Les Louanges Prepares For Impact With Crash

The Francophone singer-songwriter brings us back into his musically omnivorous world with his long-awaited sophomore LP.

By Dave MacIntyre (Photo by Alex Blouin and Jodie Heartz)

  • Published on January 19, 2022

For Vincent Roberge, life’s been coming at him fast. Under his artist name, Les Louanges, he’s experienced a whirlwind of success over the course of the last five years. The Quebec City native was awarded Francophone Album of the Year at the Junos for his 2018 debut, La nuit est une panthère, which was also shortlisted for the 2019 Polaris Music Prize. On his home turf that same year, Roberge cleaned up at the ADISQ Gala—Quebec’s equivalent to the Grammys—taking home three awards.

His sophomore album, Crash, is due out Jan. 21 via Bonsound, the Montreal-based label responsible for amplifying other emerging Francophone artists like P’tit Belliveau, Lisa Leblanc, and Franky FadeCrash is a robust musical offering that puts Roberge’s multi-instrumental talents and brilliant producer mind on full display. Consisting of 15 soulful tracks steeped in pop sensibility, the album takes cues musically from the likes of Frank Ocean, Colin Stetson, and Prince’s 1987 album Sign o’ the Times. With three music video singles already out into the world — “Chaussée,” “Quest-ce que tu m’fais,” and “Crash” featuring French R&B sensation, Corneille — Roberge is already feeling the momentum of his latest body of work. 

On the train from Quebec City to Montreal, RANGE spoke to rising artist about his new album, his upcoming Quebec tour, and the surreal nature of transitioning from playing arena shows one day to a house show the next. 

How has the pandemic and Quebec’s curfew been treating you?

At first, it gave me the break I needed. When it first started, I’d been on tour for two and a half years and I didn’t have time to take a break. It helped me avoid a potential burnout. But after, it’s been shitty, like for everybody else. (laughs)

You’re about to release your second album, Crash. Aside from its English title, what would you say sets this album apart most from your debut?

Since the first album, there’s been a lot going on in my life—my personal life, and on a professional level with music. I had a lot more to talk about. The first album was more me dreaming about my future life, or talking about what I wanted to do. But for this one, I had a lot of things on my chest. Since the first album, I’ve worked my ass off, and definitely picked up some cues along the way. I’m more aware of what I like and what my strengths are. What sets this album apart is that I’m way more confident and in tune with myself.

What are some of the biggest things you learned about yourself in the last three years since the release of La nuit est une panthère?

I’m still asking myself that question! But the pandemic and the whole album process gave me time to reflect. A lot of the songs talk about aspects or events that were part of those three years. Maybe I’m more sure of myself now—it’s not something I learned from it, but I’m more at peace with the things I’m good at, and the things I’m not. 

You’ve performed for large crowds in Montreal and Paris, but in May you’ll be performing at a microbrewery in Frelighsburg, QC, right? How do you feel about the contrast?

I’ve got a funny anecdote about that! You know the Belgian singer, Angèle? She’s a pretty big deal in French-speaking countries. I played before her show at the Bell Centre [in Montreal], and it was the biggest show I ever did. I’d never played in front of 10,000 people before. It was completely unreal. But the next day, I was playing in Frelighsburg, and the contrast was out of this world. You go from playing in an arena where people knew the lyrics and were very into it, to being back in the van the next day to play for 100 people in a house. There are still people there who pay for my show. Also, Quebec is not that big, so there’s a lot of contrast. I’m from Quebec City originally, so I can play two nights there in front of 2,000 people, but you’re also going to play much smaller gigs.

What’s the incentive for Quebec artists to play smaller towns like Lavaltrie, Frelighsburg, or St-Irénée, rather than just Montreal, Quebec City, or Sherbrooke?

The thing I love the most is playing my music in front of people. I want to play. Even if it’s a smaller gig, it’s a win-win. I get to play and introduce people to my music, and get paid. I’ll play in front of whoever wants to hear me. It’s not about the numbers or capacities. 

That’s also why I’m working on a European tour. It’s still hard for French-speaking artists to break into the rest of Canada or the US. You can live a good life being an artist in Quebec, but that’s just how it is. So there’s no other choice. For now, I’m freaking blessed. Most of the shows are sold out. It is what it is, and I’m just happy to play.

What else do you have planned for 2022?

My album’s been done since July 2021 so I’m already working on new stuff. I want to go on tour. I also do some production work with people. Right now, I’m trying to work with a new rapper from Montreal. I liked how he sounded, and tried to dabble in beat making. I’m a big fan of rap, too. I’d really like to establish myself as someone you can go to for producing music. That could lead me to more contracts and gigs. It gives me an occasion to do what I love the most.
I was in France and Belgium in November. I went there to do some collaborations with other artists. When the album’s out, I’m not going to take a two-year break before getting new stuff out, that’s for sure.

Lavictoire: This Montreal entrepreneur is building a community for soccer creators

“There’s a growing interest for not only the game, but running a business, idea or service in the space of soccer. I thought it would be great to put everyone together in a meaningful way.”

by Dave MacIntyre

An online community for soccer fans to carve their path in the industry used to be an unthinkable concept — but that’s exactly what Yvan Delia-Lavictoire has built.

The Montreal entrepreneur is the founder of Lavictoire, a platform allowing content creators with a passion for the beautiful game to grow their personal brand and their projects, as well as network with fellow creators and “solopreneurs” and find job opportunities. Through Lavictoire, users can find new sources of income and find inspiration from their peers’ endeavours.

Creators on Lavictoire are encouraged to interact, exchange ideas, flex their creative muscles, attend workshops and use tools such as worksheets to build their content strategies with. Users can also curate their feeds to get updates about soccer-related topics that interest them, as well as use the site without ads.

For Yvan, creating this kind of community has been many years in the making. Thanks to his father, Yvan developed a passion for soccer at a young age (he supports Arsenal), and played for many years before ultimately deciding not to turn pro. Instead, he found a new outlet for his love of the game around 2010.

“At that time, blogging was big,” he says. “Sharing content online was just starting to become a thing, so I jumped on the ‘blogging bandwagon’ and I built my first platform there. That led me to discovering the digital world in many, many aspects — ranging from social media, to building your own website, to understanding what marketing was, or what it could become, on digital platforms.”

From there, Yvan would score gigs working for the Montreal Impact (now CF Montreal), Major League Soccer, Bell Media and RDS. The marriage of both his footballing passion and his digital marketing prowess led to him starting his own agency, which has been in business for five years.

He nonetheless wanted to start a more sustainable, community-focused business venture — and one that could, as its website says, help users “reach our professional, lifestyle and financial goals with the game we love.” Thus, Lavictoire was born.

“From a North American perspective, there’s a growing interest for not only the game, but running a business, idea or service in the space of soccer,” Yvan adds. “I thought it would be great to put everyone together in a meaningful way, but also where everyone can learn from each other, and learn what I’ve learned, in one space.” 

Yvan launched the Lavictoire platform in the fall of 2020 — right in the thick of the pandemic’s pre-vaccine phase. The goal was to build a community of football fans during a difficult time, to help them find new ways to enjoy the game off the pitch. For those who have strategies and/or ideas for their football content, but don’t know how to put them into action, Lavictoire might just be what the doctor ordered.

Instead of simply relaying news about the game, recycling old content or sharing memes, Yvan wanted to help creators build their “own meaningful story” with football.

“It’s helped people build up their own confidence and say, ‘Hey, if there’s one guy in Ukraine doing this, how can I apply it and build it in my own country or region?’” he adds. “There are about 5 billion football supporters around the world, so there are 5 billion ways to explain a story with football.”

Lavictoire’s membership base already includes creators from Australia, Poland and the western United States, in addition to Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. Aside from giving football creators the opportunity to share their journey with like-minded people, Lavictoire also helps them connect and build relationships. Not only can they make new friends and draw mutual inspiration, they can also hold each other accountable for their progress.

“There’s a sense of encouragement and optimism, rather than just comparing each other with how well this person’s doing [versus] how well I should be doing,” he adds. “It’s a great way for people to find inspiration, and find that added motivation to keep doing whatever they’re doing in the football space.”

As of now, two memberships are available to purchase for creators looking to join Lavictoire. The Squad membership, which grants users access to the community, is free. A Pro membership, which costs a one-time fee of $59 CAD, is an all-access pass to the space: paying members can join co-working sessions, attend online workshops, watch replays of interviews and access templates, workbooks and documents, among other perks.

Locally, the project has already drawn attention. Adrian Sousa, a Lachine-based YouTuber known for his soccer channel RabonaTV (which boasts more than 214,000 subscribers), first caught wind of Lavictoire while stumbling upon Yvan through social media and mutual connections. Once Yvan realized Adrian was based in the Montreal area, he reached out and the two began trading messages.

“When I found out he had this Lavictoire football community set up, I absolutely wanted to be part of it,” says Sousa, who helped provide some feedback to Yvan about the project during its infancy. Since content creation can sometimes be a lonely endeavour, he views Lavictoire as a way to interact with like-minded football creators working toward similar goals.

“I recently started a podcast, and there was actually a podcast workshop in the Lavictoire football community that was extremely beneficial,” adds Sousa. “It’s [a tool for] making connections within the industry, whether it’s through job postings, networking or getting to know other people who have found success — taking what you can from their success stories and trying to apply that to your own.”

With the Omicron variant currently wreaking havoc and causing postponements to matches around the world, an online platform like Lavictoire isn’t just a unique one for the football community — it’s also perfect for today’s COVID climate. This allows for greater connectivity between creators, even if done virtually.

“People saw the value [during the pandemic] of being able to work from home, and to take that to the next level and work from home for yourself,” Sousa says. “This is the ultimate tool in being able to find a way to start, narrow down what exactly you want to do, and then have a group of people around you who have experience, and are going to help you nurture your process, as well.”

The Lavictoire project also comes during a truly exciting time for Canadian soccer. Our national team program reached new heights in 2021, with the women’s team taking home gold at the Tokyo Olympics, while the men’s team have risen to 40th in the FIFA Men’s World Rankings. After eight matches, Canada — led by young talent like Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David — sits atop the CONCACAF Hexagon table, putting them in an excellent position to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

Locally, there’s CF Montreal in MLS, who were in the playoff mix last season before missing out on the final matchday. Regardless, football culture in Montreal is strong and passionate — and “surprising,” as Yvan puts it.

“Whenever I describe the [football] culture to people from outside of Montreal, they don’t believe it, or there’s a bit of skepticism around it,” he adds. “But before these unprecedented times, there were people travelling here [for matches]. Once they discovered the city and what it had to offer for football, they were always very surprised about how rich the city is culturally, and also how educated the people were with their football.”

As far as Sousa’s concerned, Montreal is “the football city in Canada,” with the CF Montreal fanbase’s outrage over the club’s rebrand — and their subsequent banning of the ultras from Stade Saputo — being proof of how deep football runs in the city’s sporting culture.

“Of course, I’m biased, and I’m sure people in Toronto will argue with that, given that they’re also a very multicultural city,” he says. “But I think Montreal just hits a little bit different, with the European flair the city has. And I think it’s only going to grow from here.”

Lavictoire’s focus for 2021 had been on building its membership base, as well as bringing more attention to the project. For 2022, Yvan plans to help “elevate” his users’ stories based on the community’s wants and needs, via tools such as workshops, products, and courses. He’s also looking to host a Lavictoire public event at some point, though it remains to be seen when that can happen under the current circumstances.

For now, his long-term plans are to help the platform’s 1,000+ members develop their football stories, and building an educational space to help them learn and grow.

“A lot of people go the freelance route, or build their own business. But there’s also people building their own career in football — that’s one of the big things I’d like to see in the community,” he adds.

“There are a lot of professional routes being built right now for football… and there are different roles you can occupy in football that can be presented, and that maybe not a lot of people know about. We want to put ourselves in that space.” ■

For more, please visit the Lavictoire FC website.

Originally published on Cult MTL’s website.

Legault wants more Quebecers in hockey — that’s where his priorities are

The Premier has embarked on a project that’s simultaneously self-indulgent and an example of Quebec-first election-year optics.

On Thursday, Premier François Legault unveiled a new plan for revamping hockey in the province of Quebec.

The Premier has assembled a committee featuring a who’s who of Quebec hockey personalities, including former Habs like Stéphane Quintal, Jocelyn Thibault (who Hockey Quebec recently appointed as their new executive director) and Guillaume Latendresse; former NHLer/present-day RDS anchor Marc Denis (who is leading the committee); and former Canadian women’s team players Caroline Ouellette and Kim St-Pierre (the latter of whom was recently inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame). 

Alongside nine other members, this committee is designed to propose solutions for how hockey in Quebec could better itself going forward, which they’re expected to do by April 1, 2022. Their primary motive will be to increase participation within the game among young Quebecers, in addition to fostering national pride in the province.

That same day, Premier Legault announced plans during a press conference to meet with embattled NHL commissioner Gary Bettman “in the coming months” to discuss the possible return of the Quebec Nordiques to the NHL. La Presse reports that Legault has even gone as far as to appoint Quebec’s Minister of Finance, Éric Girard, to spearhead talks with Bettman and potential investors.

In a vacuum, these plans seem prudent for improving conditions for a sport Legault deems to be “part of [Quebec’s] identity”, especially as participation in hockey has noticeably declined in Quebec in recent years. One need only look at the state of minor hockey in this province to understand that something is off — or at least, relative to the rest of Canada.

The QMJHL (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League) has struggled to produce first-round talent over the past 10 NHL drafts compared with the CHL’s other two leagues, the WHL (Western Hockey League) and OHL (Ontario Hockey League). Between 2012 and 2021, only 32 players — an average of just over three players per year — from the Q have been selected in the first round. The WHL and OHL have produced 59 and 74 first rounders respectively within that timeframe. 

There are also only 51 Quebec-born players who have played in at least one NHL regular season game this year. The number of Ontario-born active players who have done so? 169. Clearly, all is not well right now with Quebec’s approach to developing quality hockey talent.

This fact no doubt bothers Premier Legault, who has publicly lamented the lack of Quebecers on the Montreal Canadiens roster specifically. In a way, it seems as if Legault is the type of person who’d rather pick David Savard and Cédric Paquette in his fantasy hockey pool over Cale Makar and Connor McDavid.

For any place to truly become a hotbed for young hockey players to learn and grow in, an excellent grassroots system is necessary. Ideally, this should also allow for greater participation among young players from lower-income families (particularly given how expensive playing hockey can be) and/or visible minorities — two things Legault seemingly hates, but two things that are also necessary for maximizing Quebec’s talent pool of future NHLers.

A quick reminder, also, that not a single person of colour is on Legault’s 15-person committee for improving Quebec hockey. This from the same person who insists there’s no systemic racism in this province. This includes Indigenous communities, in particular — with whom Legault has had a fractured relationship, such as in his refusal earlier this year to make Indigenous People’s Day a statutory holiday in Quebec.

All of which brings me to the bigger issue here.

It’s difficult not to interpret this announcement as Legault disproportionately prioritizing his love for the game, as well as his pro-nationalist interests, while on the job. Quite simply, Quebec society has infinitely more pressing issues to be worrying about right now. There aren’t enough physicians in our healthcare system (whom the provincial government has gaslighted in response). Wait times for family doctors are years long. Religious symbols are still banned from being worn in public. An opioid crisis is also ongoing in Quebec, one involving nearly 600 deaths just last year. Leave it to The Rover’s Christopher Curtis to drop truth bombs like this one:

Affordable housing remains a major issue, especially when Legault himself clearly has no clue how much apartments in Montreal are rented for nowadays. Immigration rates, which have famously decreased under Legault and his CAQ government, will be rising next year, but such an increase is primarily due to an ongoing labour shortage.

Oh, and we’re still in the midst of a whole-ass pandemic.

To Marc Denis’s credit, he acknowledges the importance of a robust grassroots hockey system. He also isn’t wrong when he says that, “if we keep doing the same things over and over, we’re going to get the same results we’re not liking.” Geoff Molson, Marc Bergevin and Dominique Ducharme would do well to take cues from this statement with regards to the Montreal Canadiens’ violent tire fire of a season thus far.

Speaking of the Canadiens, here’s a side note. Having more Quebecers in the NHL as a result of the Premier’s plan isn’t going to solve the Habs’ problems. This team hasn’t had dibs on the rights to young Quebec players in a very long time. It also doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that basing choices for player personnel, coaching and management on identity politics is incredibly limiting for a sports franchise — a topic Habs Twitter loves to beat like a dead horse.

David Savard Montreal Canadiens Habs Quebecers hockey
2020-21 Stanley Cup winner David Savard, playing poorly with the Montreal Canadiens this season

The Canadiens organization has handicapped itself in this regard for many years, perhaps because Molson may still be spooked by the 2012 protest outside the Bell Centre over hiring unilingual anglo Randy Cunneyworth as interim head coach. Regardless, this hockey club’s responsibility shouldn’t be to act as an embodiment of Quebec nationalism. Its responsibility absolutely must be to win hockey games. Having a stronger francophone presence within the team is only worth it if that team is still good enough to win a Stanley Cup.

Just so I’m clear: if many future Habs players end up being Quebecois and also genuine difference-makers, then great! But having Quebecers on your team for the sake of it — especially given the subpar play of Savard and Paquette in particular this season — isn’t going to get you far in a league with 31 other franchises and obscene amounts of parity. 

The Canadiens will have to always prioritize the best players, regardless of nationality, to build a Cup-winning team. That’s just how the modern NHL works.

Don’t get me wrong, Quebec hockey does need an overhaul in philosophy and structure from the ground up if they want more Quebec-trained players to achieve excellence in the sport. But the societal climate surrounding it makes this whole initiative seem rather insignificant by comparison.

Frankly, it feels as if François Legault is putting his own selfish passion for hockey — as well as him being up for re-election in less than a year — above the wants, needs and everyday lives of his constituents. And that isn’t right. ■

This article originally appeared on Cult MTL’s website.

Carey Price doesn’t owe you shit

by Dave MacIntyre

“While support for Price has been largely positive during his absence, some people feel so entitled as to assume that he owes us an explanation.”

Man, this city can be a toxic place when it comes to hockey. On Friday, it was announced that Carey Price will be returning to the Montreal Canadiens on Monday, Nov. 8. His return will largely be to develop a timeline for when he’ll be able to step back onto the ice after undergoing offseason knee surgery. He’ll also be completing his month-long stint with the NHL Players’ Assistance Program for mental health reasons, the specifics of which are unknown. In keeping with the program’s after-care process, he will not be making any public comments upon his return, as his doctors haven’t yet given him the green light to do so.

Without Price, the Habs have utterly floundered out of the gate with a record of 3–10–0 after the first 13 games of the season — good for the bottom of the Atlantic Division and third-last in the NHL, which puts the Habs right in the thick of the Shane Wright sweepstakes. A combination of slow starts from their best players, a badly constructed defence corps and a limp-dick power play have all contributed in varying ways to the team’s horrific performances to date.

Additionally, Carey Price has been a part of the Canadiens organization for the better part of two decades, and has elevated mediocre-to-bad teams in front of him for many of those years with some truly superhuman performances in net. Though he remains a beloved figure in this city, he’s also endured more than his share of vitriol whenever he’s performed poorly — particularly since he eats up $10.5-million of the team’s salary cap.

While support for Price has been largely positive during his absence, some fans and at least one reporter on social media feel so entitled as to assume that he owes us some sort of explanation, since he’s such an important player and boasts a gigantic yearly salary to the detriment of the team’s roster budget, all while the Habs are playing extremely poorly without him.

Fuck off.

He doesn’t owe any of us anything. Neither did Jonathan Drouin before he eventually chose to tell his story in an interview with Chantal Machabée of RDS. Carey Price is his own human being, with his own set of emotions and boundaries, both of which he is fully entitled to.

Carey Price at the Hockey 911 conference, Sept. 22, 2021.

With the Habs and their players, there seems to be a real sense of arrogance and entitlement among much of the fanbase when they aren’t winning hockey games. Hockey players are not robots you can program to your liking, unless you actually coach them. They are real people with real feelings who also happen to be very good at their chosen sport.

To treat them otherwise isn’t just dehumanizing and lacking in empathy, it also insinuates that their mental well-being is irrelevant and unimportant compared to their proficiencies on the ice. This brings to mind the “shut up and dribble” mentality parroted by the Laura Ingrahams of the world (even if that debacle was about LeBron James and Kevin Durant publicly criticizing then-President Trump).

This has gone beyond hockey itself, for that matter, on several occasions this year. Naomi Osaka famously pulled out of the French Open back in May to focus on her mental health, which resulted in support and backlash from fans and media alike (looking at you, Piers Morgan). A month prior, Manchester United’s Jesse Lingard opened up about his own struggles with mental health, and how he turned to alcohol following relentless abuse online from United fans.

Confusingly, some still feel compelled to label him as a scapegoat for the team’s on-ice failures — when he’s not even playing — after having just led the team through an exhilarating run to the Stanley Cup Final. People may also point to his status as the team’s best player, as well as his high AAV, for why he owes it to the public to be an open book about his personal struggles — something that arguably perpetuates the “they’re millionaires, they’ll be fine, they can tough it out” myth surrounding mental health in sports.

It takes a special kind of mental toughness to handle playing hockey in Montreal when things aren’t going well. And when your name is Carey Price, the resulting pressure from fans and media can increase tenfold. It’s on both of those groups of people to set a healthier, more positive example for players when push comes to shove, to help make it a place they want to play in long-term. Watching sports as a fan hasn’t shown itself to be very beneficial for mental health, either, with multiple studies having shown increases in domestic violence cases after sports teams lose (and even after they win).

Kyle Beach with the Chicago Blackhawks

A player’s personal well-being is also bigger and more important than the sport itself, and it’s high time that we stopped prioritizing winning hockey games over literally anything else in life — which is exactly what the Chicago Blackhawks did when Kyle Beach reported his harrowing account of sexual abuse at the hands of the team’s video coach while Beach was a prospect in the organization.

This type of attitude also serves as proof of why the conversation surrounding mental health de-stigmatization is so necessary, and particularly during a global pandemic. For every bit of progress the conversation makes, there are always some who don’t seem to care about it, understand it or value its importance.

Mental health is also not something you can flick on and off like a light switch. As someone who has experienced depression and anxiety on many occasions in life (both of which have been exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic), it is vital that you seek help and support however you can. This can include therapy, crisis hotlines, confiding in loved ones, journaling, exercise — whichever method works best for you. 

Though we don’t know the exact reasons for Carey Price’s mental health issues, his stint in the Players’ Assistance Program shows he’s willing to take charge of his well-being, all while showing his fans that it’s okay not to be okay. Seeking help is a statement of intent for improving your mental health, rather than ruminating and letting your feelings eat away at you. You’re also fully within your rights to be as public or as private as you want about what caused you to seek help in the first place. Point finale.

It’s Carey Price’s prerogative to publicly share whatever he wishes about his personal issues whenever he’s ready to do so. In the meantime, please respect both his wishes and his privacy. ■

If you or someone you know is struggling or in distress, call Info-Social at 811 to be directly transferred to a social worker. You can also call Wellness Together Canada at 1-866-585-0445 to speak with a counsellor free of charge, or text WELLNESS to 741741.

POP Montreal Celebrates Two Decades of Music and Community Building

The iconic international music festival turns 20.

by Dave MacIntyre

Published on September 20, 2021

Over the past two decades, POP Montreal has given a platform for countless artists to perform in one of North America’s most musically vibrant cities. Each year, Montreal plays host to shows across many of its world-class venues during a five-day span and now they’re celebrating a major milestone.

“The cultural landscape [in Montreal] for music is really dominated by one overarching corporation,” says POP’s co-founder and creative director, Dan Seligman. “The fact that we’ve been able to build, grow, do cool stuff, and find our niche within the city is something to be proud of.”

After holding a hybrid festival last year, with shows available online and in-person at limited capacity, POP Montreal will again use a similar setup. Some major gets include Atlanta-based rapper Cakes da Killa, spellbinding Montreal-via-Guadeloupe chanteuse Malika Tirolien, Atikamekw singer/songwriter Laura Niquay, and local Polaris-winning rap dynamo Backxwash.

Veteran local acts like the DearsIslands, and Suuns are also on hand, as is Efrim Menuck of Godspeed You! Black Emperor with his project ALL HANDS_MAKE LIGHT, alongside La Force’s Ariel Engle. RANGE is also presenting two showcases at this year’s POP: Alicia Clara at Clubhouse Rialto on September 25, and Antony Carle at Ursa on the 25th.

Beyond music, POP will feature visual art, film screenings, their famous Puces POP fair, children’s activities, industry conferences, and even a parade during the final day. Shows and events will also take place at their new Mile End outdoor venue, L’Entrepôt77—built within the space of an abandoned warehouse that had burned down a couple years prior. “It’s not quite as big or exciting or wild as a normal edition [because of COVID],”Seligman says. “But I’m pretty happy with what we’ve put together in terms of programming.”

With Quebec’s provincial government having officially enforced vaccine passports, proof of full vaccination must be shown by attendees. Tickets will also not be sold at the door, so all purchases must be done ahead of time. “There are still restrictions, but they’re not as bad as last year,” he adds. “We feel like we have a good handle on how to produce an event [during the pandemic] that’s safe and still enjoyable.”

Over the years, POP Montreal and its eclectic lineups have acted as a showcase for many of the city’s biggest musical success stories, including Arcade Fire, Stars, Wolf Parade, Grimes, and the Unicorns. POP has also played host to multiple international artists who’d go on to hugely successful careers, such as Interpol, the xx, Beach House, Franz Ferdinand, and the Black Keys. “I’m proud of helping build the scene and the fabric of the city’s cultural milieu,” Seligman says. “And helping build a community of artists and musicians who make their homes and livelihoods in Montreal, and look forward to the festival every year.”

2021 ARTISTS TO WATCH

Alicia Clara: Performing at a RANGE sponsored showcase, Alicia Clara is a Swiss-born singer/songwriter who now calls Montreal home. Having released her debut EP, Outsider/Unusual, in February, her hypnotic, guitar-driven dream pop will be on display on September 25 at the Rialto Theatre’s Clubhouse—providing an intimate live setting for her bewitching musical output.

Saturday, September 25th, Rialto Clubhouse, 6 p.m.

ALL HANDS_MAKE LIGHT: Members of GY!BE and La Force teamed up during the pandemic’s onset to form this super-duo, who’ll be making their live debut at this year’s festival. Their noisy-yet-ethereal tunes are based around vocals and, according to their POP Montreal bio, “electricity, buried lightning and very old scales.” In other words, quite a sonic experience!

Saturday, September 25th, LEntrepôt77, 8 p.m.

Antony Carle: Playing RANGE’s showcase at the Martha Wainwright owned Ursa, Antony Carle is a Montreal-based singer-songwriter with a big voice and an even bigger onstage persona. Their smooth, synth-drenched 2019 debut album The Moment would be followed up by last year’s The Bitch of Living EP, and most recently the single “Felicity,” a captivating duet with fellow Montreal-based artist Ouri.

Saturday, September 25th, Ursa (alley), 4 p.m.

Backxwash: From Montreal by way of Zambia, Ashanti Mutinta (better known as Backxwash) has taken the city’s scene by storm—and seduced both the Polaris Music Prize jury and Anthony Fantano along the way. Her third album, I Lie Here Buried with My Rings and My Dresses, brilliantly fuses her dark lyricism and explosive delivery with industrial-heavy beats.

Sunday, September 26th, LEntrepôt77, 6:30 p.m.

Cakes da Killa: Initially slated to perform at last year’s edition, New York-bred/Atlanta-based rapper Cakes da Killa will be the only international artist performing at POP in 2021. Some readers may recognize him from competing on Netflix’s Rhythm and Flow, and he’s since made waves with his strongly house-inflected take on rap—most recently on EP Muvaland Vol. 2.

Thursday, September 23, LEntrepôt77, 8 p.m.

Dorothea Paas: With debut LP Anything Can’t Happen having garnered a nod on the Polaris longlist, Toronto’s Dorothea Paas has gone from backing vocalist to U.S. Girls and Jennifer Castle to an undisputed talent in her own right. Her smoky, gorgeous voice makes for a pitch-perfect complement to her eclectic take on folk music.

Wednesday, September 22, Rialto Rooftop, 6:30 p.m.

Laura Niquay: Hailing from the First Nations reserve of Wemotaci in Northern Quebec, Laura Niquay also found a spot on this year’s Polaris longlist with her sophomore LP (and first in six years), Waska Matisiwin. Performing in her native tongue of Atikamekw, she puts a unique and entrancing spin on her indie-folk sound, delivered through her trademark husky voice.

Thursday, September 23, Rialto Theatre, 10:50 p.m.

Malika Tirolien: This Montreal-based singer-songwriter comes by way of Guadeloupe (an overseas department of France), has a Grammy nomination under her belt, and had previously made her name by performing with Cirque du Soleil and singing with Texas jazz ensemble Snarky Puppy. Her sophomore album Higher, released in April, blends jazz, rock, hip hop, R&B, soul, and funk with her rich, dynamic voice to make what she calls “high soul”.

Saturday, September 25, LEntrepôt77, 5 p.m.

Hot Chiiild In The City

The synthetic soul artist finds his way in L.A.’s immaculate song machine.

By Dave MacIntyre

Published on July 22, 2021

Packing up and moving to L.A. requires a giant leap of faith for any artist chasing their dreams. For Montreal-bred musician/producer Yonatan Ayal, it took plenty of behind-the-scenes work and sleeping in his car before he found success with his experimental soul project, Chiiild.

Composed primarily of Ayal and guitarist Pierre-Luc Rioux (also a Montreal native), Chiiild is known for his experimental, genre-defying take on soul music, with elements of indie rock, pop, electronic, jazz, and R&B. Fittingly, “synthetic soul” is the name of the genre often used to describe Chiiild’s music (it’s also the title of their 2020 debut EP), as it represents a dynamic mélange of influences with soul music acting as the guiding principle.

Debut album, Hope For Sale, is one Ayal hopes listeners will fully embrace and enjoy from start to finish. Additionally, making his lyrics and songwriting more conversational was a major point of focus after the Synthetic Soul EP. “With the first record, there’s a bit of a barrier between you and the listener. You don’t even know who’s listening,” he says. “After Synthetic Soul, I started to see who was listening, and how it affected people. I was like, ‘Oh okay, now we can have a direct conversation, because I know who I’m talking to.’ Lyrically, Hope For Sale represents that.”

Ayal grew up in Brossard, located on Montreal’s South Shore. When asked how his upbringing in the Montreal area shaped his perspective on music and art in general, Ayal mentions the city’s diverse palette of cultural influences, as well as its abundance of musical talent. “Montrealers have real taste,” he says. “What was playing on the radio growing up is what shaped me. There’s the music you choose, and there’s the music that finds you. Montreal is very eclectic in that way.”

Ayal, whose previous moniker was xSDTRK (pronounced “soundtrack”), saved up money and moved to Los Angeles with the goal of making the right connections with the right people. Having already known fellow producer and Montreal native Billboard (who’s worked with Madonna, Britney Spears, Ariana Grande, Robyn, and Dua Lipa) in L.A., his path in the industry began to feel more clear thanks in part to their relationship. “I was like, ‘Okay, it seems like you can go here and all these records are made here. So let me just be there and see what I’m made of. That’s how I ended up in that song machine,” he says.

With influences as wide-ranging as Marvin Gaye, Pink Floyd, Tame Impala, Moby, and Craig David, it makes sense that Hope For Sale is similarly eclectic. Traces of The Beatles’ psychedelic baroque pop (“Wasting Time”), atmospheric indie rock (“Sleepwalking”), and haunting piano balladry (“Lotus”) are heard at various points, with Ayal crediting Bon Iver as a guidepost for its creative process.

Having worked on various projects for other musicians, Ayal eventually began craving the freedom to focus on his own musical endeavours. Starting Chiiild gave Ayal a greater opportunity for agency and creative self-expression. “You’re working on all kinds of stuff, and people are selling you everything left, right, and centre, until you’re just fed up and you’re like, ‘I’m going to do my own thing,’” he adds.https://www.youtube.com/embed/tOMFcO2JXlU?controls=0&rel=0&playsinline=0&modestbranding=0&autoplay=0&enablejsapi=1&origin=https%3A%2F%2Freadrange.com&widgetid=1

Part of finding success is in paying your dues first, which Ayal learned through living out of his car in an L.A. grocery store parking lot. The biggest lesson he learned from the experience about making your way in the industry? “When you have a house, you might not shower one day, and it’s no big deal,” he says. “But when you’re feeling really shitty, you haven’t had a good sleep, and you have to go meet somebody, be presentable, and feel good about what you’re doing, not being able to shower is the difference.”

Prior to Chiiild, Ayal would write and produce for artists like Usher, Jennifer Lopez, Jessie J, Chloe x Halle, and Jack Ü (Diplo and Skrillex). In 2015, Ayal’s first job in L.A. would be as a drum programmer for Rob Thomas’ third album, The Great Unknown—a gig he found in an online ad posted by producer Keith Harris, and won after competing against nearly 1,500 applicants.

“That job really helped me build a life here,” he says of working for the Matchbox Twenty frontman. The two did not meet in person, however, as Ayal worked mainly alongside producer Matt Serletic while Thomas sent voice notes with ideas for songs. “It was a really great experience,” he adds. “There was a programmer who also programmed [Jay-Z’s] ’99 Problems’. It was cool to be in a room with such talented people. The producer, Matt, also produced [Aerosmith’s] “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.” I’m just soaking all this up. This is all music that I grew up on.”

Hope For Sale sees Ayal team up with British songstress Mahalia on single “Awake”, and Jensen McRae also appears on a remix of album track “Gone.” Furthermore, Chiiild’s music has been featured on TV shows like FOX’s The Resident and HBO’s Hard Knocks, received co-signs from Zane Lowe and Joe Budden, and he most recently performed “Sleepwalking” and “Pirouette” on Jimmy Kimmel Live! “It was really great to be able to showcase what Chiiild is,” he says of his experience performing on the late night talk show. “We’ve been very reserved and kind of let the music speak for itself. In this particular case, people got to see what the full, finished product looks like. It provided context, and to do it on such an iconic platform, I’m super grateful.”

With plans to tour Hope For Sale this fall, Ayal hopes the album will be enjoyed and understood by listeners, particularly with lyrics that represent what it means to be human. “It’s hope for sale, because sometimes you’re optimistic and sometimes you’re losing faith,” he adds. “It’s the whole human experience.”

David Numwami Is Shooting For The Stars

The Belgian pop artist offers up his debut to the universe at large. 

by Dave MacIntyre


Published on July 8, 2021

David Numwami was on the verge of becoming a food delivery driver when he received a call to go on tour, performing alongside Charlotte Gainsbourg. Ever since, the rising Belgian artist has found himself on an upward trajectory, working and playing with other influential French music figures, including Sébastien Tellierand Air’s Nicolas Godin.

Numwami’s warm, inviting take on pop music  is informed by artists as diverse as Ariana Grande and the legendary Japanese artist Cornelius. After launching a solo career as frontman of the group Le Colisée, he dropped a string of solo singles in 2020. Now, he is celebrating the release of his debut EP, Numwami World. Across seven songs, the Rwanda-born, Brussels-based artist gives listeners an intimate, charming sonic experience in both English and French. 

RANGE spoke to Numwami about his new single, “Milky Way,” and how the pandemic helped him overcome his reluctance to release his music—something he considers akin to going to the bathroom.

Congratulations on your new album. How are you feeling about the reception it’s gotten so far?

I’m super happy. It’s always weird for me to see other people reacting to what I do. I’m really not used to it. I feel like I’m the type of person that if I start to look at my Instagram comments, I’d just do it all day. I never check. For example, the reason I’m here [in this building] is because I came to collect some posters that we made. My face is on them. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen my face on a poster. It’s like I’m not able to realize it’s real. It’s the same when I release a song, like “Milky Way.” I see that people are reacting, and from what my manager says, most of them like it. But for me, I don’t understand it. If I release something, it stops having a connection to me. It’s just a song in the world. Once it’s out, it’s not mine anymore.

You’ve previously admitted to being afraid to release any music of your own. What do you think was the turning point for you that led to you deciding to release new music?

It was the pandemic. I felt like (releasing music) was just a way to survive. I was like, “I should start a career, because I can’t really just count on others to call me all the time and play guitar, bass, or keyboards for them.” One day I woke up, and I was in a studio shooting a video. I was like, “Alright, this is it, no turning back.” The need that I’ve always had was to record music. I can’t help myself. For example, “Milky Way” and all the old songs I’m releasing now, I recorded them mostly while I was touring with Charlotte Gainsbourg. Even if I was super tired after the show, I had to go in my room and record music. I feel like it’s a need, like an animal or something… It’s like going to the toilet. To me, there’s a lot in common between going to the toilet and making a song. You gotta let that out!

“Milky Way” is about your partner of 10 years. It’s not always easy to write an amazing love song that captures that feeling of being in love.

It’s almost a little bit about [that feeling]. On “Milky Way,” what I’m trying to say is, “what were the odds?” It’s a song where I’m thinking about the fact that we met, and that’s crazy! And I don’t know how to express how crazy it is. What you said about it not being easy to write a love song about that feeling is a bit meta, in a way. On “Milky Way,” I’m just struggling with it. How is it possible that we met? In a whole universe, we’re living at the same moment, in the same town? How crazy is that? At the end of the song, I’m like, “the answer’s gotta be somewhere in the Milky Way.” Like, how the fuck is it possible that two people fall in love? They have to be in the same place. So many parameters have to be combined for two people to meet and match.

What else can we expect from you for the rest of 2021, assuming we’re about to get fully back to normal?

A lot of hugs, man. As soon as I’m vaccinated. For the rest of it, I’m starting to tour again. I’m going to tour and  do quite a lot of dates. What else? I don’t know yet. It’s open. But a lot of hugging and fist-bumping. 

Montreal’s Bell Orchestre make a comeback with House Music

March 19, 2021

Montreal’s Bell Orchestre make a comeback with House Music

by Dave MacIntyre

Richard Reed Parry told us about his other band’s new album.

Though he may be known for being part of Arcade Fire since 2003, Richard Reed Parry has been making music with Bell Orchestre for even longer. Today, the instrumental six-piece released their fourth album, House Music

Completed pre-pandemic, the group’s first LP since 2009’s As Seen Through Windows is the byproduct of mostly one single improvised session that was recorded live before being edited, modified and divided into 10 separate movements. Essentially, the album is one long piece of music with elements of classical, electronic and experimental jazz sprinkled throughout.

House Music was initially meant for a 2020 release, but was delayed due to the uncertainty of the pandemic’s future during its onset. Although it’s their first full-length in 12 years, Bell Orchestre never took an official break. Instead, the band — comprised of Parry, Sarah Neufeld (also of Arcade Fire), Pietro Amato (of the Luyas and Torngat), Kaveh Nabatian (also a film director), Mike Feuerstack (aka Snailhouse), and Stefan Schneider (also of the Luyas) — continued making music together amid other life commitments, while convening five years ago for a handful of sessions to improvise and record music over the course of a year.https://www.youtube.com/embed/NE42rmI8k_k?feature=oembed

The album was recorded on separate floors of Neufeld’s home in Vermont. With each of the six members split in groups of two, the group would spend a week to 10 days at a time recording. Initially, they’d be playing for an hour and a half without breaks, though this became looser as time went on — for example, some members might be making music, while others are busy going for walks or having lunch.

“There starts to be this social ecosystem where not everyone is on the exact same schedule all the time, and that’s fine,” Parry says, speaking via Zoom. “You find great musical ideas when working in pairs. It’s where the magic happens, and where the juice comes from.”

After Parry brought a single harmonic loop as a starting point, this loop became the album’s centrepiece. For 90 minutes, the band played to that same, single-tempo loop — one that the multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer describes as “open, but focused, and really gentle” — and found themselves making plenty of music off of a single idea, even though the loop itself comes in and out of the record.

“It was really useful creatively, because it means you can run with things as far as you want, and the whole thing will still have a centre to it, even if you don’t hear that centre,” he adds.

Despite its title looking ostensibly like a pandemic reference (with Parry adding that it took on a “whole new resonance” in the context of quarantine), House Music was named for being recorded literally inside Neufeld’s house in rural Vermont. The title also doubles as an allusion to the influence of the house music genre on the making of the record, since it is one single 45-minute piece played at the same tempo throughout.

“DJs beat-match things so that there can be this endless stream of music at the same tempo,” he says. “That’s a standard way for house music to be listened to. The fact that we had done that — albeit accidentally, at first — and decided, ‘Okay, this is what we’re doing: we’re releasing this record that’s all at the same BPM the whole time,’ felt like a cool inter-genre relationship.”https://www.youtube.com/embed/C1c_WIbi_fw?feature=oembed

The group’s first album on Erased Tapes is also one with musical touchpoints that didn’t shy away from heavy improvisation: Talk Talk, Ennio Morricone, the Orb’s Live 93, and Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew — particularly since the latter album’s creative approach was similar to that of House Music.

“There are these compositional ideas [on Bitches Brew] that were really distinct, but used in a very loose, explorative fashion. You hear that exploration and that group hive-mind going to work on these simple but really interesting, ideas,” he says. “You hear that happening live in real time. They’re just improvising like crazy.”

Although the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on everyone in some form, Parry has been grateful to have a long stretch of time away from the touring grind — and one involving arenas and headlining festivals, at that.

“I’m very lucky in that I make my living in fits and starts, anyway,” he says. “I’ll make a couple of records and go on tour full-time for a year, finish that, and then not work for another year or two, because I’ll have just lived away from home from full-on touring.”

Even if it would seem like quarantine isn’t exactly conducive to finding musical inspiration, Parry says lockdown has been treating him well, adding that it’s been a “creatively fertile” period for him. While not going cross-country skiing in his spare time, Parry has been busy writing and recording new music for many of his musical projects — including Arcade Fire, who he linked up with for a month to work on the follow-up to 2017’s Everything Nowhttps://www.youtube.com/embed/ezkiWIazMdE?feature=oembed

“We’re going to do that again for a month soon, in the spring or maybe the summer, depending on how stuff goes,” he says. “We can’t just be together hanging out all the time. We all live in different cities, so that’s been severely limited.”

In the meantime, Parry is readying the release of House Music. Under normal circumstances, he says the album would’ve already come out, and Bell Orchestre would’ve already toured and played shows with orchestras. Post-vaccination, they intend on performing House Music in its entirety with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra this fall, should concerts be able to safely resume by then.

Disappointing as it was to miss out on certain opportunities, Parry appreciates how his life as an artist has allowed him to see quarantine as an opportunity to create music while being more or less left alone by the world. 

“It’s no big deal for me to only live in my studio for a long time and work on the stuff that I like to work on,” he says. “You have this creative wellspring that is actually inside of you, that’s like, ‘I want to just be left alone to create stuff, write music, record and do these things. And loving to do them.’”

For more about Bell Orchestre and House Music, please visit the band’s website.

Musicians fight back against music streaming mammoth Spotify

by Dave MacIntyre

December 29, 2020

Spotify, with its 320 million subscribers and CEO worth $5.3-billion, pays artists $0.0038 per stream, and payola is said to be routine.

Spotify’s history of under-compensating its artists is well-documented. Now, musicians are seizing the pandemic as an opportunity to fight back.

The Justice at Spotify campaign by the organization UMAW (Union of Musicians and Allied Workers) has brought further attention to the streaming juggernaut’s subpar royalty payouts, demanding that the per-stream rate be bumped up to a minimum of one cent.

Although Spotify operates on revenue shares for each stream rather than a fixed rate, its current payout rate is around $0.0038 per stream — just below four-tenths of a cent. However, this exact number varies depending on several variables, such as whether or not the listener is a paid subscriber, or which country the song is played in. A cent per stream would nearly triple the current payout rate.

UMAW is a coalition of American musicians and other types of music workers, such as roadies and producers. The organization formed earlier this year in response to the financial hit musicians have taken — and increased reliance on streams for income in lieu of touring—during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The campaign is advocating for a bigger share of streaming funds to go toward the artist, and for a much more equal streaming landscape for musicians, rights holders, and record labels alike.

Meanwhile, the Swedish company continues to gain monetary value, their revenue and Spotify CEO Daniel Ek currently has a net worth of $5.3-billion USD (nearly $6.8-billion CAD). Ek came under fire earlier this year for suggesting artists unhappy with their compensation aren’t making music frequently enough. Spotify have also sparked recent backlash for offering artists and record labels more potential streams by influencing the recommendations of users in exchange for a “promotional recording royalty rate” — a practice critics consider as being payola.

As of Dec. 28, the petition has been signed by more than 26,500 artists. These include Guy Picciotto (Fugazi), Empress Of, Amber Coffman (ex-Dirty Projectors), Jay Som, WHY? and Ted Leo. Spotify have yet to respond to the campaign.

Although the movement initially aimed to put pressure on Congress to help musicians and freelancers receive increased financial support during the pandemic, it has since snowballed into focusing on three primary goals: Pay Us, Be Transparent and Stop Fighting Artists.

More specifically, they are asking Spotify to compensate artists via a user-centric payment model, reveal and end payola methods, end backroom deals with labels and make those contracts public, have all parties (eg. musicians, engineers, labourers) be credited for their work on recordings, and end lawsuits against artists.

UMAW also claims that musicians have been “underpaid, misled, and otherwise exploited” by Spotify and their current business model, have seen no increases to the payout rate, and that “only musicians already on top with extensive resources can succeed on the platform.” Clearly, this flies in the face of the company’s mission of “giving a million creative artists the opportunity to live off their art and billions of fans the opportunity to enjoy and be inspired by it.”

The controversy over lacklustre compensation is especially pertinent when the pandemic has ground live music to a halt, and artists miss out on money they’d otherwise get from touring. Such a sentiment was well summed up recently (in a deleted tweet) by Stars’ Amy Millan:

“Don’t you think it’s a bit bananas that STARS had 10 MILLION Spotify streams this year but we saw nothing for it and still needed CERB because our only source of income which is touring was taken away? That’s some intense capitalist theft right there. Ooooof.

—Amy Millan (@amymillan)

With Montreal being a popular spot for musicians to live and focus on their art, how would earning a cent per stream affect local artists still trying to establish themselves? For Montreal musician Paul Kasner — who records, writes, produces and performs as Venus Furs — it’s a step in the right direction, but still not enough to make a significant impact for him.

Spotify
Paul Kasner (aka Venus Furs)

“It would be huge for artists who are getting huge volumes of streams,” he says. “For a lot of smaller artists like myself, three times of hardly anything is still hardly anything. It’s almost more symbolically nice for someone at my level.”

Kasner, who released his self-titled debut album back in July, praises Spotify for their algorithm and engineers, and thinks they can find a way to build a model where the artist receives a heftier cut.

“They’re already saying [to artists], ‘You’re going to be paid this much money per stream,’” he says. “I’m sure they can find some sort of way to go, ‘You had this many out of this many streams, so it’s this percentage of this amount of money that came in.’ That would seem like a much more reasonable model — and even at that, it would have to be something that makes sense as a reasonable split.”

Spotify is the world’s biggest music streaming service. The platform currently boasts 320 million subscribers, 144 million of whom pay monthly for Spotify Premium. This is more than double the subscriber base of competitor Apple Music, who have only about 72 million.

Although raising the payout rate per stream to one cent would certainly be a fairer deal, making it a reality is a bit more complicated than that. That said, there’s certainly no reason to think Spotify can’t refrain from suing their artists or be more transparent about their financial activity, and they most definitely have room to raise their payout per stream by at least a smaller amount when services like Apple Music offer artists a rate around $0.00675.

However, Spotify reported a net profit of only $1.8-billion USD out of the $7.3-billion USD they made in revenue this past year, the remainder of which went to either record labels or artists. If the payout rate were to be raised to one cent, this could set the company back billions of dollars per year in extra costs, perhaps enough for the company to fold and/or file for bankruptcy. Not only is the company losing money, they’ve also admitted that payout rates being lowered is “critical to Spotify’s future.”

One significant way for an artist to rack up streams is to be featured on playlists. But this can be difficult to accomplish without being connected to the right people, not to mention playlisting tools like Digster, Filtr and Topsify being owned by major labels. Montreal producer Ethan Barer — who makes beats under the moniker of Tibe and initially established himself on Soundcloud — says it’s important to be acquainted with someone curating playlists, something his peers wasted little time doing.

“When these independent artists were [first] making the switch from Soundcloud to Spotify, people were rushing to make friends with all these curators,” he says. “People that I knew were really on that in trying to secure their future. Maybe it was a good idea because they’re doing well now. But part of me didn’t want to just disingenuously befriend someone in an opportunistic way to later be put on a playlist.”

Spotify
Ethan Barer (aka Tibe)

Luckily for Ethan, five of his songs on the platform have reached stream counts in the six figures; the highest being his 2017 track “Hey,” with more than 475,000 streams to date. How did he get there? By unexpectedly getting playlisted, despite having zero connections to playlist curators or Spotify employees. Though it would never be enough for him to survive on, he still receives bimonthly royalty cheques for the track, which continues to get plays on the platform.

“At some point, I remember having maybe 200 monthly listeners,” he says. “One day I checked my stats and it was at 14,000 monthly listeners. I was like, ‘Okay, something’s different here.’ So I checked, and I was on the playlist.”

Despite the politics involved in getting on playlists, Spotify remains an excellent platform for Montreal-based artists as far as getting exposure beyond their scene. For example, Venus Furs has gained listeners in Moscow, Russia, while Tibe has received numerous Spotify plays in Brazil. This is in stark contrast to the pre-streaming musical landscape, which required artists jumping through hoops to find booking agents and publicists to help launch their careers in foreign markets.

“I’ve gone to [the page of] a Montreal artist, and just for fun, clicked on About, and see the first market being Paris,” says Geneviève Côté, chief Quebec affairs and visual arts officer at SOCAN. “For an artist that hadn’t been in Paris at all — had not tried to develop the French market, was not on that path just yet… They made it to a playlist, and not even a playlist by Spotify France. It was a Starbucks-type playlist on Spotify, but from a business that was really well-followed by Parisians.”

However, Côté says the downside of this is that most people are no longer buying CDs, and that Quebec’s music industry cannot enjoy the same windfall it would’ve received if they still were. Moreover, if all parties involved were Quebec-based, the profits from a CD sale would stay within Quebec. This is no longer a regular source of income in the streaming era.

“Only a small part of that comes trickling down — whether through [music licensing company] Re:Sound, through us, or through other rights organizations,” she adds.“[Streams] do come from all over the world, but not in the equivalent of a $16.99 sale at Archambault or Sam the Record Man.”

So what other options do musicians have for making money off their art during a global pandemic? There are services like Bandcamp and Patreon, where fans can directly support artists financially. There’s also Twitch, the video streaming platform where artists can host live streams of performances and monetize them, either through direct tips from fans, or through providing a link to their merch store.

Live-streamed concerts have become popular during this pandemic, and Bandcamp has even gone so far as to launch their own service for live-streaming performances where 80 to 85% of ticket sales go to the artist. Alternatively, artists can receive grant money, as well as financial support from SOCAN for live-streamed shows. SOCAN also has an emergency fund for those in dire need of money. In the meantime, Côté suggests that artists hang in there for the remainder of the crisis, as vaccines are on their way.

“It would be a shame if everyone who worked in the music gig industry went to something else,” she adds. “Not just musicians, but waiters at the bars of your local venue, technicians, tour managers, managers, bookers. There are a bunch of people who earn their living through live music, and that’s the part [of the industry] hurting the most.”

While the impact of a one cent per stream payout on Spotify might pay more dividends for the Stars and Arcade Fires of Montreal’s music sphere, it isn’t likely to be a significant source of income for lesser-known local artists. That said, artists should — and are — seeing this movement as an opportunity for cultivating change to the streaming ecosystem.

“I hope this doesn’t just stop there, and we go, ‘Okay, we accomplished that,’” Kasner says.“We’re in a position where we’re not really able to negotiate or bargain, which is why this movement is happening.” ■

This article originally appeared in Cult MTL.

Album Review: Whitney – Forever Turned Around

September 9, 2019

Forever Turned Around
Secretly Canadian

Three years after their acclaimed debut, Light Upon the Lake, the Chicago-based Whitney return with Forever Turned Around, a sophomore effort that expands on their signature duality of bluesy, cozy indie folk.

Acoustic guitars, trumpets, pianos and subtle electric guitars are central to the mix, paired with wistful, melancholic lyrics often discussing themes of lost love.

Evoking traces of Bon Iver, soul, Americana, and fellow Chi-Town dad rockers, Wilco, Whitney show once again how adept they are at tugging at heartstrings both lyrically and musically, even if the results as a whole sound almost identical to their debut.

Regardless, Forever Turned Around has some truly gorgeous moments. Warm, enfolding lead single “Giving Up,” as well as “Valleys (My Love),” the breezy “Friend of Mine,” and its sweeping closing title track are clear standouts, while drummer/vocalist Julien Ehrlich’s delicate falsetto remains the group’s calling card.

Though the album itself may not be a gigantic leap forward musically for Whitney, their collection of tender folk songs will fit the mood nicely as summer turns to autumn.

Best Track – Valleys (My Love)

This article originally appeared in BeatRoute.