Industry Profile: Shaw Saltzberg
By Larry LeBlanc (CelebrityAccess MediaWire)
This week In the Hot Seat with Larry LeBlanc: Shaw Saltzberg, senior vice president, S. L. Feldman and Associates.
Shaw Saltzberg has been the strategic rook within S.L. Feldman & Associates almost since Canadian manager/agent Sam Feldman slapped his name on the firm in 1979
Saltzberg, who came aboard in 1982, has been a prime catalyst in the emergence of one of the most successful talent agency and management firms in the world.
As senior VP for SLFA In Vancouver, British Columbia, Saltzberg’s personal roster—all heavyweight acts, by the way—includes: Michael Bublé, Bryan Adams, Diana Krall, Norah Jones, Sarah McLachlan, Nikki Yanofsky, Barenaked Ladies, Elvis Costello, Pink Martini, Steven Page, Colin James, Chantal Kreviazuk, Melody Gardot, the Chieftains, Ry Cooder, Michael Kaeshammer, Meaghan Smith, and Naturally 7.
In recent years, Saltzberg’s activities have extended to other core entertainment sectors, including concert promotion, corporate and endorsement sponsorship, and casino consulting.
Among his corporate clients have been: the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games; the Calgary Winter Olympic Games; the Beijing Summer Olympic Games; the International Commonwealth Games; British Columbia’s 150th Birthday Celebrations; the Great Canadian Casino Corporation; and the British Columbia Department of Tourism.
He has also produced national theatrical tours for the wildly popular CBC-TV children’s program “The Doodlebops.”
With offices in Vancouver and Toronto, SLFA Canada represents over 125 artists—including Jann Arden, Nelly Furtado, and the Tragically Hip -- has various divisions, including Music Supervision Services, Watchdog Management (handling Colin James, Hedley and others) and, notably, Macklam Feldman Management which oversees the management of the Chieftains, Joni Mitchell, Diana Krall, Norah Jones, Elvis Costello, Ry Cooder, and others.
Like Bruce Allen Talent, SLFA, is a division of A&F Music, co-owned by Bruce Allen and Sam Feldman.
Over the years, Allen has taken four Canadian acts, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Loverboy, Bryan Adams, and Michael Bublé from the ground up to global success. As well, he brokered Martina McBride’s career for over a decade (she recently departed), and reignited Anne Murray’s career. Allen has managed Canadian producer Bob Rock for over two decades.
Prior to Feldman and Allen teaming up in 1972 under the umbrella booking firm Bruce Allen Talent Promotions (that became A&F Music), the two had both separately managed local club acts in Vancouver.
By 1982, when Saltzberg, a former singer/songwriter from Halifax (with a philosophy degree) arrived on his doorstep, Feldman had been running SLFA for three years, with mostly a regional reach. At the same time, he had sizable domestic success managing Trooper, the Headpins, Powder Blues Band, and Doug and the Slugs, all acts whom Saltzberg cut his teeth booking nationally along with Allen’s powerhouse management roster of Loverboy, Red Rider, Prism, and Bryan Adams.
Saltzberg’s world became global in the mid-90s after Sam Feldman’s management joint venture with Steve Macklam, who came in with the Chieftains. Soon afterwards, Joni Mitchell came into their management fold. As well, there was the opening of an office in Toronto in 1993; and a partnership with Marty Diamond’s Little Big Man Booking in New York.
Meanwhile, Saltzberg’s long-standing ties to the principals of Vancouver’s upstart Nettwerk Productions (renamed Nettwerk Group), led to SLFA handling the bookings of Sarah McLachlan, Barenaked Ladies, Chantal Kreviazuk, and Avril Lavigne.
Vancouver is rightly hailed as an artist management hotspot. Overlooked, perhaps, is that it’s been Saltzberg--the ultimate positional player--who has called the middlegames, and the endgames of artists’ careers along the way.
You have been with the agency for nearly three decades.
The agency’s scope expanded globally in the mid-‘90s with Sam’s management joint venture with Steve Macklam.
On a global level, my agent world began to open up with Sam’s partnership with Steve Macklam. After Steve brought in the Chieftains to the company, together they signed Diana Krall, Norah Jones, Elvis Costello, Pink Martini, Melody Gardot and others. It was Steve who introduced me to promoters around the world.
That list (of artists) I now handle in various countries, principally the Pacific Rim, Australia, New Zealand, S.E. Asia, Japan and, in South America from Mexico to Brazil and Argentina. Those are mainstays for me with that roster. Then we dabble almost anywhere, including the Middle East; basically, anything outside of Western Europe and the United States.
That was quite an expansion for a Canadian agency.
Well, it was from a standstill. There was no history of (overseas bookings) in the company other than booking club bands into hotels into the far East
There’s a surprising amount of entertainment activity today in the Middle East.
We have booked Damascus, Bahrain, Beirut and Amman in Jordan. We have booked Israel. We have some artists that are really popular in those countries. One being Pink Martini as well as Diana Krall.
What are the pitfalls in working in some of these territories?
All of the territories I have are very challenging, because there are no strong promoter infrastructures. They are very competitive locally; and very dependent on sponsorship. You have to be very careful with whom you are working with, and know their position in the business at any time. Things change really quickly.
Vancouver, as a music industry centre, has its own challenges.
To some extent, (the problem is) the isolation. The U.S. border is a big barrier and there’s the Rocky Mountains; and Toronto is a long way away. There are a limited number of creative people in Vancouver. The whole goal is to get out. There’s no music business infrastructure in Vancouver, other than that we have a talent agency and we have several successful management companies. But there’s no record business. There’s no publishing business. There’s no radio headquarters. There’s no label headquarters. People are thrashing around, looking for a way out. So you have a lot of movement.
Vancouver has a history of political polarization.
British Columbia has a long history of far-left, and far-right politics. It has only been in the last 10 years that everybody has voted Liberal, which is a centralist party.
For decades, Vancouver’s artistic community was connected to the left, so alternative music flourished there.
The west coast absorbed those thinkers from all across the country, and certainly from the prairies. So you had an alternative community with its own lifestyle and values. That’s why you would have bands like (alternative-styled) Pointed Sticks on one hand, and (mainstream rockers) Loverboy on the other.
Is Vancouver’s remoteness a factor in fostering business and for working internationally.
I think it’s highly motivating. You really have to work harder to get out of the city, and learn about the world. So, (in) this process of elimination, only the strong survive. There’s a very small group of (successful) people, and we have really built ourselves out.
In Bruce Allen’s case, it was (working in) America. In the agency’s case, it was Toronto. From the management perspective, it was (making) a direct path to a global business. So everybody, Sam, Bruce, Nettwerk and I, are on the plane a lot, learning about the world, and, we are working twice as hard because there’s no backup plan when you live in Vancouver. (If you fail) you have to move away. None of us have moved away. None of us wanted to move away.
It’s more interesting because we did it all of this out of “Nowheresville, Canada.” We are not on the prime touring routing. You tour Canada and you hit Vancouver and then you drop into the water. There’s no place to go from here but home.
With the affiliated managements, are there significant pressures on you to deliver?
The closeness is a positive and a negative. I really understand them well. I understand their management style well, and how they approach the market with their artists. That gives me great insight to how to achieve their goals. The flipside is their access to me is 24/7, and they will change their agenda on a moment’s notice.
I’m not unique in the agency business in that I do an awful lot of research and development of ideas that don’t get off the ground I do a lot of in-depth research for tours that may not happen. Probably more so than any other company.
I have never heard Bruce Allen put you down.
Well, maybe (it’s because) I am in his annuity pocket. Bruce will have made a certain amount of money from me working in the agency for 28 straight years. He’s never lost a nickel. Not that his life’s fortune is made on the agency.
In house, you work alongside Macklam Feldman Management which manages the Chieftains, Joni Mitchell, Diana Krall, Norah Jones, Elvis Costello, Ry Cooder, and others.
There must be great expectation of what you can deliver on the agency front.
People there do have very high expectations. They work very hard for their artists and they are extremely responsive to their artists’ needs. They are committed 24/7 to being artist managers. Their style is very hands-on. They consider and think about every decision that they make.
The experiences and contacts developed must have led to even further opportunities.
I couldn’t be breaking Nikki Yanovsky around the world without some of the contacts and the experience that I have gained through those relationships. I’ve been very lucky. I have learned from some great people about the business from top to bottom. Specifically, in the touring business, and the concert business from great people who were active internationally before me and pioneered the fields.
Who does that include?
Bruce Allen, and Randy Berwick (at Bruce Allen Talent); and Steve Macklam himself. Certainly (Nettwerk Music Group president Dan Fraser and Terry McBride (co-founder/CEO, Nettwerk Music Group). These people had built their careers globally before I was active myself. The philosophy behind (the business); the business of (business); and maximizing the potential of artists, I learned from these great people.
You worked on booking for both the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver in Feb. (2010).
Both. Sam and Bruce were on the committee to recruit artists for the opening and the closing, and I was on the committee for the Paralympic Games (that followed). So we were thoroughly integrated into the Olympics. We booked a large number of our artists and we also took advantage of the live stages throughout the city and the many corporate performances at the time.
There’s been criticism that there were too many S.L. Feldman acts, on both the opening and closing ceremonies.
I think (organizers) just picked the artists that they thought were the most appropriate. We happened to represent them.
There were few non-Feldman acts.
I never really added that up. It probably had something to do with the artists themselves. The global brands that represent Canada, if you think about it, we happen to represent most of them. Nickelback (booked by The Agency Group) was included in those brands.
Was it a proud moment for you to be in BC Place for the opening ceremony on Feb. 12, 2010?
It was an amazing moment for Canada, and for music in Canada. To see artists like Bryan Adams and Nelly Furtado on the stage together—artists who are known globally—in their case, both coming out of British Columbia, Vancouver and Victoria—and Nikki Yanovsky representing the next generation—all playing to 3.2 billion people was an absolute thrill.
It was two years of work for you to see that moment?
Two years of very hard work. Certainly not a highly paid position. It was a labor of love. It was very difficult with many special interest groups. But, we had an unbelievable life experience working through the Olympics. I think everyone won’t forget the experience.
What kind of bounce did you have after Nikki Yanofsky sang “O Canada” as well as CTV’s broadcast theme for the 2010 Winter Olympics, "I Believe?”
With the Olympic calling card, all of the territories were immediately interested. That visibility was a very big thing. But Nikki was signed to Decca International before the Olympics. The album was in production for over a year.
The Olympics was a last-minute break for her?
Celine Dion was the pick of choice and she got pregnant with her twins (Dion was, in fact, undergoing an in-vitro fertilization treatment the day of the Olympics’ opening ceremony] and didn’t want to work or travel. So, it became a last minute search. Nikki knew the “I Believe” co-writer Stephan Moccio. He had made a demo with her voice on that tune so Stephan pushed her. He felt she was the best choice. The organizers felt that she had the best vocal version, and that she would be an obvious symbol of youth and excellence (for the Olympics). It turned out to be great.
[Nikki Yanofsky appeared on television during the opening ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver to sing "O Canada,” the Canadian national anthem. Canada's broadcast of the opening ceremonies on CTV concluded with Yanofsky's version of "I Believe" written by Stephan Moccio and Glass Tiger front man Alan Frew.
What’s more, her version of “I Believe” was the recurring song played during CTV’s broadcasts during the games.
Yanofsky also performed at the Olympic closing ceremony and the Paralympic opening ceremony. Her version of "I Believe" reached #1 on the Canadian Hot 100 on the week of February 27. Her Decca album “Nikki” was released in Canada in April; and in the U.S. the following month. The album debuted at #1 on the SoundScan jazz chart in Canada, and at #1 on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart in the U.S.]
Nikki is your current development artist.
Nikki has a very strong foothold in the UK. She is getting a big push there. She has been there twice for pre-release promotion; and she’s back there in September for another round. Then, she returns in November for her CD release. She’s definitely a priority there.
Nikki has been to Japan three times. She has dates there in October.
She has 6 or 7 European jazz festivals in July. I’ve booked her into a large number of jazz festivals including in France, and Spain, German, Italy and the North Sea Jazz Festival in July.
She has an October tour of America. A PBS special was broadcast there this month (June), so 50% of the U.S. markets are with a PBS tie-in. Rob Light signed her for CAA (Creative Artist Agency) there; and Nigel Hassler has her in Europe, both with me at the helm.
At the end of this month, there is a Canadian jazz festival tour from coast-to-coast. Toronto and Montréal are both sold out.
You are originally from Halifax, Nova Scotia?
I was born and raised there. I left Halifax and went to central Canada (Toronto) for opportunities. Then you realize that you might not be the best fit for the big city, and you keep moving west. A lot of people did that.
Not many people came to Toronto and got an honors BA degree in philosophy at the University of Toronto.
That’s right. It was my major. We were idealistic, and we were about trying to find ourselves and understanding the world and learning about the history of ideas. It was all very idealistic. I thought I was on an academic track. Then I got a rude awakening. That academic life was stultifying existence--at least for me.
How did you reach that conclusion?
I took a close look at the professors, and the people in the university life. Getting to know them a little bit, and seeing how detached they were from the world was what jolted me. To me, (being an academic) was just too narrow.
The University of Toronto’s campus is quite an academic setting.
It has an Ivy League kind of vibe. It’s a great university with a campus in the middle of the city. When you get to that campus, you don’t feel like you are in Toronto. You are just living in the campus life.
Were you around for Yorkville Village’s club scene?
It was still kicking around. My interest was more in the singer/songwriter side of things. So I would go—to the extent that I had money—and see Bruce Cockburn, Dan Hill and Steve Goodman -- those sorts of artists at The Riverboat; and I’d go to a place called Egerton’s next to Ryerson (Ryerson Polytechnic Institute downtown). Because I was from the Maritimes (Atlantic Canada), I liked a lot of the Irish and Scottish heritage music. I used to go and see Stan Rogers and John Allen Cameron.
Halifax had a great music scene then too.
When I was in high school, I would play in coffee houses and church basements in Halifax. I had a little duo thing going with a friend for awhile. I always had a strong interest in music.
A big eye-opener was that I would go down to the Halifax Public Gardens (a Victorian era public gardens) and the CBC would be shooting “Singalong Jubilee” on a Sunday. They had the camera crew shooting outdoors, and Anne Murray would be singing in bare feet. I thought, “Wow. That is incredible stuff.” Some bands were rocking hard but I was just on a different side of the music. April Wine played my high school. I remember a booking agency that was in Halifax. I remember thinking. “What could they do in the Maritimes?”
Why go to Vancouver after Toronto?
My wife graduated in journalism at Ryerson. We thought we would go out to Vancouver on a one year adventure, as so many people do. “Let’s experience life on the west coast.” Once you get here, and settle in you tend to stay. My wife got a job, and I started singing (solo) to fill time. But once we absorbed Vancouver, we just were never going to leave.
Who was booking you?
A guy called John Whitefoot at the Whitefoot Agency. I was the type of artist who, if you told me four months in advance to show up somewhere, you only had to tell me once. I was the guy who sent the commission in after the gig. I was a flawless client.
Being a one man band, playing to lumber jacks, cowboys, and miners in Prince George or Terrace on a Saturday night is a rough assignment.
I may not have been well-suited to a mining town in northern BC (British Columbia). Maybe, that wasn’t my audience. I changed repertoire fast. From singer/songwriters like James Taylor and Leonard Cohen to the Eagles, Rolling Stones and Creedence Clearwater Revival.
I was privileged to have dinner with Leonard Cohen a few years ago, and I told him about my days playing his songs in mill towns. He asked how it went. I said "Not so well. Even when I doubled the tempos, I couldn't get them to dance.” He said, "I tried that too. It didn’t work out for me either".
You became an agent in 1979?
John had a career chat with me. He told me that I was a talented individual, but not in music; in business. I was taken aback, but I agreed to work as an agent in his office. When I first started, I didn’t have rock or contemporary bands. I was just booking people I met through networking that did something similar to what I did. After 6 months, I had enough clients to stop playing (on my own). Within a year, I had two agents working for me there, and I was doing half of the company’s business.
Any act big acts come out of your roster?
No. That’s why I left. It was a working man’s living, but it wasn’t really the music business. They were really only cover people there. I was booking them in bars, clubs, restaurants, and pubs. We only had two bands that were original (music) bands. There was Sparkling Apple, and David Raven & the Escorts. Sparkling Apple (“the ultimate party power trio”) was like a ZZ Top and David Raven was like a reggae rock thing from Britain.
When you began booking In 1979, Sam Feldman and Bruce Allen had just stopped working together under Bruce Allen Talent. Sam moved to another office with the booking division, which was renamed as S.L. Feldman & Associates. It was soon controlling the local market.
It was. But, I built my little world up. Over a couple of years, I booked all around Sam’s business. Everywhere there was a niche that he didn’t control—basically, everything that was non-rock—I got my finger into. Everything that wasn’t straight ahead rock ‘n’ roll. It was show bands, and Kool and the Gang, and the Commodores style of music. I got into every corner that I could.
How did you come to work at S.L. Feldman & Associates?
In 1982, a friend told me that Sam Feldman was looking for a new agent. He was the king of the clubs in British Columbia and Alberta. He also had a few management clients such as Doug and the Slugs and Trooper. He was curious about this other marketplace I was working in. It was profitable, but he didn’t have anybody in it. He had only one style of agent; one style of band; one style of club.
Were you hesitant about approaching Sam?
Yeah. I thought he was Irving Azoff or David Geffen. I thought he was incomprehensibly successful, and big. He was actually just a regional agent, but he had the region locked. I had no perspective. He had Alberta and British Columbia, and not even all of Alberta.
You met with Sam, and he turned you down.
I went back to him and demanded that he reconsider. He then asked his accountant to meet me. He told Sam afterwards that he thought I was very talented, "not in music; in business.” Sam offered me a desk, a phone but no starting salary or nothing. I had $10,000 in savings, a new baby just days old, and my first condo bought with a loan from my parents. Boy, did I work my ass off.
Who was working for Sam then?
Rob Hoskins was the VP at the time. He ran the office for Sam when I started. And there was Casey Boyle; Lach Buchanan, who went on to work for ICM and booked Loverboy in New York; and Lenny Goddard. There was also Sam’s first cousin Elaine Chick, who booked the colleges and the high schools.
What was most of the agency’s business then?
It was club business. Occasionally, we would book a recording artist once a month for a series of dates. The volume was clubs and top 40 bands and ’80s “party all of the time” lifestyle bands for boomers, either disco or rock bands.
Over the years, we gradually introduced legitimate recording artists to the system. There were Sam's management acts (Trooper, the Headpins, Powder Blues Band, and Doug and the Slugs) and his partner Bruce Allen's artists, such as Prism, Bryan Adams, Red Rider, and Loverboy. We booked Loverboy in clubs.
We also toured most of the successful artists from eastern Canada through (the west) with an arrangement we had with the biggest agency at the time there called The Agency (co-owned by Toronto promoter Michael Cohl and unrelated to The Agency Group). It had such bands as Rush, April Wine, Glass Tiger, and Honeymoon Suite. Interestingly, all of them still tour today.
By then, the golden era of punk and new wave was in full swing in Vancouver with such local bands as the Pointed Sticks, D.O.A., Young Canadians, and the Subhumans.
S.L. Feldman wasn’t part of that scene.
It was a separate scene. It had its own little world and it was very inside. It wasn’t monetized to a great degree. It was a high maintenance, very personal, passionate scene. You had to live the life yourself to be part of that world. There was no monetization of those bands’ activities--either in terms of record sales or even club business. And, you had a lot of self-destructive people in the scene that weren’t very dependable. We ended up representing D.O.A for awhile and we managed (Canadian punk godfather) Art Bergmann.
Late in the game, we thought that we’d better get ourselves a cooler roster. So we sort of came in. The monetization never worked out. I think that we were late adapters. But we had started to understand the music, and see that it was part of the culture, and that we should be involved.
Many in that culture in Vancouver wanted nothing to do with the mainstream that the Feldman agency represented.
It was very much that way. It remained that way for an awfully long time. For decades.
Over the years, you became the “go-to guy” for Sam and Bruce Allen, for running their agency, and touring their management rosters
Although I always enjoyed the business side of the music business, I really began to understand artist management because the company managed artists, and I was in on the decision-making process on a daily basis. This knowledge helped me tremendously in my career, and it gave me a competitive edge. I credit Sam and Bruce for this; but also Terry McBride, and Dan Fraser at Nettwerk, who were the next generation of successful managers to break out of Vancouver.
Did you know Terry McBride before working with Nettwerk’s acts?
I’ve known Terry and (Nettwerk) partners Ric Arboit and Mark Jowett from the time they were teenagers. They worked with my father and brother Brad in their store Odyssey Imports (on Seymour Street). The store, Vancouver's only import record store, was a hub for edgy dance and alternative music and attracted the (alternative) scenesters of the day.
What my dad was doing with this store, I'll never know, but he had a strong interest in music since his days in the U.S. Army's entertainment corps, and from being a nightclub singer in New York after military service.
When my father retired, my brother talked him into getting into the record business. My dad would walk among the goth kids with piercings and tattoos and, I think, he thought he had a platform to finally make it in show biz. Years later, decades after the store closed, and when Nettwerk was an established industry presence, he took his songbook to Terry who pressed 500 copies of his "Greatest Hits.” My father has since passed, but I still have the copies.
Your brother Brad was originally a co-owner of Nettwerk Productions.
Because the label was an outgrowth of the store. At one point, they decided that they were going to stop working at the store and go with a label. Everybody weighed in but my brother later decided he would stick with retail. So he sold his shares to the other guys. Ric Arboit (president of Nettwerk Records) really stepped into my brother’s shares and position. My brother was more on the distribution side (of the business). That ended up being Ric’s world which is label and distribution.
You worked at S.L. Feldman which was the mainstream but Nettwerk was somewhat alternative-styled when it began in the mid-80s with Moev, the Grapes of Wrath, and Skinny Puppy.
We didn’t add all of their artists at once. Skinny Puppy, we never had any involvement with, for example. I started to book Sarah (McLachlan) when she was just starting. She wasn’t alternative. She was a folk-based artist.
My early connection to the Nettwerk guys put me in line to represent their (management) roster. I have worked Barenaked Ladies, Avril Lavigne, Chantal Kreviazuk and others. Knowing them gave me many insights into artist development, certainly the financials of touring. In particular, Dan Fraser, Sarah's tour manager for years, and now a principal in the company, taught me so much about the nickels and dimes of touring.
Opening an office in Toronto in 1993 was a major step for S.L. Feldman. It then tried to go head-to-head with The Agency, owned by Michael Cohl and his companies, Concerts Productions International (CPI) and BCL Entertainment (co-owned with Labatt’s).
We did. We felt that the western artists that we were representing at the time weren’t getting a fair shake. We tried to work things out with The Agency. We had an alliance, but we just couldn’t become a priority (with our acts). We felt that the Toronto-centric thing was inhibiting our artists’ career. We felt that we could do even more for the eastern artists in western Canada if we had more direct communication.
(Opening in Toronto) was a business opportunity. It just seemed that (The Agency was) in the decadent phase, if you want to call it that, of their business cycle. Steve Herman, who was working for us at the time here, made a personal commitment to go out to Toronto and open the Toronto office. Then, it was Steve and (agents) Jeff Craib, Bernie Breen, and Richard Mills working there.
There was soon a merger, and The Agency ceased to exist.
It became one of those things that happens in the agency business where you start to talk to the artists regionally, and you try to convince them that you can do a better job. We ended up with a good portion of (The Agency’s) roster and their business was not as profitable. So we made a deal, and we brought some of their people over and merged into the (one) office. It was Steve Herman with Vinny Cinquemani (today president of S.L. Feldman) who came as the principal representative of The Agency with a very strong roster.
Did that expansion and foothold in Toronto re-shape the company?
Sure, it brought a level of efficiency; people weren’t concentrating on the business and the politics of the business anymore. We started to concentrate on the artist’s careers.
It had been intensely competitive between the two agencies.
For three or four years, it was a knock-down, total competition. Both companies were spending more time defending their business than they should have. So we were given the opportunity afterwards to work closer with the artists and build out their careers.
The Canadian music industry was also just breaking out.
The Canadian business was absolutely breaking out. Artists were starting to cross the (U.S.) border and have major international success. We hit the right time. The Canadian music industry was maturing, and going at a break-neck pace at that stage. So were our management artists with their opportunities. We ended up collectively having--if you put Nettwerk, Sam’s and Bruce’s (management rosters) together -- one of the biggest collection of top artists in the world.
Then, a deal was made with Marty Diamond’s Little Big Man Booking in New York.
Thank you for bringing that up. Once we had the Canadian deal (for The Agency) done, we started to concentrate on the agency business in America. We started putting money into Little Big Man and working with Marty. We were 50/50 partners together, for at least a decade. Marty’s company became a real force in the United States. A lot of it based on his own personality, and success with his roster. But, Sarah started to get big. Barenaked Ladies hit. Then, of course, he had some artists that he got on his own, Coldplay being the biggest one. Avril hit. So we had a real American presence in New York.
Could you have foreseen the agency having such an international presence?
This build out was always the (strategy) from the beginning. It was “How do we work on a global basis?” Everybody’s efforts were focused toward that. I also think diversifying the business was key (to growth), because we came from a marketplace that was relatively small on an international level. So, at the same time that we were working this roster, we were also trying to expand into other niches in the Canadian business that would create opportunities for our artists.
Sponsorship, endorsements, event production, talent buying, casinos buying eventually, and producing national theatrical tours such as for the Doodlebops. Basically, we do anything in the music business with the exception of competing with our promoter clients.
The casino business is growing in Canada.
It’s been a growth industry in terms of venues. Many of the venues are state-of-the-art performing arts centers--theatres with state-of-the-art sound and lights and top quality marketing. You are going to see (the Canadian casino business) build out (further) so that all of the major cities will have a really prime concert venue. Canadian cities are short of venues, which people in the concert industry know. There are cities like Edmonton, Calgary and Ottawa, where finding a venue to present an A-level artist is a big challenge year round.
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.