This week in the Future of Ottawa series, we’re taking a deep dive into the people that support and bring you the artists you love—what venues, labels, and promotion is like now and where it’s headed. Read on for a guest post from Jordan David on the future of indie labels, or read posts from Rachel Weldon on concert promotion and Paul ‘Yogi’ Granger on venues.
Jordan David is an Ottawa based producer/DJ/curator and event organizer, and one of the co-founders of music and arts collective/label Music.Art.Ppl. He’s also a host on the weekly radio show Mapped Out Radio, which airs on Fridays at 11:30am on CKCU (93.1 FM).
Apt613: What is the current landscape of music labels in Ottawa?
Jordan David: Ottawa-based music labels are a reflection of Ottawa’s various music communities. They are fragmented and, to my knowledge, there isn’t a lot of intermingling. Most of the independent labels that I’m aware of in our city work within their respective communities while keeping to themselves. All pushing the sounds and the artists that they believe in.
I think what makes a label stand out is their catalogue, which can only be fully realized over a long period of time. I think Ottawa-based labels need just that, time! Time to build their sounds and reputations. Time to build relationships within the industry at large. Time to expand their reach and connect the dots that they wish to connect.
There is space for more labels to work and develop in our city. With that being said, if you’re not passionate about the music you’re putting out and investing time and energy into it, then running a label isn’t for you. To me, a label is a labour of love, it’s a community and a family. The industry has changed a lot in the past five years, and a huge moment in that change was felt last year. If you’re too caught up in the idea of how things used to be, opportunities will pass you by and I think for labels who are looking at making a real run at it, they need to be open to the changes that are happening and be able to adapt accordingly.
Music.Art.Ppl truly shines when we can host events and animate spaces with music and art in its various forms.
For artists looking to get involved with labels, make sure to do your homework and to think about the realistic goals you want to achieve over time with that partnership. Artists should be asking themselves if those goals can be met with label X. They should also be ready to do work on their end to maximize their project’s full potential. At the end of the day, nobody should care more about your art than you.
If you care to make a prediction… Where are indie labels going in Ottawa in 2021?
The labels who can plan to meet the moment and prepare to make their presence felt will benefit largely once we can add things like live shows and showcases back into the equation. Strategies are key, so taking this time to develop them is a must. I think we will see some new labels pop up and we may see some older ones fizzle out. These are hard times for our industry and the work can’t be faked. There aren’t any viable shortcuts to success, but as long as you are playing by your own rules and not comparing what you do to mega-machines that control the commercial market, it’s fair game. My advice is to be bold, be transparent with the people you do business with, and roll up your sleeves, because the work isn’t going to do itself.
Where in your wildest dreams could Music.Art.Ppl go in your lifetime?
Music.Art.Ppl truly shines when we can host events and animate spaces with music and art in its various forms. One of our big goals is to connect with artistic communities around the world and host showcases and pop-up events in collaboration with those communities. I would love to be able to share our passion as event producers, curators, and artists with festivals both locally and abroad.
What is the best innovation to take place in music since the pandemic started affecting Ottawa?
Seeing the development of live-streaming platforms has been a big one. I think moving forward, we will see hybrid events that have both room for folks to attend live and for folks to join in virtually. I also think Patreon is a total game-changer for artists and their supporters. It’s by far the best way to engage with artists you like while knowing that you can support them directly. It’s also great for the artists to be able to share exclusive work that may not be suitable for traditional streaming platforms while giving supporters something unique.
Who is the future of independent labels in Ottawa?
The future of independent labels in Ottawa is unknown. It might be a group of friends who live in a Kanata suburb who are making something that is truly unique that the world hasn’t heard. The future belongs to those who can envision themselves in it and have the determination to make that happen. No one needs permission, so if you want it, it’s yours. I hope to see passionate folks working and changing the landscape. it’s inspiring to see passionate folks doing what they love and doing it extremely well. It also raises the bar for everyone involved.
Outside of folks looking to work in the industry, we need people who live in Ottawa supporting what independent artists are doing in their hometowns. Take time to discover who they are (we have so much amazing talent in our city!!). Celebrate and support them every chance you get! It can be as simple as following them on Bandcamp, Soundcloud, YouTube or Spotify (if that’s your thing). Folks should also consider buying physical merchandise like records from shops like The Record Centre (1099 Wellington St. W) or shirts and other goodies directly from the artist or indie label.
Tell us something you wish somebody told you when you started your career in music?
Don’t spend your energy on things you can’t change, like the past. Invest in yourself, keep learning and doing the work. Things take time, so be patient, be open, listen and appreciate every moment. Having a life in music is truly a beautiful thing and the hard moments often provide you with the most insights. Pay attention, trust your intuition and learn from every moment you get to have on this crazy journey. (Key thing to remember… It’s all about the journey!)