Patti Derbyshire, MA is a proud Associate Professor in Marketing & Entrepreneurship at Mount Royal University. She loves the funk! In a career spanning 20+ years, Derbyshire has worked for ABC Sports, CBC Radio, CHFM and CISS AM (Calgary), and in marketing arts, culture and educational organizations throughout Canada and the United States. She has built and successfully exited two of her own ventures and is currently working on her last community-focused venture — coaching Random Task Collective, Collective on Sundays artists, and any other comers in Calgary’s creative economy on entrepreneurial mindset, designing sustainable and profitable music + creative ventures through music, design and new media. Along with many co-conspirators she is humbled to be a part of a vibrant cultural community in Calgary and Canada.
What makes Calgary awesome?
Well, in the youth, music, creative, and entrepreneurial communities where I spend most of my time I am blown away by the mentorship and coaching, typically outside of the mainstream, that is happening right now. There are some extraordinarily talented, successful and seasoned artists, bands, music coaches, venue coordinators, studio engineers and managers, and those who have already made their mark with successful start-ups in the entrepreneurial community inviting folks who are 15, 16, 17 to participate in the scene and really think about building sustainable careers in Calgary’s expanding creative economy. What’s so powerful is that these mentors have learned the value of rich relationships, community-building legitimizing one’s passions, and protecting one’s work — and are teaching young people that it’s their time to do the same. In fact, it’s never too early.
As a teacher, mentor, band manager, and music guru you are surrounded by young ambitious people all the time. With the youth being the future, how do you envision Calgary’s future and what direction do you see us going in?
Hmmm. . . It’s important to recognize that I’m working with young artists, creators, and often their families all of whom have an entrepreneurial mindset and come with opportunistic imaginations. They value collaborating rather than competing. They are trying to deeply understand what it is they have that’s unique, their appeal, and their audience. They get that they have to be great at their craft and build an ‘enterprise’ so to speak, on their own. There are no record deals to be had, no artist development reps scouting for talent. This is the work of the young and fierce! I am blown away by how many under-18 artists are e-mailing Random Task Music about publishing, licensing their works, and opening up markets in south Asia, for example. This generation of artists, set to hit the scene full force in 2012-13 are DIY savvy, well informed, and will be warriors when they negotiate with the industry, promoters, venues and talent buyers. If the deals aren’t appealing, equitable or beneficial, they’ll become a head force themselves.
Since we flipped into 2010, I’ve heard of 3 new all-ages venues set to open by March. All ages is a huge factor. It’s the place where young people learn to love live music and experience being in energy with others. It’s where you really become a fan and where your heart and guts live, where you learn to be a symbiotic organism with complete strangers. If Calgary can sustain all-ages in the next 3-5 years, I predict we’ll be producing important Canadian artists from a variety of genres for the Global stage.
We also have this interesting music district coming to life east of downtown Calgary in the East Village and Inglewood. We also have a generational gap of touring performers, a function of the collapse of the mainstream recording industry. It will be fascinating to see who is the most innovative and successful in terms of programming and discovering ‘marquee’ up-and-comers rather than, or in addition to, ‘pre-ordained’ touring artists.
Which venue is going to become the Echoplex (LA) of Calgary? Supply and demand in both underground and mainstream music is about to change. Sled Island is out in front. Cantos gets this too.
What makes Mount Royal University more unique than other schools in the city, and what do you like about teaching there?
I teach in Marketing and Entrepreneurship at the Bissett School of Business, a fairly major life choice that I made 5 years ago after exiting two successful ventures of my own. The leadership in my school is amazing, my colleagues are remarkable, and our students and graduates are off the hook. Bissett is a place to be inspired, to ‘get the goods’ in terms of life trajectory, and to build one’s personal and professional practice regardless of your vision for the future. We are a community first at Mount Royal – always have been and always will be. We also see ourselves in the community, we are outwardly focused and involved in the lives of Calgarians, not-for-profits, and commercial or corporate organizations. Collectively we do good work and we take care of one another. And, there is music at the Bissett School of Business, music everywhere!
Calgary has some pretty talented artists and musicians. How do you see our music scene? Who do you like? Who should we look out for?
Calgary has always had great artists and bands. I still have my Teens for Decency: End of Decency cassette tape – ha ha! Wait, Come to think of it, I think my son has it. I haven’t seen it for a while! Anyone ‘in the know’ can now approximate my age! I also loved Huevos Rancheros and Arctic Power back then!
Gosh I listen to everything and make it my mission to see 4 or 5 live shows a month in just about every genre. I swear I’ll be 82 and still going to live shows. So this is a difficult question . . . must alphabetize because there is no way to order this response.
The Brenda Vaqueros, Bownesians, Cripple Creek Fairies, Cort Delano, Danille French, Dragon Fli Empire, Fast Romantics, Lindsay Ell, the Lions, Madcowboys, Matt Masters, Puberty, The Von Zippers, Woodpigeon. (Inhale…) Michael Bernard Fitzgerald with that Josh Gwilliams on Bass, very fine live and REV 52 is one of the best-kept secrets in Calgary. I love Dirty Needles on CJSW Fridays and Lies from Elysium and Soma State are two of the hardest working bands in this region, period.
Who’s coming . . . Random Task Collective (RTC) — mah boize!, Susie Forsyth, Lucas Chaisson, and watch out for M5 – three sisters and two brothers set to turn your world upside down! There are a host of singer-songwriters Sarah Clark, Madi Allan, Julianna Hindemith, Rachel Schroeder and Mat Wilkins . . . so much talent!
Sorry, back to my first answer. The Lions have been a phenomenal force for Random Task Collective in terms of a seasoned band really encouraging and affirming a youth band in this city. Darren and Chris McDade have really encouraged RTC to commit to and follow a sustainable career in music.
What are your top 5 bands/albums of all time?
Again, must alphabetize . . . A Perfect Circle/Thirteenth Step; Can You Dig It? Music & Politics of Black Action Films 1968-75; Fania All Stars/Live at the Cheetah, Vol. 1; Miles Davis/All Blues; Pat Benetar/Crimes of Passion; Random Task Collective (RTC)/ Classified Matter; Red Hot Chili Peppers/By the Way; Scorpions/Love at First Sting; Tool/Lateralus; Tom Waits/Blue Valentine; War/The Very Best of War; X/More Fun in the New World. That’s five right?
With bands or musicians, what’s a more important factor when it comes to success, talent or good marketing or both?
The music, appreciating how one is connected to the music, and the team. A very good friend (– and seasoned but retiring recording industry guru) of RTC’s gave the boys some excellent advice 3 or 4 years ago, “make good musical decisions.” Job one is committing to your craft, being in love every day with your instrument and your creative gifts, explore great songwriting – which is not always your stuff incidentally, and take composition and the history of music seriously. Knowing your musical lineage matters. Bands have really got to take care of each other, be thoughtful during the creative process, let people be who they are and really know that you collective talent is only evident to an audience when you are truly together on every level you can think of.
Your team is more critical than ever in this DIY world. Team transcends marketing. From the first time a young artist thinks about recording they should already have a trusted circle of friends or mentors that believe in them. These are folks who can realistically assess when it would be valuable to head into a professional studio. Our approach, and there are many, is that you probably should wait until you’ve ‘played it live’ at least a dozen or so times and have a sense that an audience will respond to the songs and to you. A couple of these shows can be for family and friends but some should be new audiences – a tough but valuable acid test for the young artist. But, this is why we have this fierce generation of artists coming though, and where marketing starts to dial – these artists know what market research is! Your team can be out there helping you plan these shows.
There are lots of studios in Calgary. Not all are a great fit for young artists. Great studios, in our experience, will coach a young artist and reveal how their best possible work can be engineered and produced. For RTC the creative process on tracks is never complete until we’ve left the studio. Mark Troyer (Muzikhaus, Three Hills) is really the fifth member of the band because of his wealth of experience as a musician, he’s a killer engineer, and very often wears the hat of producer. Moreover, Mark is a true RTC family member. He plays Wii during the breaks, greetings are hugs not handshakes, we eat eggs together, and where RTC’s members still have room to improve, he inspires the guys though open and honest feedback. The change up between Certified Organic (2008) and Classified Matter (2009) is phenomenal.
Artists should interview their studios and their engineers and the connection should be crazy strong, this is critically important for young artists because these processes are developmental and should be about learning as much as walking away with your first physical product. Both are celebrations of becoming a professional artist. A young artist should never feel beholden that someone wants to work with them.
Finally, on marketing . . . it’s no secret why marketing can be perceived as a nightmare as it’s overtaken music and artistry to produce entertainment megastars. This can be super frustrating for young artists who don’t understand things like brand and franchise economics and how different marketing channels operate. But digital, new media and on-line resources for DIY musicians have never been more abundant. They make all things possible if you can let go of the old model of the recording industry and the new and equally unappealing one that’s replaced it (for the time being).
So, if you’ve made the commitment to your music, have a sense that people like your songs – that outer circle that are not friends and family, and learn something everyday about who you are as an artist, some of the tactical marketing tools can be really valuable to nurture and build your audience and get your music out there. Any media that will allow you to build relationships with your audience is a critical component of DIY.
RTC are huge proponents of aesthetics and design – Connor is a huge design nerd — but in ways that really reflect the band rather than sell an empty promise. For example, the visual concept and title for Certified Organic came from Jake and Connor. In 2008, they were at the Silverlake Conservatory in LA. Silverlake is a school that Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers set up. The boys have to play other instruments (–not their own), collaborate with and mentor younger musicians into a full concert as a part of their two-week stay
Jake had just polished off a banana and had stuck the Certified Organic sticker on Connor. Both more or less at the same time said, “that’s what the EP should be called.” Everyone instantly said yes – it worked because the guys were 14 and 15, and as young artists destined to change; it worked because they knew they were still working on their sound, which would likely evolve; it worked because all 5 tracks were really different musically; it worked because it was funny and Random Task Collective is known worldwide for their humour; and, it worked because it made an authentic promise. It was an invitation from a young band to its new audiences. This is the most powerful way marketing can work for you – when natural and authentic meaning is captured, you’re on the right track.
What’s is the music industry in Calgary/Canada doing right, what could they improve on to promote the amazing bands we have?
Gosh, we’re still in an era where there’s an awful lot of scrambling going on in North America, so I’m sad to say I don’t have much to say. I have people and organizations from a distance that I respect and would work with. There’s more stuff to be cautious about perhaps.
Lots of labels and those with some experience in the industry see catalogue management and publishing as the only way to make the kind of money the industry had in its heyday. It’s a bit of a mania really. So, for young artists, who don’t know much about intellectual property and publishing, get the basics and ask for advice from an IP specialist or entertainment lawyer before you say yes to anything. So, a cautionary tale . . .
A select few folks – and there really are a select few left in Canada are on the hunt for songs to pitch to [insert major chart artist name here] – this has always happened. Sometimes the deals are good, sometimes not. However, what’s happening locally is a type of middleman (–there are a few) who has a line of sight to these folks is now looking for talented young songwriters to sign into a pool so they can be constantly pitching new songs. This is really flattering and exciting for emerging artists.
Again nothing really wrong if you know what you’re signing, know about points, percentages, contracts, and can assess whether this is a deal that will help you build the sustainable career you envision. We’ve been called by a couple of young artists about these deals. We’re not specialists but we sure have a great network in North America and so have given the advice to contact the specialists. It seems like as soon as the artist says they want to collect more information, the deals dry up often with the “there’s a million behind you” attitude. Very bad acting. Trust your gut. Anyone who really is putting your interests first or is looking at a real partnership will be reasonable and negotiate. The others know the power of, “This is your shot! Sign now, sign here!!!” We’ve all read the stories of what may come. It’s unnecessary, a bit pedestrian, but in the end just not fair for folks who don’t know better. Very bad acting.
Any final thoughts or comments?
For parents of young musicians: Support and believe in your children as artists. This is not a pipe dream. Work as hard and spend as much as you would to keep your kids in hockey or soccer! Be the part of the process they need a hand with. Let them make music!
For young musicians: Connect, find, participate in, and contribute to a joy-filled music community. Read Victor Wooten’s The Music Lesson. If you’re a vocalist train with Brian Farrell, if you’re a guitar player train with Ben McMullan. Come to the Collective on Sundays – every last Sunday, 2pm, at Cantos. Watch for Sled Island announcements.
For audiences: If you have not experienced live music or haven’t gone to a live show for ages, go! It’s easy to stay home and unplug. Make the choice to join a crowd or hang out around the fringes, stay for an hour or all night. Live music is an organism that nourishes.