Retrospective

Wow...SaskMusic is twenty years old! It’s been an amazing, exhilarating, and sometimes scary two decades for our association…we’ve survived funding cuts, staff departures, floods and faux pas. We have seen cassettes and reel-to-reels replaced with CDs and MP3s, jumped into the digital world as one of the first associations to have their very own website, and celebrated as Saskatchewan artists took their place on a world stage.

Through it all, the constant has been the amazing depth and diversity of Saskatchewan talent. If it weren’t for you guys, we would not still be around! So thank you, to everyone who has participated in this industry and has been making great music through huge challenges and equally huge triumphs. Thank you to everyone who through the years has sat on our Board, volunteered at our many events, worked in the office, attended a workshop or performed at something we produced. Thank you to those who passionately love this business; you are the reason this association has continued to grow, to the point that we truly are recognized as the “Voice” of Saskatchewan Music. Sniffle...okay so anyways...it all started...

"Thank-you so much to you wonderful people at SaskMusic. Without you, we would be pulling our gear in a wagon from town to town. Not only is our gear really, really heavy, but towns are hundreds of km apart... so again: thank-you."
- Love, The Blood Lines (2007)

Back in ’86 or ’87, a group of industrious studio owners got together to discuss ways to work together for the betterment of the industry. Those founders were certainly an ambitious bunch - the kickoff to this non-profit in fall 1987 was a “SRIA launch weekend” (the first of what would become our Music Industry Weekends).

I chatted with one of these founders, Lyndon Smith (owner of Saskatoon’s Right Tracks Digital Media), about the early days of our association.

He explains, “We realized there was an industry starting to form here; there were clubs and live music, and studios were starting to grow - besides the two main ones (Studio West and Inner City Sound), places like Audio Art, Right Tracks, N.B. Studios were popping up. We looked at the national scene, and realized that other provinces were starting to form associations, and that hopefully we’d all become part of a unified voice for the industry. So part of the goal was development of the industry, and that by getting together with our counterparts in Sask. and across Canada, we’d have a lobby voice. For example, Free Trade was on the table at that time and there were real fears that it would demolish the Canadian manufacturing industry.“

Considering that these studio guys were in competition with each other, I found it somewhat remarkable that they agreed to work together. Lyndon explains, “Back then it cost $100,000 and up to open a studio - not everybody could do it. But with that competition between us, studio prices came down, and production quality went up. It was highly competitive, but in a good way - it made you want to do a great job.“ Now keep in mind that at this point there was no automation; digital mastering was brand new, and everything else was hands-on. You edited (tape) with a razor blade! Our first “head office” was just an address to receive mail in Saskatoon, and a membership cost only $25 (and stayed at that rate until 2005).

Those early years were certainly no picnic. As Lyndon notes, “We went on pure faith that we would get some funding; we were booking flights and charging things for our first MIW just going on confidence that the money would come from somewhere...and fortunately, it did. We always wanted an office and paid staff (because that was) the only way the organization would succeed and be taken seriously, but in the beginning, a lot of talented people just donated their time. The music industry is trendy, sexy, fun; so it was easy to attract creative people!“

Our new association was viewed by some with slight suspicion, as it was perceived to be “an association run by studio owners“. Lyndon responds, “In part that was true...but we were a bunch of people motivated to do the work because we were doing it full time, and had to succeed!“ The driving need for a provincial industry organization obviously outweighed any concerns....since several hundred artists signed up that first year. As Lyndon continues, “Your best bet for building an industry is to build the individual artists; we’ve had our biggest successes when our clients have had success.“

Some of the successes that came for Lyndon included co-founding Sweetgrass Records, engineering a track for the Barenaked Ladies, working all over North America on live recordings, and various projects for major labels...“I’ll never forget our first major label gig - the Northern Pikes (who ended up on Virgin). I photocopied that cheque - I almost didn’t cash it - I still have the copy. We were, ’Holy smokes we got a major label gig’...and it ended up being the first of many. The Junos have also been huge for my career; I think we’ve had nine nominations and two wins. Those are the carrots they dangle to keep you in the business when you’re thinking of quitting.“ (laughs).

In celebration of our birthday I picked through old newsletters...and nearly bust a gut. We sure didn’t mince words (especially once a certain Marian Donnelly joined the team, ahem). Now that I’ve refreshed my memory on our writing style, look forward to a lot more swearing and irreverence in future issues of The Session! But I digress...

If you’ve seen our Annual Reports you know we do an AWFUL lot of stuff each year, so what follows is a very very random sampling of things that went down here and there through the decades (and certainly not everything or every one is mentioned), but I hope it will give you a flavour of the stuff we’ve accomplished, and some of the cool people we’ve gotten to work with.

With the home studio market yet to kick off in a big way, there were plenty of professional studios around in 1987: Our newsletter reported, “Protrax Production Group is pleased to announce that the new 8 track Midi studio is nearing completion. The 24-track Audio Art has just completed major renovations, including an isolation booth and a Studer StudioA80 MkIII recorder. Right Tracks offers the latest in MIDI and digital recording technology, while also providing traditional analog recording techniques. Inner City Sound is pleased to announce the acquisition of a Trident TSM Console, 24 track Studer and newly installed SMPTE synchronizer. Studio West will celebrate their 10th Anniversary with extensive modifications to their 24-track Studio A facility at Pike Lake (Studio B is their 8-track MIDI studio in Saskatoon).”

The Professional Musicians’ College in Regina was up and running, one of the only facilities of its kind in Canada (offering contemporary instruction in theory, performance, improv etc. for various instruments and voice). Meanwhile, Z99 Regina and C95 Saskatoon were planning another of their provincial talent competitions – which would result in the “Street Rock III” and “City Works II” compilations. Our newsletter excitedly asked, “Could these be the first Saskatchewan-produced projects released on CD?” And indeed they were. Those early projects showcased 8 Regina and 8 Saskatoon winners, including Heavy Weather, May Run, Suzie Vinnick and The Touch.

Artist Ian Eaton was beginning his first recording, which would be released as a 45 rpm. (Ian would go on to make history as the first Saskatchewan act to be played on CMT Nashville with hit “Born Country”, and had several other charting singles including “California By Night”, which went gold). Also in 1987, The Northern Pikes had just completed work on some new demos for Virgin Records in preparation for their second album. Brenda Baker was featured in a national CBC-TV documentary as well as on American Public Radio, and Regina guitarist Jack Semple, formerly of the Luxury Blues Band, accepted an invitation to join the Lincolns - a popular Toronto-based rhythm and blues band.

By spring of 1988, we were pretty active in the community - sponsoring the Bud Country Talent Search (Saskatoon), and in discussions with CKRM and the Saskatoon Country and Western Music Association about the formation of a provincial country music association (with the result being the Saskatchewan Country Music Association). Touchwood Recording Studios reopened its doors as the first studio in western Canada to utilize R.P.G./R.F.Z. technology. Dynamic Sound Industries took delivery of “their second Yamaha PM3000C mixing console”. And New Music Productions was making plans to relocate to a new, larger facility. Monthly members’ networking meetings were held in Regina. And 1988 saw the launch of our sister association, the Manitoba Audio Recording Industry Association (MARIA).

Our newsletter quoted the following from an article titled ’The Role of the Professional Studio for the Home Recordist’: “In recent years, the availability of good quality portable 4, 8 and 12 track recorders has enabled many musicians to set up home studios – and now, MIDI sequencers and synths have further expanded the possibilities of the home studio. Yet how has the role of the professional studio changed? Does the modern home recordist even need professional recording services?”

By 1990, we were really rolling: we had a permanent office on Cynthia Street in Saskatoon, presented the Saskatchewan Music Awards, and another Music Industry Weekend (MIW). The Saskatchewan Country Music Association was rolling, and had produced the first Saskatchewan Country Music Awards. Heidi Munroe and Jackie Bell were representing Saskatchewan in the national CCMA Bud Talent Search, and May Run was in rotation on MuchMusic with their premiere video, “More Than This”.

Creative House opened its doors in ’90 as “the first fully digital studio on the prairies”. At Studio West, The Johner Brothers were preparing cuts for their debut album with Westar Records, and The Studio West Recording Arts Program announced its first complete full-time summer course in sound recording. Speed of Light opened with a Soundcraft 6000/30x16 with twister automation and Tascam MSR-116 16 track recorder (“plus Macintosh and Atari ST computers“). Audio Image Productions celebrated their first anniversary and were the Central Canada rep for Digidesign, including SoundTools.

On the national scene, Canada’s two performing rights societies – CAPAC and PROCAN – blended into one, resulting in SOCAN. As technology continued to cause waves, one of our Music Biz Nite seminars reported, “CDs are becoming more commonplace at radio…45s are still being used, but are slowly being phased out.” And, the feds allotted $30 million to Saskatchewan for diversification, on the condition that the province match that amount; so we got together with the Sask. Motion Picture Industry Assoc., Sask. Publisher’s Group and Sask. Craft Council to make a pitch to our Minister of Culture about putting some of that diversification funding into the cultural industries.

In 1991, our newsletter finally got named “The Session“ and we bunked in with Speed of Light Studio on Rose St. in Regina. Our artists were incredibly busy: Colin James performed on Letterman, and received two JUNOs (and opened the show). The Northern Pikes also performed on the JUNOs that year, and released “She Ain’t Pretty” as their first stateside single. Hart Rouge completed a tour of Europe and Russia with Rod Stewart. Regina-born Neil Osborne and 54-40 were in the studio, having signed with Sony Canada. The Waltons “are being courted by a name producer and are off to Toronto”. The Johner Brothers took home a Canadian Country Music Award, performed on the Tommy Hunter Show, and the Grand Ole Opry. Age of Electric signed with Commodore Entertainment and did a “big label showcase“ in L.A. The Blazers won the Gold Fever Festival, and placed third in the Molson Canadian Rock Showdown in Toronto. The national Labatt’s Band Warz was won by The Explorers (the Churko Brothers), and they went on to represent Canada in Japan.

NMP Recording Studio was “a highly efficient broadcast quality 8 track MIDI studio specializing in radio and TV, and jingles”. Studio West had relocated to Alberta, while Creative House was now offering digital audio editing, employing Digidesign SoundTools with the MacIntosh II computer. N.B. Studios in North Battleford completed a major renovation including a new “ambient” room, and Regina had an arts and entertainment monthly, “The Scene“. In January of ‘91, The Club on Broad Street, Regina, is razed by a fire that kills one person.

"SRIA has helped me in many ways; it was at MIW in Saskatoon that I was introduced to my manager... and my producer"
- Marilyn Faye Partney (1993)

The industry standard for delivering songs to radio was switching from the 45 to compilation CDs - especially in the form of major label “samplers”. The Session noted, “Many artists ask us if they can just release an album-length CD of their own to radio stations. The problem with this approach is that stations will play different songs at different times, so it is extremely unlikely that you will get on the charts…”

Meanwhile, we realized we would need to do some serious lobbying for funding, and were pursuing Provincial Cultural Organization (PCO) status.

1992 saw progress: we worked with the provincial government to develop programs that would distribute approximately $150,000 of Western Economic Partnership Agreement (WEPA) money to Saskatchewan artists for marketing and promotion. And with interim funding from the Sask. Council of Cultural Organizations (SCCO), we hired our first paid employee (albeit part-time) and set up an office of our own...in the newly rebuilt home of “The Club“ on 8th Avenue, Regina. (Today the building is known as The Exchange/The Club).

We also became a regional affiliate for the Foundation to Assist Canadian Talent on Records (FACTOR), as did the associations of BC, Alberta, Manitoba and Nova Scotia. The Songwriters’ Association of Canada and SOCAN hosted an Advanced Songwriting Workshop for our members. And, threw a Musicanada Auction (a fundraiser for us).

In 1992 artist highlights, Del Ryan at Studio Eh secured a Nashville publishing deal; May Run signed with Feldman & Associates; and The Blazers released their first video, “Two Hearts”. Joël Fafard released his debut album, “Sardonic Verses”, Jack Semple won the national Guitar Warz, and Barricade placed second in the national Yamaha Band Warz. An eight-year-old Jordan Cook released “Bluesman”, and Line Up in Paris’s debut came out on CD. Metalist started a 60-date North American tour. The Waltons’ did it up prairie style with “Lik My Trakter”, while Age of Electric were finishing up their major release with producer Bob Rock. The Red Hot Burritos performed on TV’s Nashville Now (TNN), and Creative House finished up a 2000 sq.ft. expansion.

1993 kicked off with our hosting a Saskatchewan Showcase (featuring Metalist, Lowland Chronicles, Funk’n’stein and Line Up in Paris) at Canadian Music Week (CMW), followed by several members playing at Music West (Doug Norquay, Funk’n’stein and Metalist). We co-presented a second Advanced Songwriters’ Workshop and Musicanada Auction; seminars; a “Legend and Legacy” fundraiser; the “Sensational Saskatchewan Sweepstakes Raffle” (in which we raffled off a 16-year-old Ford F250 loaded with prizes...still not sure I ’get it’), and co-hosted the Saskatchewan Pavilion at Regina’s MOSAIC. We sent reps to Canadian Country Music Week, where Sheila Lytle was representing Saskatchewan in the Bud Country finals, and at our annual MIW, Joni Mitchell accepted SRIA’s first-ever “Lifetime Achievement Award“.

In artist news for 1993, Mary Mary’s video for “Hell’s Gate” won a Golden Gate Award at the prestigious San Francisco International film festival, Sheila Deck performed on Nashville Now, and Greenhouse showcased for several major labels. Releases came from Porksword, Mrs. Svenson, Count Zero, Ricasso, Barricade and Sister Joe, among others. The Waltons signed with SIRE Records New York and were pursuing a worldwide publishing deal. Jack Semple starred in the movie “Guitarman“. Shaw Cable’s “Project Discovery“ contest was providing free exposure through the production and broadcast of professional videos for some of our best emerging talent, and, the “Prairie Dog“ arts and entertainment mag launched in Regina.

SRIA and SOCAN helped with a successful lobby for the passing of Bill C-88, a copyright amendment; and FACTOR considered creating a National Advisory Board (something SRIA has representation on today). WEPA money (which later transitioned into the Cultural Industries Assistance Program - CIAP) started to flow, with a Sound Recording Component providing Demo, Marketing, Travel, and Compilation CD assistance within Saskatchewan. The big day for SRIA arrived, and we obtained provincial cultural organization status, with operational funding from the SCCO (now known as SaskCulture). We started work on a music industry study with Northwest Consulting. An issue of the day was commercial work and audio post production leaving the province (with even Crown corps tendering work outside Saskatchewan).

For 1994’s CMW showcase, the Kevin Barrett Band, Glovebox, Funk’n’stein and Peace Love Dog took the stage. The idea that maybe we should distribute a compilation CD at these events was floated. Another Advanced Songwriter’s Workshop goes down, we launched a workshop series, and held a Musicanada Auction; about this time, a live event series called “SRIA Presents” popped up. And, the Songwriters’ Workshop group was meeting every second Wednesday. Cave Studio was working with Go Kart Mozart; Skavenjah finished a cassette release; and Audio Art Studio worked on their compilation, “Country Playback”.

Late in ’94, we released our first compilation CD; it included Green House (aka The Coughing Hensons), Nadine Tindall, Source Unknown, Bluebeard, Educated Guess, Kicktart, Ralph Ell, Les Zed, The Ewert Sisters, and many more. Against the Grain was working on a national distribution deal; The Waltons’ debut went gold; Funk’n’stein’s “Balaclava“ was released on Oh Yah! Records; the Groove Daddies and Joel Grundahl completed projects at Creative House; Carbomite’s “Paranoid Delusions” went into second and third pressings.
Meanwhile, the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA) launched a national campaign to “remind the public of the benefits of purchasing recorded music,” as home taping becomes a sore point in the industry. A new association, the Saskatchewan Original Musicians Association (SOMA) was formed, partly to combat the issue of club owners favouring top 40 cover bands.

Apparently, something mysterious happened in 1995, as there are no surviving newsletters for me to pilfer...(insert ’Twilight Zone’ theme music).

As 1996 dawned, we went through a big change, with both President (Grant McDonald) and Executive Director (Wendy MacDonald) spirited away to new jobs. Just to keep it interesting we moved, too - to the Centre of the Arts in Regina. Marian Donnelly joined the staff as Executive Director and was promptly told to start planning a major festival (Flatland), and J.P. Ellson came on board as President. I joined the staff in the fall on a contract position. We lobbied in support of the Neighbouring Rights Royalty, worked on the first SRIA directory, helped put on The Huron Carole benefit, and continued working on our training strategy. And we looked for more funding, like we always have and always will!

"SRIA has been essential in my understanding of the industry's many concepts and practices. Every time I have a question or concern, I can email and get almost immediate answers."
- Membership survey comment (2000)

The first Flatland Music Festival miraculously came together with a lineup that summer of ’96 that included Newkirk & Bell, Polly Esther, The Minnow, Method 2 Madness, Sound Junkys, Bent, New Sky Embrace, Wood, Crucified by Gravity, Breach of Trust, Shyne, Field Boss, Celtic Clutter, Jordan Cook and a whole lot more. We considered it a great success, and escaped with only minimum hail damage and a little flash flooding. Some of the money to put it on came from our shelving MIW, as this would be the first year for the pan-provincial All Indie Weekend in Winnipeg. Also that year, Radius Communications started its public pitch to launch community radio in Regina.

Releases came from Angie Tysseland (Rockin’ Rod Records), Gayleen Froese, Embrace, Francis Marchildon, Rocky Lakner, and the University of Sask., to name a few, plus new videos were created by the Touchtone Gurus (“Blind“) and Wide Mouth Mason (“Midnight Rain“). The Yahoos were named one of the “Top Five Unsigned Bands in North America“ by the Nashville Entertainment Association.

1997 saw the creation of the Cultural Industry Development Strategy (CIDS), a plan to grow the cultural industries of Sask.; we would spend the next ten years trying to get the government to respond to it. We partnered with the Canadian Independent Record Production Association (CIRPA) to create the “Canadian Music Training Database“ - a comprehensive listing of all the training existing across Canada, as part of our professional development strategy.

The year also brought plenty of releases, like those from Stephanie Thomson, Wood, Eva Gold, Jack Semple, B.C. Read, Pericardium and Bent. Charlie Shock won the National Songwriting Competition with his song “Bound for Nowhere“. (Shortly after, he left Saskatchewan. Hmmmm?) Wide Mouth released their debut on Warner, and went on tour with George Thorogood. The Red Hot Burritos lost a dispute with Revenue Canada, teaching all of us that bands need to collect GST on the collective earnings of their group! CBC fought ominous programming cuts, and the Canadian Radio Music Awards were born.

By 1998 we had settled into a rhythm. Pros at putting on Flatland (with one small hiccup as our Sask. sound company got delayed at the U.S. border, and didn’t start load-in until mere hours before the first chord was due to ring out!); we hosted All Indie Weekend (it was lovely) and moved AGAIN - this time to Cornwall St. in Regina, where we would at least stay put for a while!

Grind Recording in Pense was getting a lot of attention, while Slyngshot Records was the new label on the block. Fiddler Corey Churko was picked up by the Shania Twain tour machinery. Michel Marchildon, Five Minute Miracle, GoKart Mozart, Chester Knight, Faster Gun, Nicol Lischka, Nickeltree, the Korte Sisters, Just Junior, Calm, Crooked Creek, Newkirk & Bell, The Cockrum Sisters, Polly-Esther, Don Waite, Ratty and Sourmash all released albums (whew!), many still in the cassette format, and Colin James’ latest was certified platinum.

We predicted, “As more and more artists join the ’Net, using a site to provide both information and sound clips will become the norm.“ (It’s nice to be right.) We launched the Flatland Music Store, one of the first online stores for independent music ANYWHERE, and start accepting inventory from across North America. And by the end of the year, we had initiated a sporadic “e-mail press release delivery service“, a.k.a. our e-release. Again, we were one of the first ANYWHERE to do something like this. (I still think we actually invented the term “e-release“.) Meanwhile, Bill C-32, a.k.a. the blank tape levy, caused controversy nationwide.

We were very happy campers in 1999 as the Cultural Industries Development Fund (CIDF) came into existence. “Not meant to be a response to the CIDS report“, said government, and not a huge amount - but it meant progress! We co-presented a cultural export forum and many business seminars. All Indie Weekend changed its name to Prairie Music Week as an awards component was added, and we released the first of our Flatland Music Festival compilation albums.

Releases came from Iron Brew, downhere, Joël Fafard, Slab Drab, Off Kilter, Rory Allen, Jen Lane, Lungbutter, Morally Sound, Arkadia, Bob Evans, Sweetsalt and Into Eternity; Nicol Lischka made a video for “Nobody Finds Me“; Orren Oshynko won the National Songwriting Competition; and Five Minute Miracle completed a third national college tour.

The MP3 debate reached a fever pitch, with feathers flying on all sides and great big lawsuits by the Recording Industry Association of America against MP3.com and Napster (as billion-dollar losses are post-ed for the industry); and the Neighbouring Rights Tariff is set.

Our ambitious new project for 2000 was the Flatland Music Series - where we took artists around to Saskatchewan high schools to talk about careers in music and perform shows for the communities.

New Music Productions completed a major upgrade; Grind Recording relocated to Los Angeles; and Kevin Churko got drafted by Mutt Lange and was whisked off to Switzerland. New sounds came from The Wheat Monkeys, Crooked Creek, Rob Palacol, Rob Hudec, Wes Froese, The Dalai Lamas, Jasmine Dion, Edmund Bull, Nikamok and Breach of Trust (“one of the best unsigned bands in Canada“ according to Billboard Magazine); Brian Sklar and the Tex Pistols were touring Europe; and Sweetgrass Records brought home three Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards.

In 2001, the Canadian Radio-Television & Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) approved a license for community radio CJTR in Regina. Woo-hoo!

The Northern Pikes reunited with a new studio album, and folks like Jessica Robinson and May B Ted were kicking butt on commercial radio. The year’s releases included the King Street Healers, Cowboy Bob, Susan Bond, La Raquettes á Claquettes, The Beachcombers, Weak at Best, The Minnow, Passion Brandy Moore, Brenda Baker and Altered State; downhere signed with Word/EMI in the U.S., and Breach of Trust with EMI Canada. Wide Mouth was on tour with AC/DC. Ted Whitecalf (Sweetgrass Records) was honoured with a Music Industry Award as well as Lifetime Contribution to Aboriginal Music at the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards - following Kelly Parker (Turtle Island Music), who picked up the same awards the year prior.

To our extreme delight, we received a large increase to the CIDF and were finally able to launch grant programs and a fuller plate of workshops; we went to Folk Alliance in Vancouver to promote several of our artists, and launched “The Songwriter’s Net“ program of open mikes, peer groups, and workshops for songwriters. The American Federation of Musicians and friends lobbied to combat the growing difficulties involved with obtaining a visa to perform in the U.S., and the feds allocated an additional $500 million to arts and culture. And, Canadian institution “The Record“ magazine folded.

2002 was jam-packed with workshops and another Cultural Export Forum. Since a variety of online distributors were now accessible to our members, we closed our online store (ummm...we’re still waiting for some of you to pick up your leftover product, hint hint!). And Marian Donnelly resigned as Executive Director, setting off a game of musical chairs for that position. Meanwhile, the province introduced Status of the Arts legislation and formed the Minister’s Advisory Committee.

Tango Sierra, Sweetsalt, Pillar, Filmmaker, Shifty Morgan, Sylvie, Motep’s Groove, Liberated Noise, Butterfinger, Lorraine Hartsook and Ben Winoski released albums. Eileen Laverty toured with Mary Black in Ireland, Jason Cullimore received the grand prize for “jazz“ in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest, Into Eternity signed with Century Media Records, and Brad Johner released his debut video as a solo artist, “Hello“. Saskatoon’s new arts and entertainment magazine, “Planet S“, was launched. Following a review of the film industry, that sector received a major government investment - and The Canada-Saskatchewan Soundstage opened in Regina.

The feds allocated $1.4M to Saskatchewan through Cultural Spaces Canada and Arts Presentation Canada; and in the U.S., webcasters continued to argue against proposed licensing fees.

Our biggest 2003 “new initiative“ was the national web project, “All New Releases Lounge“. Prairie Music Week morphed into the first Western Canadian Music Awards, which took place in Regina. We checked out new stuff from Despistado, Surface, Farideh, Jason Plumb, AutoPilot, Fight the Monster, Five Star Homeless, Skavenjah, Sturgis Trash, Junior Pantherz, Morally Sound, Brad Johner and the Touchtone Gurus; Melanie Laine was nominated for a Canadian Radio Music Award, Bob Evans won the National Fingerpicking Competition, Sweetsalt made it to the finals in the Great Canadian Music Dream and took home a Canadian Independent Music Award, and Into Eternity completed a massive North American tour. Flying Squirrel Music Production and B-Rad Studio opened, and Audio Art Recording got their new facility up and running.

2004...well, let’s just say it was a “tumultuous“ year for the association, with multiple changes in our President, Executive Director, and the entire staff, as well as a large cut to our CIDF money. By the end of the year, Noreen Neu was the new Executive Director and staff had been rehired. After eight years of fighting to make it financially viable, we pulled the plug on the Flatland Music Festival, struck a trial partnership with SaskMade Marketplace to sell artist product, and continued with our grants and workshops.

CDs were released by the King Street Healers, Megan Lane and Deep Set Soul, Kimbal Siebert, David Taylor, Stepchyle, Daryl Pierce, Pace Hill, Kim Fontaine and Kyle Riabko (who joined Buddy Guy and John Mayer on tour). Stereotrap was up for a Vibe Award, and Despistado was called “one of the freshest and liveliest sounding bands to come out of this, or any other country, in some time“ by Exclaim! Magazine. The major labels were looking for merger approvals (Sony-BMG) as EMI conducted massive layoffs, and the industry rallied around the “Save Canadian Music“ campaign, aiming to renew federal funding to FACTOR.

"I'm thrilled (SRIA's) gone where it has... I feel privileged to be able to do what I love, in my hometown, for twenty-some years. To do that full time, raise a family, and create jobs... there have been many families over the years whose income was dependent on the music industry."
- Lyndon Smith (2007)

Our newly refreshed team was excited to celebrate Saskatchewan’s Centennial in 2005, and worked on our Rock/Pop and Country/Roots tribute compilation CDs, our Flatland Evolution youth weekend, the Centennial Crop Checkin’ (rural concert) tour, and we programmed Taste of Regina under a refreshed “Flatland“ brand. We also pitched in on the YESK committee, aiming to bring a bunch of music events to Saskatchewan in 2007. (Oh, and in the midst of all this, our office flooded.)

Regina-born jazz chanteuse Dione Taylor performed at the White House, Kris Craig was enlisted by Motown’s The Funk Brothers, Sask.-born composer Jack Lenz had a cut with Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli, Theresa Sokyrka went gold with her debut and Kevin Churko won the grand prize of the Great American Song Contest. Album releases in ’05 came from Melanie Laine, Jack Semple, The Poverty Plainsmen, Carol Cockrum, Ghosts of Modern Man, Codie Prevost, Civil Stevens, Carrie Horachek, Little Miss Higgins, Sean Hogan, Chesterfield Rock and Crofter’s Revenge., and O’Reilly International debuted label 306 Records. Digital distribution had become the new standard for releases to radio.

Last year in 2006, we started going by the “street name“ SaskMusic. We’re still SRIA legally, but SaskMusic is so much sexier, don’t ya think? We hosted our first annual Songwriter’s Master Class, improved our grant programs, presented a workshop series, took a busload of members to the WCMAs, partnered with MySask for more artist exposure, hit the road with our Career Tracks consults, and - deep breath - welcomed the launch of the Saskatchewan Music Industry Review.

Jeff Straker, Smokekiller, Don Freed, PipeDream, Marty Grambo, Gary Ray and the Soo Line, Into Eternity, Volcanoless in Canada, Mils, Five Star Homeless, Anatta, The Sheepdogs, Ultimate Power Duo, Andrea Menard, LunarTheory, Stillseed, The Makitas and a slew of others put out new music.

Now, that brings us up to 2007; in a year this big, well, I just hope you all have been reading your newsletters! We’re heading into a new decade with some of the strongest musical talent this province has ever seen, and have ambitious, far-reaching plans for what this association can accomplish.

I ask Lyndon how he feels about recent developments in our industry, and SRIA today. He replies, “SRIA has definitely changed since we founded it. At the start, it was about promoting the whole industry and our mission was basically to get it (the industry) off the ground. It’s been like a relay race...we were the starting team and then the torch gets passed along. Different boards, different staff have contributed their own visions, and I’m very happy to see it succeed.“

As I wrap this up I just want to say thanks on behalf of all the staff here - we have some of the coolest jobs on the planet and look forward to working with y’all for years to come.

Cheers!

Photo 1: Guitars wait their turn at the Flatland Music Festival. Photo: Ben Checkowy
Photo 2: Ralph Ell showcases At MIW '93.
Photo 3: Jack Semple as the "Guitarman".
Photo 4: A Flatland Audience.
Photo 5: The Waltons with their Juno for "Best New Group". (1994)
Photo 6: The Northern Pikes present Audio Art with a copy of the Pike's Gold Record for "Snow in June".

By Lorena Kelly for SaskMusic. Originally Published Winter 2007.

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