BY KEN CHISHOLM
If you haven’t been nominated for an award or aren’t getting your big break by performing in a showcase, what does a trip to the ECMA’s offer?
According to singer-songwriter John Curtis Sampson and to Mike LeLievre of Bemus Tun, there’s a lot to be achieved by inviting yourself to the ECMA weekend.
Both Sampson and Bemus Tun are well-established local acts, but because they don’t have any recorded product they would not qualify for one of the prized showcase slots, and find it hard to attract the attention of the product-oriented industry. Sampson did have a personal goal – to familiarize anybody and everybody with his personality and his material, or in his own words, “relate the face with the music.”
To this end Sampson felt he had a successful trip. He said he made many contacts with industry people (with EMI and Universal for example) and has made follow-up calls to whomever expressed interest in hearing from him. Sampson says, “I never expected a miracle and I’m still waiting by the phone to see if anything develops from these contacts.”
Besides the music industry networking, Sampson says he also benefited from the many workshops offered over the weekend covering such topics as getting jobs, how to present one’s music, and an orientation to the business side of music. Sampson says the workshops enhance one’s ability to think and focus on what choices are available to the aspiring writer or performer.
While Sampson had been to the Moncton ECMA in 1997, Halifax was LeLievre’s first major exposure to the yearly event. Bemus Tun was one of ten Cape Breton bands that played at the Oasis in an alternative “no-case” organized by CRACK! Industries and a New Brunswick group.
LeLievre says the ECMA is the most important weekend of the year for East Coast musicians if only for the huge amount of positive energy it creates for the region’s performers.
Both Sampson and Bemus Tun participated in the weekend’s legendary 76 hour jam session held at the World Trade & Convention Centre and agree that the jam, which is televised on the local cable channel, is a great opportunity to make contacts and expand one’s audience. Sampson played Sunday morning when the jam was being broadcast regionally. Bemus Tun played at 4:30 Saturday morning and despite the late hour (early hour) had a packed house.
But Sampson says, “If you just go to party you’re there for the wrong reason.” He emphasizes setting goals and not to be in any rush. He has ten songs recorded and he’s waiting for the best time to release them for maximum effect or as he says, “Hit the fan with all the shit at once.”
LeLievre says his band is working towards doing some recording so that they’ll have some product to hand around. He and the band are looking forward to next year’s event.
“Everyone wants to have that special moment,” LeLievre says. “To have somebody say, ‘You’re great! We want to sign you!’ Didn’t happen though.”
Maybe next year.