Halifax Pop Explosion more than music
It’s called the music business for a reason.
So, while the most obvious aspect of the Halifax Pop Explosion is the slate of shows featuring over 60 hipster-beloved acts, there’s a quieter lineup of headliners who focus on dollars and cents.
The festival, running through Saturday at venues across the city, has a concurrent industry conference that this year is focusing on the northeastern United States, welcoming delegates from New York, Boston and Maine. They’re a cross-section of promoters, event and venue managers, and recording company representatives.
"The conference component started seven, eight years ago, and we’ve really developed it into an international meeting of artist and industry, to talk about issues and learn about ways to for the artist to improve their career," said James Boyle, executive director of the Halifax Pop Explosion, during an interview.
“Basically, we looked around and said, ‘What are the opportunities in front of us?’ And, really, when we look at the U.S. as a market, it’s our closest opportunity for export for music in Canada,” Boyle said.
“So we wanted to start bridging that gap by talking to promoters and industry down in the New England area and into the East Coast, as well, but really big focus on Boston, New Hampshire and Maine, to really create an opportunity for artists to grow. If they need to break into the U.S., it’s a great place to start.”
For organizers, a best-case scenario would be a buzz band attends the conference, has some roundtable discussions, learns about the industry and makes a pile of connections that lead to some real business down the road.
“For instance, a band could come here (and get) signed to a record label in New York or one of the record labels that are here from L.A.,” Boyle said.
“Also, they could end up with a tour that goes right through their first time. This could be their opportunity to start breaking the U.S. by playing Bangor, Portland, Boston, New York. All those contacts are here to do that. So, ideally, what they walk away with is some future business that totals maybe 20, 30, 40, 50 thousand dollars’ worth of business in the future.”
Boyle, who’s overseeing his sixth edition of the festival, said even established artists can benefit from the networking opportunities at the conference, but newer acts might appreciate it more. He cited Pop Explosion guest Caveboy, a Montreal pop trio starting to break on radio.
“These type of events are invaluable to them because they can come and showcase and really propel their career forward and accelerate that growth that they’re just experiencing now organically in the Canadian music market into the U.S.,” said Boyle.
“Those acts that are bubbling can break at a festival like this.”
While some aspects of the conference are intended for a more established audience, there’s a schedule of presentations that might appeal to even casual music fans.
“It’s really for that person interested in the music industry or maybe they just started music school,” Boyle said.
“Friday at the (Central) Library is a really special day. Open to the public, at Paul O'Regan Hall, we have Dimplez coming. She was an executive, worked on marketing at Capitol Records, she’s a keynote speaker at South by Southwest, she really has been in the music industry and knows a ton. She’s going to be talking about the current state of the industry and marketing and how to build your career.”
DJ NDN (Ian Campeau), formerly of A Tribe Called Red, will talk about combining art and activism, and there will be an interview with veteran scenesters ... And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, an Austin, Texas act that’s cultivated a devoted fan base for a couple of decades.
“(They’re) a band that’s been around for 25 years, hugely influential in the post-punk, post-rock scene, so we have this mix of discussions on industry topics and then these featured talks on Friday are really incredible, I think. These are invaluable for people to get to see,” said Boyle.
“At the end of the day, that’s an incredible opportunity.”
The Halifax Pop Explosion is in its 27th year welcoming Canadian and international artists. While the city’s cool status as the next Seattle was a while ago, the scene is stable and healthy, said Boyle.
“Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada, a lot of people say it always hits above its weight. We’re small but we’re mighty.”