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flag Canada - Luna Kafé - Full Moon 2 - 12/24/96

The Canadian Rock Scene
An Introduction

Since I started writing reviews for Luna Kafé, I have realized that to understand Canadian music, you have to know a little more about it than an album review can give you. So I am writing this introduction to Canadian music for those of you who may have trouble understanding it.

Canada is the second largest country in the world, but one of the smallest in population. Canadians are spread out about along American boarder east to west, while the rest of the country remains with sparse population. Because of the distance from one side of the country to the other, Canadians tend to think of themselves largely in association with the area of Canada in which they live. Music follows suit in this way, many of the record labels in Canada are specifically regional. With "east coast" or "western" or "central Canadian" being associated with the type of bands they have signed, particularly in indie music.

While geography divides us, there is also the often overwhelming influence of the United States to the south of us, which probably accounts for the fact that Canadians buy more Smashing Pumpkins albums per capita than any other country in the world. But the Canadian media has, in recent years done a marvelous job of keeping television and radio full of 'Canadian Content' the Canadian Radio and Television Commission or CRTC is in place for the sole purpose of setting strict rules to keep Canadian entertainment and art thriving. The CRTC laws used to be considered a pain in the butt for Canadian viewers. Television Stations would play hockey games to get around the rules. In recent years however, more and more decent Canadian programming has become available, and Canadians are beginning to actually prefer many Canadian programs to the useless American sitcoms on TV. This also has a huge impact on the Canadian Music industry. Much Music (Canada's MTV) plays much more than Celine Dione, and Bryan Adams when trying to fill the CRTC laws. Since the early 90's Much Music has been playing more and more Canadian bands, and it would seem that they have become leaders in breaking bands, national airplay from Much Music, can make or break a Canadian artist in a matter of weeks. Radio stations have also jumped on the Canadian bandwagon, stations like FOX in Vancouver and CFNY in Toronto, hold annual festivals and run 'new music search' programs for countless Canadian artists across the country.

Canadians buy more CD's per capita than any other nation in the world. This allows for the tremendous support of Canadian artists inside Canada, even if they don't break any other countries. For instance the Tragically Hip, sold 3.000.000 albums in the first week of release, that means 10% of the 30 million Canadians purchased the album in the first week of its release, making it a testament to the enthusiasm Canadians have in their music. Many Canadian artists have found profitable success right here in Canada, a feat that used to be considered near impossible to accomplish.

For some reason, it seems to be fairly difficult for Canadian bands to become successful in the US. Bands that could not walk down the street in Canada without being recognized, can't get an audience right accross the boarder in the States. In the last year or two however, American labels have been signing Canadian indie acts left and right. America is finally catching on, slowly but surely. This transformation is best symbolized by Hayden's recent appearance in SPIN magazine.

One of the most incredible elements of Canadian rock music is the indie scene. Canada has many very successful independent record labels. These labels, which usually start out in someone's basement, can grow to become quite powerful. For instance the growth of Sonic Unyon Records Canada from a small local business, to a huge and influential label, in only a few years. Sonic Unyon Records has a very incredible story behind its growth and prosperity. Two of the signed bands, Hayden and treble charger, achieved with only minimal airplay and budgets unheard of success in the indie industry. Hayden sold something like 30 000 copies of his first independent album out of the Sonic unyon basement, and treble charger sold close to 20 000. This got both artists eventual deals with major American labels, and they are not the only ones. Other major Canadian indie labels include Handsome Boy, Mint, Murder, Squirtgun, Bubblegun, Sappy, and Cinnamon Toast records. While many Independent Canadian Artists sign to major American deals, many others remain independent in Canada. The "indie mentality" is very strong amongst indie fans, and popular indie bands who sign are often ridiculed for rejecting the do it yourself ideology their fans hold so precious. While Much Music and radio stations remain relatively supportive of indie music, it is still difficult for an indie band to expand it's audience beyond the indie scene. In Canada either you are into indie or you have never heard of it. This is why this year in particular, a lot of great indie bands have joined the majors.

For more information on the Canadian Music Scene check out the following:

Copyright © 1996 Laura Bowman e-mail address

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