Keeping Canada creative

Weird Canada website encourages, connects and champions Canadian artists

To keep the creative juices flowing in a subarctic country, Weird Canada provides a not-for-profit option of exposure on all artistic fronts.

Starting off with only 10 volunteers running the ship, the website weirdcanada.com has since been named the Best Music Website in Canada by CBC Radio 3 and has more than 350 contributors.

Weird Canada’s reason for being is to encourage, document and connect creative expression across the country, with a focus on marginalized, DIY (do it yourself) and DIT (do it together) communities.

Weird Canada executive director Marie LeBlanc Flanagan says it all started in 2009 out of a campus music radio station (CJSR FM 88.5) in Edmonton, Alta.

“Weird Canada started out of a desire to document the flood of emerging and independent releases,” Flanagan says. “In Canada, there was no place for anyone to discover this music, outside the tightly knit circle of music directors and music enthusiasts.”

“We are an advertisement-free, bilingual exploration of Canadian emerging music, literature, and art.”

Few emerging Canadian artists or labels have the business acumen, marketing guile, and social savvy to effectively market and sell their music, leaving a great majority of Canadian talent unknown to a larger audience.

Marie LeBlanc Flanagan, executive director, Weird Canada

After a yearlong quest, Flanagan drafted up some mandates and objectives for the organization and has come up with a multitude of projects, including “Ontario promoter’s coalition” to “long-form how-to articles” and a podcast.

In 2013, Wyrd Arts Initiatives was founded, which then gave birth to Wyrd Distro, which will be the first not-for-profit distribution company in all of Canada.

“The problem we saw was this: few emerging Canadian artists or labels have the business acumen, marketing guile, and social savvy to effectively market and sell their music, leaving a great majority of Canadian talent unknown to a larger audience,” Flanagan says.

“As Internet-based audiences adjust purchasing practices to meet the changing landscape of music distribution and consumption, a peer-to-artist economy is struggling to emerge and support the huge tier of musicians between the underground and major labels.”

While Weird Canada can point an audience in the direction of musical discovery, Wyrd Distro aims at becoming a proper bridge between consumer’s interest and the artist’s materials.

“Canada lacks a centralized distributor for independent Canadian music,” Flanagan says. “Record stores typically resist stocking short-run independent releases because it is neither financially nor logistically viable.”

On Feb. 15, Wyrd Distro will be holding its nationwide launch party. Every province and territory will have a bar that is filled with independent music featuring live video hangouts with Flanagan and Weird Canada founder Aaron Levin.

“It’s an opportunity for communities to come together on a local level, as well as a fun event for all of us to identify with each other as a national community,” Flanagan says.

“Wyrd Distro will allow you to connect with your audience in a way that was previously much more difficult.”

Flanagan sees Weird Canada as giving Canadian artists a freedom from “the yoke of commerce” with their non-for-profit design.

“We’ll stand at their merch table while they make a joyful noise,” Flanagan says.

Published in Volume 68, Number 20 of The Uniter (February 13, 2014)

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