A modern-day patron of the arts

Art MacIntyre reflects on 20 years of Transistor 66

Art MacIntyre, founder of Winnipeg-based record label Transistor 66, has been releasing music for 20 years. (photo by Keeley Braunstein-Black)

With dozens of releases and a family of artists whose music ranges from roots to shoegaze, Winnipeg record label Transistor 66 has been part of the city’s rock scene for decades.

On Dec. 3, family, friends and fans of the recording company will be at the Handsome Daughter to celebrate 20 years of operation. The celebration’s bill will include the label’s friends the Lonely Vulcans, the Unbelievable Bargains and B.A. Johnston.

Transistor 66’s start 20 years ago was serendipitous. Founder Art MacIntyre worked in web design and offered to build a website for his friend Jason Allen’s band, The Rowdymen.

When the band decided to record an album, MacIntyre figured he would try his hand in the music industry, since music was moving more toward online distribution. The result was Transistor 66’s first release, Rubberneckin’, in 2003.

Following this release, MacIntyre and Allen decided to put together the tribute album Guess Who’s Home, which got the ball rolling for Transistor 66.

“Through that, we met 16 different bands that we went through the recording process (with),” MacIntyre says. “That's where we learned a lot about the business: where to make money and where to not make money.”

The label got one of their first major breaks early. During the Western Canadian Music Awards, the label put on a showcase at the Albert. At the same time, a parallel, more prestigious event was going on at The Forks. A fire occurred at The Forks event, and the premiere guests ended up going to Transistor 66’s showcase instead. A guest “said that was one of the best rock shows he'd seen all year. For someone who had been all around the planet seeing shows that year, that was a pretty big compliment,” MacIntyre says. “Through that, we got invited to South by Southwest for American Flame Whip, Hot Live Guys, and Scott Nolan ... there were definitely less than 20 bands from Canada, and we were three of them.”

Despite the label’s early success, it was less than a profitable venture. As MacIntyre explains, “if I was in this to make money, I would have put out one or two records ... I often joke, ‘I am more a patron of the arts than an actual record label.’”

MacIntyre, however, reflects fondly on all the label’s releases and the artists they’ve showcased.

Over the years, the label has evolved, becoming more professional and managing to expand outside of Manitoba and Canada. Since retiring from his “corporate gig,” MacIntyre has a renewed focus on creating a space where he can share his two decades of experience to help nurture new artists.

“I started out as that cool uncle that would get them some beer, maybe buy them some weed, but now I have definitely transitioned to more of a dad who is looking out for them and helping them out where I can,” MacIntyre says.

Transistor 66 celebrates 20 years at the Handsome Daughter on Dec. 3. Their releases can be found transistor66.com.

Published in Volume 77, Number 11 of The Uniter (November 24, 2022)

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