Showcase artists subject to new ECMA clause

Tara Bradbury
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Some say it violates organization’s mandate, limits exposure

An East Coast Music Association (ECMA) contract clause for showcasing artists at this year’s ECMA Week goes against the spirit of the association, musicians and industry professionals say, and makes things harder for some performers.

Chris Kirby told The Telegram he’s never attended a music conference that included a radius clause. — Telegram file photo

This year’s East Coast Music Week will happen in Charlottetown, P.E.I., from April 2-6. For the first time, the ECMA has introduced a radius clause in its contract with showcasing artists, banning them from performing at non-ECMA events anywhere on the island for a month around the conference without permission.

“Any performance on Prince Edward Island March 17-April 21 must be disclosed to and approved by the East Coast Music Association,” the contract reads. “ECMA is willing to discuss artist performances on Prince Edward Island within those dates, however, if an unacceptable performance overlap exists as determined by ECMA, the artist will choose either their ECMW showcase spot of the conflicting performance.”

The association notes in the contract that the clause is an “industry standard.”

When contacted by The Telegram, Heather Gibson, chair of the board for the ECMA, declined to comment.

“The board of directors of the ECMA will be making no further comment to media regarding the exclusivity clause that is a part of our performers’ contract. We look forward to discussing contracts directly with our showcasing artists or their representatives.”

Andria Wilson, the association’s executive director, told CBC in P.E.I. the clause exists to serve the artists, providing them with the opportunity to perform on “curated and well-produced stages that give them the best opportunity to show their work” that the ECMA can provide.

The artists, who all must be due-paying members of the association, pay a fee to apply for the chance to perform during the conference. Showcasing artists are paid AFM union rates, which sources told The Telegram are around $100 or less for a 20-minute performance.

Up until now, ECMW — no matter where it was held — saw practically every public space turned into a show venue, including bars, coffee shops, restaurants and churches. The radius clause could change this.

“In my opinion, (the clause) goes against the mandate of ECMA — which is to foster, develop and promote East Coast artists and their music — to limit the amount of exposure an artist can attain for his or her music at the ECMA showcasing event,” said Meghan Scott of Tuck and Roll Productions.

Scott works with a number of local musicians, including The Novaks, Chris Kirby and newcomer Brianna Gosse, who is showcasing this year.

In my opinion, (the clause) goes against the mandate of ECMA — which is to foster, develop and promote East Coast artists and their music. Meghan Scott, Tuck and Roll Productions

“A musical festival pays its artists big money to adhere to a radius clause, because they are being compensated for any potential performance opportunities within that radius. If ECMA was a festival paying festival rates and travel and accommodation for these artists, I’d have no problem with a radius clause. But it is a showcasing event meant to help further the careers of artists. The public is invited to boost revenue.

“I work with several Newfoundland artists, and it is tough enough for these artists to get to a mainland ECMA event, given the expenses. To limit these artists to one low-paying 20-minute showcase certainly makes the trip hard to justify.”

Chris Kirby told The Telegram he’s never attended a music conference that included a radius clause. He understands why the association implemented it, he said, and said he can’t flat-out disagree with it without knowing how lenient the ECMA will be when discussing possible non-sanctioned performances with artists.

The clause is a Band-Aid solution for a different problem that has been happening over the past few years, he said: unfair showcase distribution.

“ECMA tends to give hot artists the lion’s share of showcase opportunities, but why? Why does someone need five or 10 official showcases?,” Kirby questioned. “This is the root of the problem. The organization itself has set the bar for spreading its artists too thin, while leaving many other deserving artists in the cold.”

About 1,150 East Coast musicians applied to showcase at this year’s ECMW. The association announced 75 chosen acts earlier this year. Artists from this province include Amelia Curran, RocketRocketShip, Sherman Downey and the Ambiguous Case, Duane Andrews and Craig Young, Katie Baggs, Matthew Hornell, Steve Maloney and the Wandering Kind and Tonya Kennedy. More showcasing artists will be announced Feb. 18, when this year’s nominees are revealed.

MusicNL’s executive was contacted for this story but declined comment.

Twitter: @tara_bradbury

Organizations: East Coast Music Association, CBC, AFM union Band-Aid

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown, East Coast Newfoundland

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