Treats and schmoozin’

Twenty-nine Manitoba bands set to showcase at Canadian Music Week, SXSW this March

Local pop band Imaginary Cities performs at the 2011 South by Southwest. This year, the quintet is one of a handful of Winnipeg bands performing at the acclaimed music festival in Austin, Texas. Supplied

Over two-dozen Manitoba-based bands are slated to play two upcoming music festivals - South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas and Canadian Music Week (CMW) in Toronto.

Nine hometown favourites, including Royal Canoe and Les Jupes, will venture south of the border for SXSW and 20 of the province’s finest will be heading to CMW.

Among the CMW performers are Imaginary Cities and Del Barber.

Winnipegger Jean-Guy Roy’s indie-rock quartet Federal Lights is making its CMW debut this year and Roy relishes that opportunity.

“Anytime that you can get out of the province and play for a potential audience that really has no idea who you are, its always a little more exciting and a little more nerve wracking,” says Roy.

Cannon Bros’s Alannah Walker and Cole Woods are road-tripping from Winnipeg to Austin to play the closing slot of the Manitoba Music showcase March 15 at SXSW.

Asked how they’re preparing in the lead-up to the show, Woods jokes he’s been making lots of cut-off shorts and applying sunscreen.

“It’s going to be super awesome even to be in Austin,” says Walker. “It’s exciting that a lot of Manitoba bands are getting more attention it seems.”

With 900 bands on the ballot for CMW and more than 2,000 geared up to play SXSW, our local talent will definitely have to make an impact to get noticed.

The team at Manitoba Music hopes to be as helpful as possible during this process. An excellent resource for artists and other industry members alike, the skills and experience of the staff at this not-for-profit organization are invaluable.

It’s heavy duty schmooze, but it’s a pretty fun environment in which to do it.

Sara Stasiuk, executive director, Manitoba Music

Sara Stasiuk, Manitoba Music’s executive director, lists export readiness training, one-on-one consultations and goal setting as some focus areas for the performers before festivals.

“We kind of try and be an extension of their team,” Stasiuk explains. “We try and help them attract the people that they want to see them play live, get them into the room and introduce them to the bands.”

Myriad networking possibilities await at these annual events, both for acts looking to find representation and execs looking for the “next big thing” in music.

“It’s heavy duty schmooze, but it’s a pretty fun environment in which to do it,” Stasiuk says.

Having worked with Manitoba Music for 10 years, Stasiuk has made many contacts within the industry. However, making good connections amongst her pre-existing contacts can be tricky.

“The better we know the individuals, the better we are at recommending the individuals that might be a fit, but often it’s just a crapshoot,” she says.

The recipe for success certainly involves luck, though talent and perseverance are what’s predominantly needed.

“First and foremost, the songs have to be there,” Stasiuk says. “The right people need to hear your music, but you need to know who the right people are.”

And don’t forget to have some personality.

“If you just shove a flyer in someone’s face and say ‘We’re playing at 8 o’clock at Club X,’ they won’t feel any real reason to go,” Stasiuk says. “Often if people like you as a human, they’ll come see your band.”

Published in Volume 66, Number 23 of The Uniter (March 14, 2012)

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