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  Industry Profile

Industry Profile: Ron Sakamoto

— By Larry LeBlanc

This week In The Hot Seat with Larry LeBlanc: Ron Sakamoto

One of the leading concert promoters in Canada, Ron Sakamoto is equally at home in the winner’s circle of a race track or backstage at an arena-sized sold-out country show.

His 40 year concert portfolio bulges with overseeing tours and shows—largely in Western Canada—with Bryan Adams, the Bee Gees, Kiss, the Doobie Brothers, Tom Jones, Santana, Van Halen as well as with such leading country acts as George Strait, Shania Twain, Tim McGraw & Faith Hill, Alan Jackson, Brooks & Dunn, and Keith Urban.

Sakamoto's business reach is massive. His Lethbridge, Alberta-based empire includes his four-decade old concert firm Gold and Gold Productions -- which he now runs with his son, Shawn—and stakes in the local Rocky Mountain Turf race track and casino, a golf course, and 14 racehorses.

In 2006, Sakamoto and Jim Cressman purchased The Key Entertainment Group to create Cressman/Sakamoto Agency (C.S.A.), a full service booking and brokering agency.

Today, C.S.A. represents Canadian country acts Terri Clark, Crystal Shawanda, One More Girl, Johnny Reid (whom Sakamoto also manages), George Canyon, Victoria Banks, Gord Bamford and CMT Canada host Casey Clarke.

This feisty, outspoken Japanese Canadian—for whom Canadian folk singer Murray McLachlan penned the tribute song “Sayonara Maverick”-- has won 16 consecutive promoter of the year awards from the Canadian Country Music Association. He sits on the board of the Country Music Association in Nashville.

Born in Coaldale, Alberta, Sakamoto grew up on farm in nearby Medicine Hat, Alberta. He was inspired to open his first club after playing on road trips with the Medicine Hat Blades’ Junior “A” hockey team alongside Dick Clark's “Bandstand” caravan talent shows.

When he got badly hurt playing hockey at 17, Sakamoto realized he was probably never going to play in the National Hockey League. So he decided to open a teen venue, The Honeycomb Club, in a bowling alley in Medicine Hat.

The Honeycomb Club, complete with go go dancers, ran on Friday and Saturday nights While the club served no alcohol, Sakamoto peddled pop, chocolate bars, and chips to make money. Meanwhile, he managed several departments at the local Eaton's store during the day, and operated a booking/management agency during week nights.

Sakamoto did well enough to open a second club; this time in Lethbridge at the Henderson Lake Pavilion, later renamed the Ron Sakamoto Varsity Club. Re-locating to Lethbridge, he worked at Enerson Motors, ran dances, and continued operating his booking/management agency.

As well, he soon launched his own concert promotion company, Gold & Gold Productions. With shows headlined by Canadian acts Trooper, April Wine, the Stampeders, Bachman Turner Overdive, Bryan Adams, and hundreds of others, Sakamoto soon became a legendary figure within Canada’s club and concert world.

As well, Gold & Gold Productions grew by expanding into Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and British Columbia. Sakamoto also forged key partnerships with Michael Cohl’s CPI Productions in Toronto; Donald K. Donald in Montreal; and, more recently, with Live Nation.

When Gold & Gold Productions was launched almost 40 years ago, Sakamoto booked his bigger shows primarily in hockey arenas or movie theaters with limited production. This contrasts to more recent times when Gold & Gold tours with Keith Urban, Brooks & Dunn and Tim McGraw and Faith Hill have utilized up to 22 trucks and more than a dozen buses for their Canadian dates.

Why launch the Cressman/Sakamoto Agency with Jim Cressman in 2006? Was there a gap in Canada in booking country?

There was. Feldman (S.L. Feldman & Associates) and those bigger agencies have different genres of artists that they book. I wanted a solely country agency and not take on a lot of acts. Just take on enough acts. So acts could make a good living, and we can make a good living. What’s the sense of having 100 acts on your roster when only 10% of them work, and make a living and the other 90% starve and are always bitching at you because you are not getting them work?

Are you very active in the agency?

I don’t have time to be an agent. I’ll come in and help. To have someone I trust, and a young person to mentor in the industry, I felt that Jimmy was the guy. I tour a lot of the American country acts (in Canada), so I put a lot of Canadian acts on the tours. But I just don’t put on our own agency acts. I can help a lot of Canadian artists.

You launched Sakamoto Management in 2008 to work with singer Johnny Reid. Have you signed any other acts?

So far, I am just working with Johnny Reid. I started working with him in January, 2008. I thought that this kid had a lot of potential. He wanted to get more out there. He is a real person. My wife Joyce met him, and she said to me, “This is a guy you want to get hooked up with because he has the same values that you do.”

I didn’t really know if I wanted to be a manager. I was a manager years ago. I used to manage local (Lethbridge) bands, the Just Black, and the Exit which moved to Calgary. Back then (management) didn’t put a great taste in my mouth. Some times management is a real thankless job. You work your ass off, and you don’t see anything happening until months or years down the road.

Management, I feel, is a partnership. You don’t tell artists what to do or how to do their life. It’s their life. You partner their life. You partner, not just with them, but with people in the industry--with the advertisers, with the media, with radio & TV stations, and with CMT. In order to build a star, you have to have all the stars in alignment.

Johnny Reid has had a terrific run. He came away with five trophies at the Canadian Country Music Association awards last September.

I have 40 Johnny Reid shows coming this year. 40. I put the shows in Edmonton and Calgary on sale in December. The shows are in September. Well, I’ve already sold out three shows in Edmonton, and two in Calgary. I am adding a fourth show in Edmonton. This kid has got something. I’m getting $100,000 to $200,000 a night for Johnny now. He’s going to Zurich (Switzerland) in March.

You have been shopping for a record deal for Johnny in the U.S.

We’re about to sign with EMI-Manhattan, with Ian Ralfini (president of EMI's Blue Note and Manhattan labels). We haven’t signed yet, but the deal is done. Johnny is recording in February for, hopefully, a summer release.

How did you get over the fear of doing shows, knowing you might lose your shirt? Does it take nerves to be a promoter?

I don’t know. Yeah, when I first got started, when money meant that if I lost $50, and maybe, the kids wouldn’t eat I might get scared. But (the business) has since gone to another level. You win some; you lose some. I’ve been very fortunate. Either that or smart or lucky, I’m not sure which. Maybe all three together. I’ve never lost big. That’s why I put my money into different businesses. When I had extra money I would buy land or invest in some other business. You don’t want to put all your apples in one basket.

Logistically, it’s difficult doing a national tour across Canada or even a series of western Canadian dates.

It is tough because it is a big country. But I have some great regional people working with us, and I have great partners with Live Nation. It makes it a lot easier.

The country live circuit has grown in recent years.

Country shows are huge. Look at Keith’s Urban’s production. It’s ridiculous. And Tim McGraw and Faith Hill’s 2007 tour had 22 semis here. I couldn’t put their show in the (Pengrowth) Saddledome in Calgary because it was too big. You can’t hang that kind of weight on that roof safely. They did Winnipeg, Edmonton, Vancouver and even Saskatoon but we couldn’t do a show in Calgary because of the building.

There’s money in smaller markets in Canada. Two sold out Rolling Stones concerts in Regina (population of 179,000) in 2006 grossed $12,011,124.

There is money to be made in the smaller markets, but it is time for some of these (international) acts to pay their fans back too. They are now saying, “I’m coming to you too now. You don’t have to come to Vancouver or Toronto. I’m coming out to you.”

Elton John played Sudbury in northern Ontario in 2008.

That takes a lot of balls to do too. Elton John can play anywhere in the world. He’s coming out and giving 100% of himself to some small little place? A mining city in Ontario? Incredible.

[Canadian promoters have been recently able to attract acts such as Bon Jovi, the Backstreet Boys, Sheryl Crow, Motley Crue, Brooks & Dunn, Alan Jackson, and Elton John to play all types of venues from St. John's to Victoria, places that were traditionally ignored in the past.]

This month Alan Jackson is doing such secondary western Canadian markets as Penticton, Kamloops (in British Columbia) as well as Red Deer, and Lethbridge (Alberta), and Regina and Saskatoon in Saskatchewan.

The reason Alan is doing secondary markets is Brooks & Dunn did it last year. Brooks & Dunn wanted to do the secondary markets in western Canada. In October, they performed in Penticton, Kamloops, Prince George, Dawson Creek (in British Columbia) as well as Red Deer, and Lethbridge (in Alberta). We’re now doing the major markets with their Farewell tour in Vancouver (May 2), Calgary (4), Edmonton (5) and Saskatoon (6). Good for them. I have such respect for Brooks & Dunn and (manager) Clarence Spalding. They are such nice people.

There are American country artists playing for you now that wouldn’t come to Canada a decade ago.

I had a hard time getting some of these people up here because they didn’t really know Canada. It was foreign. I know there is only a 49th parallel dividing Canada and the United States but it was tough to convince them to come here. You can ask Erv Woolsey. It took me a long time to get George Strait to come to Canada. I talked to (agent) Danny O’Brian and George for a good 10 or 12 years before George came.

It used to frustrate Canadian labels when their top American country acts wouldn’t play Canada.

It just boggled the mind. How do you, as a record company, promote someone who doesn’t want to be promoted? The attitude was, “You guys go to the radio station and promote (the record) for me.” So many (American) artists and managers didn’t really understand the Canadian market.

Is the reason some American country acts haven’t come is that they can make so much money on the U.S. fair and festival circuits?

Absolutely, but a fellow like George Strait only does, maybe, 20 or 30 shows a year. He’s got big markets in the U.S., and you can’t blame him for staying there. And the tax base is different in the U.S. There’s no withholding tax and all of that kind of stuff. American acts have a lot of places to play and the fair market and the outdoor festival market in the U.S. is huge.

For much of the ‘90s, the Canadian dollar was low too.

Well, that’s exactly right. When you had a difference of 35% or 40% for fees, it was very, very tough (to interest these acts). It’s a lot easier now because the Canadian dollar is almost par (with the American dollar) but it could happen the other way around too. Definitely when you told the artist, “Oh gee, we did 10,000 people, but we made X amount of dollars because the Canadian dollar is only worth 60% of your American dollar, they would say, ‘Wow.’”

The big thing for years, certainly, was the Canadian dollar being worth so little compared to the American dollar. (American managers and agents) knew the figures. When 10,000 people only meant 6,000 people, they’d ask, “Well, what’s that about?” You couldn’t blame them.

[For years, the Canadian dollar trailed behind the U.S. dollar but U.S. based booking agents and acts traditionally seek the same advance and payment guarantees in Canadian cities as they get in American cities. Although Canadian concert promoters collect gate receipts in Canadian money, they pay out in U.S. funds, excepting percentage gate deals which are calculated in Canadian funds.]

You were the first to Canadian promoter to book Kiss in 1974.

Kiss was the opening act on a tour with Savoy Brown and Manfred Mann. When I got their press kit, I thought, “Wholly moley.” They were different, They were an extremely good show band. They were one of the first theatrical, all-out show bands out there with their costumes and everything.

In those days, big touring rock shows played mostly hockey arenas in Canada.

That’s all we had in Canada. But, at that time, the production (of shows) wasn’t as big as today. There wasn’t the case then of bands saying, “We need this or we aren’t going to play (your market).” They all played through here. The headliner of that tour was still Savoy Brown, then Manfred Mann and then Kiss which didn’t have as much equipment as I’m sure they used in the United States. But they were as big as we could get. They made it work, and it was still fantastic.

Were the American booking agencies surprised then to have someone from Lethbridge, Alberta calling to book their acts?

When I went down to Los Angeles, and met agents and managers most of them were Jewish. So that’s why I named my company Gold & Gold Productions. For quite awhile, I was Ron Sakamoto from Gold & Gold. I’m sure many of the American agents and managers figured that this was a big Jewish company in Canada. That’s why I think a lot of them first worked with me.

Were you then seeking American acts touring the United States near western Canadian cities so you could talk them into crossing the border?

We got quite a few acts from S.L. Feldman & Associates too. They booked some (international shows) and (bookings) would splinter off for different markets. That’s what everybody used to do. Most of the time, we just did our own territories in those days. There were also local promoters in most cities and you tried to share acts.

What did your territory consist of?

Mostly Alberta. Then I expanded into Saskatchewan, Manitoba and British Columbia.

Were you then working with Michael Cohl’s Concerts Productions International?

No. I was more with Blue Live at that time with Michael Rapino with Labatt’s. (Canadian-born Rapino began his career in 1988 at Labatt Breweries in Toronto as director of marketing and entertainment). Michael Cohl was working with Molson (Breweries). I teamed up in the west with Blue Live. That’s over 25 years ago that Blue Live was in existence.

Such affiliations led to bigger names coming to your markets. If you didn’t work with bigger promoters, you wouldn’t have got anything substantial for your territory.

That’s exactly right. We (local promoters) all partnered. It is better to be a partner of a big thing than have a little thing or have nothing. But we all still had our territories. I partnered with Michael Cohl and with Donald K. Donald doing the Bee Gees’ (‘70s) tour across Canada. I did the west—Alberta and Saskatchewan-- and Michael did Ontario; and Donald did Montreal. We also did Bryan Adams and a number of other acts together.

You were primarily doing rock shows in those days.

Absolutely. I was doing rock shows. That’s what the big draw was.

How did come to work more in the country market?

One of the main reasons I started doing country was what happened when disco came. We couldn’t draw concerts with disco type acts in our market. Then rap came, and that doesn’t do well here. So I went into country.

Well, Alberta is a base for country music in Canada.

That’s right. There’s more country in Alberta than anywhere else in Canada. But (industry) people in Vancouver or Toronto told me that country wasn’t going to draw. Of course, it wasn’t going to draw in those markets like it would in Alberta. Let’s face it Calgary is almost redneck country, right? Fortunately, people came out of country like Randy Travis, Dwight Yoakam, the Judds, and Garth Brooks. They all started hitting big, and we got all of them up here.

There were also some big Canadian acts in the ‘90s like Michelle Wright.

That’s right. Michelle Wright started breaking loose along with Prairie Oyster and Charlie Major.

Country started to look like a market where people could make money.

That’s exactly right. Then, of course, country started crossing over. Country is cool again now.

You did the Tim McGraw and Faith Hill tour in 2007 as well as tours with Keith Urban.

I remember starting Keith Urban off in clubs. Then we did a Keith Urban tour with Carolyn Dawn Johnson and Jimmy Rankin five years ago. Last year, we did a tour with Keith across Canada and he blew it apart . We had two sellout shows in Calgary, and two in Edmonton. Tim McGraw and Faith Hill sold out every show (of six city tour). It was an incredible tour. They had 22 semi vans.

You are in your 4th year on the board of the Country Music Association in Nashville.

It’s a real privilege to be on that board because there are so many high-powered people there. We’re going to Washington for meetings in March. Apparently, we’re going to the White House. As well, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) will be one of the speakers talking with us while we are there.

How did your family end up in Coldale, Alberta.

Well, we were put there. I didn’t have any choice.

Do you remember the move?

No. I was born in Coldale in 1943. I was born after the (family’s) move there in 1941. My first four years was in the Coldale area. Dad and mom worked in the beet fields. The whole family had to work in the beet field. I think it was $1 a day. I say I was born in the fields because if the whole family didn’t work we didn’t get paid. The first four years of my life (was living in) a chicken coop that was fixed up.

[Prior to World War II, there were 21,000 Canadians of Japanese ancestry in British Columbia, of whom 75% were Canadian citizens. The Dec. 7th, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor spurred a call for the internment of ethnic Japanese living in Canada. There were fears that some Japanese who worked in the fishing industry were charting the coastline for the Japanese navy.

On Feb. 24, 1942, the War Measures Act gave the Canadian government the power to intern all "persons of Japanese racial origin." Men of Japanese origin between 18 and 45 were taken to road camps in interior British Columbia or to sugar beet farms in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Restrictions included confinement to their assigned farms and prohibitions against moving into towns. Most of the nearly 2,700 Japanese Canadian inhabitants from British Columbia lived on the brink of poverty, destitute compared to their former prosperity on the West Coast.

In 1943, the Canadian Custodian of Aliens liquidated all possessions belonging to the “enemy aliens” and held auctions for these items, including farm land, fishing boats, homes and even clothing.

On Sept. 22, 1988, Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney Brian Mulroney gave a formal apology, and the Canadian government announced a compensation for interned Japanese Canadians.]

Are there still Japanese communities in Alberta?

A lot of the Japanese Canadians stayed. There are about 600 or 700 in Lethbridge, and around the southern Alberta area. A lot of them are farmers. Within one generation most of the farms that they worked, they now own.

My grandmother and grandfather moved back to Vancouver. They had a fishing fleet that had been taken away. Everything was taken away. They had to start again. My father had a little store that was taken away. It was from that to becoming a farmer which he knew nothing about.

Did you face racism and prejudice growing up?

Absolutely, especially when we moved to Medicine Hat because we were the first Japanese in Medicine Hat. When I first started school I didn’t know how to speak English. I was speaking Japanese. My grandparents lived with us, and they’d only speak Japanese to me. So I spoke Japanese. But I learned English fast after starting school

Being small you must have been picked on at school.

You had to learn how to go with the flow, and you had to learn how to fight like hell.

Your dad stayed on as a farmer in Medicine Hat. A tough life.

It certainly was. My dad ended up owning a farm. It’s a vegetable farm. My dad still owns it. He’s 95 now; my mom is turning 90 this year. They are still in their own home there. Until two years ago, my dad was still shoveling the snow off the sidewalk.

You grew up in farming community?

On a farm, driving a John Deere tractor and being bored. Trying to learn how to yodel.

You played Junior “A” hockey. Were you any good as a center?

I was too small. The big white guys killed me. When I got hurt playing at the Calgary Corral playing with the Medicine Hat Blades against the Calgary Buffaloes, I got killed. So I said, “Why am I ending up in the hospital doing this?”

You operated the teen club The Honeycomb when you were still a teenager.

I was 17 when I started The Honeycomb. We had live bands. I remember booking the White Knights, and the Checkerlads from Regina; and Chad Allen & the Expressions from Winnipeg. Of course, Chad left to go to university and they put Burton Cummings in, and became the Guess Who. I remember saying to Frank Weiner at the Hungry I Agency (in Winnipeg), “What’s their new name?.” He said, “well, we’re changing it to Guess Who.” I said, “I don’t know. What are you going to change it to.” He said, “Guess Who.” I said, “I don’t know.” He finally said, “You stupid ass. They are going to be called the Guess Who.”

Most of the Canadian acts were regional in the ‘60s. From Edmonton, there was Wes Dakus and the Rebels with singer Barry Allen with his hit “Love Drops.” How many times did I book those guys? They were huge here.

How did you get into booking bands as a teenager?

I loved music and I thought that it wouldn’t be hard to bring in bands and make some money. There were then teen clubs all throughout the country. So I asked my dad to lend me the money. He didn’t know anything about (this type of business), of course. But (Medicine Hat mayor) Harry Veiner helped me. He had a broken down bowling alley which wasn’t in use. So he told me everything I had to do. How to come to city council (and get a permit). He said that if I made money I could pay him something. If I didn’t, that was okay. He was a real colorful mayor. He was my first mentor. He taught me a lot about business. That’s what he was. He was the most successful businessman in Medicine Hat. He told me what to do. and how to do it.

[Harry Veiner served as Medicine Hat's mayor from 1952 to 1966 and 1968 to 1974. He came to Medicine Hat in 1930 and became a wealthy hardware merchant and farm owner.]

How long did you run The Honeycomb Club?

Three years.

When you finished high school, you didn’t go to university.

No. I was going to go. In fact, I was going to go, and be a dentist, but I couldn’t see myself doing that when I wanted to go into business. I always wanted to go into business.

But you didn’t know what business?

No. Not being that young.

Were you a salesman at Emerson Motors?

No I was an accountant. I took a lot of courses to help myself. It is something you have to do, right? You have to better yourself if you are going to make something of yourself. You have to keep bettering yourself by learning and learning. That’s why I am excited about what I am doing right now.

You later operated a club at the Henderson Lake Pavilion.

That’s the reason I moved to Lethbridge in 1964 was because we took over the Henderson Lake Pavilion and called it the Ron Sakamoto Varsity Club.

That was big time for someone barely in their ‘20s.

It was. What I found was that instead of booking only one night, if you had two places, you could book two bands cheaper and switch them. We could bring in one of Sam Feldman’s bands (from Vancouver) and play them in Lethbridge on Friday, and then Medicine Hat on Saturday; and bring in one of Frank Weiner’s bands to play Medicine Hat on Friday and Lethbridge on Saturday.

You could also get any band touring across the country.

Yeah. And the key was that you could get them cheaper because you had two dates instead of one.

How long did you operate the Ron Sakamoto Varsity Club?

We had it for about four years.

After Gold & Gold was formed, you asked some friends to invest $1,000.

I was going to expand the company. The banks wouldn’t give me any money. They said it was too risky of a business. I went to my poker buddies. I was going to sell $10% for $1,000. Not one guy took it. That was great because I’m my own guy. I have been my entire life. I can do what I want when I want.

There were all these regional music scenes in Canada until the mid-70s.

It was all regional. (Promoter) David Horodezky was in Calgary with Brimstone Productions; Donald Tarlton was in Montreal with Donald K. Donald; and Michael Cohl was in Toronto with CPI. The bands were all regional in those days as well. But it started to break open (in the ‘70s) with the Collectors, Lighthouse, and April Wine.

One of the reasons why (the Canadian music scene) was regional back then is that Canada is so big. Back then in the late ‘60s and ‘70s, it took a lot to bring people across the country. So that somebody in Toronto would say, “What are we doing in Calgary or Lethbridge or Red Deer?” Canada doesn’t have the population base. It took so long to get anywhere. In those days, you didn’t have the big buses and the sleepers. You had either converted school buses, wagons or vans.

I did many Crowbar dates with Kelly Jay (Fordham). I remember they would be pulling their U-haul trailer. That’s how the bands use to travel then, hauling U-haul trailers or driving in the van. There were no tour buses back then.

The Stampeders and April Wine were the first two Canadian bands to extensively tour across Canada in the mid-70s.

April Wine did that “The Whole World’s Goin’ Crazy” tour with that stupid big balloon that they had onstage that kept breaking everything after falling over.

I go back with Mel Shaw and the Stampeders forever. I booked the Stampeders forever and a day. I remember (former manager) Mel telling me, “We’re going across Canada. We’re getting bigger, Sak.” And they did. Originally, when they were still living in Calgary and had six members, they had bright yellow suits, black cowboy hats, and wore those tight black pants. They were great. They had their own sound, and they were from Calgary.

You are a partner in Rocky Mountain Turf Club race track and its affiliated casino, Bullys Sport and Entertainment Centre in Lethbridge. Have you ever been tempted to own a sports arena?

Not really. The thing is that (sport complexes) all have to be maintained. It’s easier for me to take a band and, if an arena isn’t right, go to the one which is right. There are so many arenas now, and they are all hungry for business. They have to fill their dates. Why should a guy own his own arena and have to upkeep, heat, and staff it when he can just rent it? You can make a good a deal on the rent with 10 shows a year. Owning an arena is like owning an office building.

You own 14 race horses. Okalahoma Fun was the first horse your purchased followed by Sizzling Red.

Okalahoma Fun is now a brood mare, and she’s throwing, I hope, some really good winners for me. Sizzling Red is a stud. When I saw quarter horse racing for the first time, it simply blew me away. I couldn’t believe how these horses could reach top speeds from 30 to 40 mph out of the starting gate. I was mesmerized by them because it was like they were shot out of a cannon.

How do you work all of your activities into one day?

You have to passion for what you love. I love what I do, and I don’t take (work) for granted. This year, I will work even harder.

Your friend, Bruce Allen has been talking of retirement since he was 50.

Last year Bruce said, “Sak, I think I’m going to slow down.” I told him, “You can’t do that. The industry would miss you too much.” He phoned me about three months ago, and said, “Sak, I’ve been thinking about it, and you’re right.” He’s having a blast today (working with Michael Bublé, Bryan Adams, Martina McBride, and Anne Murray) . With all people in this whole industry, Bruce Allen is, by far, my hero. He’s a straight shooter. He tells you the way he feels it is. He’s not always right, but you know where you stand. We’ve known each since he was managing Bachman-Turner Overdrive.

Your son Shawn works alongside you today at Gold & Gold.

I didn’t push Shawn into the business. Shawn was going to UBC (University of British Columbia) taking law and he decided to come into my business. In order for him to do that I wanted him to get a degree in the music business program at Belmont University in Nashville. I felt that Belmont was the top school in the world for him to learn the business. There was no university or any school in Canada that Shawn could learn these things. He got a business administration degree at Belmont but he majored in the music industry. It cost me a fortune because of him being a foreign student there with foreign tuition. I could afford it. We are fortunate. How many Canadians can afford to send to send their kids to Belmont to take this course?

[In 1971 Belmont University pioneered a music business program designed to prepare students for administrative, creative, and technical careers in the music industry. The program has since grown into the Mike Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business with a faculty including academics and authors, entrepreneurs, songwriters, producers, and sound engineers.]

The University of Lethbridge began a four year Bachelor of Music/Digital arts degree course last September. Last month, you and your wife Joyce donated $100,000--matched by the Albertan government—for the Ron and Joyce Sakamoto Scholarship for the music program.

It is the only university in Canada with this type of degree. It will graduate 30-35 students a year. Some of the graduates are going to be managers or promoters or agents or record producers. Canada, right now, I think, is lacking in all of those fields. With this course, we are going to start to get competitive with the rest of the world. We’ll be able to now get on a level playing field.

Larry LeBlanc was the Canadian bureau chief of Billboard from 1991-2007 and Canadian editor of Record World from 1970-89. He was also a co-founder of the late Canadian music trade, The Record. He has been quoted on music industry issues in hundreds of publications including Time, Forbes, the London Times and the New York Times.

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