - PMAs and WMCAs
• 1999: The Guess Who. Industry Builder: Gaylene Dempsey and Kevin Walters (tie)
• 2000: Joni Mitchell. Industry Builder: Marian
• 2001: Ian Tyson. Industry Builder: Senator Tommy Banks.
• 2002: Neil Young. Industry Builder: Sam
• 2003: Kenny Shields & Streetheart. Industry
Builder: J.P. Ellson. Heritage Award: Bob Moyer.
• 2004: The Stampeders. Industry Builder: R.
Harland Smith. Heritage Award: Garry McDonall.
• 2005: Loverboy. Industry Builder: Sam Feldman. Heritage Award: Dal Richards.
• 2006: Harlequin. Industry Builder: Heather
Bishop. Heritage Award: Howard Mandshein.

By Lorena Kelly for SaskMusic. Originally published Autumn 2007.

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