Targeting and Breaking Out into the Canadian Marketplace


Written by Mary Woodcock

14 May 2014

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O, Canada – no longer just the friendly, unknown neighbour north of the US. Over the past decade, Canada has slowly become important piece of the music industry puzzle. A lot of ingenuity, tricky grant applications, and amazing music has made Canadians a force to be reckoned with. Especially in a city like Toronto – which has been called a music centre in the same breath of Austin – it’s more important than ever to make an impact here. If you’re across the pond, you may be wondering how it is that you can break through. The Canadian music scene has its own idiosyncrasies and challenges that make it stand apart. So, to help you breakout, we’ve come up with some crucial measures to prepare you as you try to break into the great white north!

Know Your Targets

One of the best ways to get into the overseas market? Do your research and make a plan! If you’re afraid that there isn’t a place for your band or don’t know where to start, the best thing to do is see where people are congregating already. You need to know your brand – one of the biggest challenges in Canada is just how diverse the music scene can get in just one city. If you don’t know what you’re looking for while you’re here, things get unforgiving fast and you’ll soon be lost in a sea of bands. Seek out people that you can connect with to start bridging gaps in your genre!

Know Your Venues

Looking for sweaty, sweltering punk? Sneaky Dee’s. Looking for a way to get people dancing through washes of electronic flourishes? The Hoxton. Every venue has their own quirks and scenes that make them unique – so make sure you know your venue, know your audience, and know the area. Chat with the locals to get a sense of which rooms are right for your band.

Festivals, Festivals, Festivals

It’s not surprising how vibrant the music scene is;  genre barriers are constantly being broken down, so it’s up to you to find out where you fit! One of the best ways to do so is heading over to some of the major festivals that have become global markers for music industry vets to network. Canadian Music Week (CMW)North by Northeast (NXNE)Halifax Pop Explosion, and M for Montreal are just a few of the largest festivals in Canada (and North America). They are also bringing over developing artists regularly and giving artists their first shot in Canada. These are great opportunities for you to interact with delegates, so find like-minded people – checking for opportunities for syncing, promo, tour, and making real connections. But these aren’t the only places to look – if you really dive in, you’ll find everything from quiet folk festivals all the way to the supremely experimental.

Be Creative When It Comes to Marketing

You’ll probably be on a small budget – it’s time to get creative. You’ll be going up against Canadian artists that get government or artist grants, so you’ve got to learn how to manage your finances and make every dollar count. A DIY aesthetic could really work in your favour, especially when you’re just starting out. But mostly – plan your finances out and find ways to get exposure without spending a dime. Getting videos, blogs, and twitter presence up is a safe (and free) way to spread the word early on!

Ask for Help

Though Canadians are known for toughing out the worst winters, one of the ways we do this is by helping one another. So, if you’re making your way to Canada, make sure to hit up the resources available to you! Religiously following the Twitter of Canadian staples like Alan Cross, Jian Ghomeshi, and Eric Alper is a great place to start for updates on music news. And if you want to get into the nitty-gritty – CIMA is a one-stop spot. If you want to learn about the Canadian indie music market or find events to help you promote yourself, this is the place to be. And CIMA even makes their way across Europe at big festivals like WOMEX and The Great Escape, so there’s so many ways to get connected!

Pave Your Way

Finally, just know that initially, making your way to Canada is an arduous endeavor. You’ll definitely need to pave your own way – because there are already trailblazers here. Artists will have to get used to a few empty rooms. One of the ways to avoid this? Finding similar artists, the venues that they’re playing, and labels that help associate with them will help you immensely when making your way over. Coming in with a plan as simple as, “Increasing social platform fans while we’re in Canada” or “Selling 10 download cards” is a positive way to make sure you’re achieving something while you’re here.

It’s difficult, but not impossible. And totally worth it. Canada is making a mark on the music industry globally and if you don’t try to be part of it, you’ll be missing out!

This article is courtesy of Audio Blood – a full-service artist and brand development company based in Toronto, Ontario. For more information about their clients and services head over to www.audioblood.com.


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