If you’re a fan of original local music, The Maple Leaf Lounge on Charlotte Street has been the place to make the scene these days. During the past couple of weeks, an impressive list of established and up and coming musical acts have consistently filled the wing-backed chairs and comfy sofas of the lounge with music fans eager to hear some real music. Despite the rumours circulating among certain circles, I have been assured that the A.F. of M. Local 355, a.k.a. “the Union”, is not planning to picket the venue this Friday night when Alexander Keith’s / Q104 Rock of the Atlantic finalists Rock Ranger are scheduled to play with Newfoundland native Mark Bragg.
As I see it, one of the major obstacles to the presentation and development of original local music is not the few venues where bands who play original music can actually get bookings, it’s that the so-called local private radio stations do not play the music. There are very limited opportunities beyond playing live to get original local music heard around here. Until CAPR gets a transmitter or Radio Free Cape Breton re-emerges from wherever it went after raising thousands of dollars last year at a benefit concert in Sydney at the Capri Cabaret, this is unlikely to change. If the Union wants to do something to benefit original music in these parts they should use all their might as an international organization to encourage Maritime Broadcasting System, owners of CJCB, K94, Oldies 950, and twenty-one other radio stations in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and PEI (according to my count of stations listed on their website), to satisfy their Canadian Content Guideline by playing original local music. An initiative such as this may actually make it worthwhile for local musicians trying to make a go of producing original music to join the organization.
Whether or not you agree with the Union, it does have a role to play in the careers of professional musicians. The Union’s argument is that musicians should get paid for performing their music and bars shouldn’t use musicians to make piles of money on liquor sales and not pay the bands who attract the crowds who spend the money on drinks. I fully agree and have seen musicians traveling through the area play for the door, just to get their music heard, and get paid less than twenty bucks for their efforts. This is wrong, but how to change it? Maybe someday the Union will figure it out. As it stands now, when visiting musicians who make original music are looking for a place to stay, to borrow an amp, a bass player and drummer, or a place to play, they call the House of Rock.