Radius clause will help musicians: ECMA

Tara Bradbury
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A radius clause for East Coast Music Week showcasers only makes sense for everyone involved, the ECMA board of directors says.
Erin Best spoke to The Telegram on behalf of the board, responding to a story that appeared in the paper last week.

This year's East Coast Music Week will happen in Charlottetown, P.E.I., from April 2-6.

For the first time, the East Coast Music Association (ECMA) has introduced a radius clause in its contract with showcasing artists, banning them from performing at non-ECMA-sanctioned events anywhere on the island between March 17 and April 21 without permission.

Emerging and early-career musicians showcasing on the Breakout or Rising Star stages are not included in the clause, which, the association notes in the contract, is an "industry standard."

A handful of musicians and music industry representatives told The Telegram they felt the clause went against the spirit of the association and the event by restricting artists.

"In my opinion, it goes against the mandate of the ECMA, which is to foster, develop and promote East Coast artists and their music, (and limits) 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, who works with a number of local musicians, including The Novaks, Chris Kirby and Brianna Gosse. Gosse is showcasing at ECMA as an emerging artists this year.

At the time, the association's board of directors declined to comment on the clause, and chairwoman of the board Heather Gibson said they would make no further comment to the media, but were looking forward to discussing contracts directly with artists.

On Wednesday, Best shared her perspective, both as an association board member and a musician. Her band, The Idlers, has had their own internal radius clause in the past, she explained.

"You just can't play the same market within a span of time. It doesn't work. It splits your audience," she said.

"A full room is the best advertising you can get. Over time, if you play to too many empty rooms, your crowd actually dies off completely. There's another effect, too, and I well know it: if an artist is playing to a room that's not full, they just don't do as good of a job.

"Oftentimes, what makes a performance great is energy from the crowd and your own adrenaline that you get when you're playing to a sold-out crowd."

You just can't play the same market within a span of time. It doesn't work. It splits your audience. A full room is the best advertising you can get. Over time, if you play to too many empty rooms, your crowd actually dies off completely. Erin Best, musician and ECMA board member

The point of the clause, Best said, is to help the ECMA get international talent bookers and promoters to the showcases.

What was happening in the past, she explained, was musicians would use their official showcase - which sometimes includes hotel and travel costs or other subsidies - to get to town, then book a bar gig on top of it. They'd promote the bar gig, and international industry reps would go to the showcases and find them mostly empty. The state of the audience is always taken into consideration by bookers and promoters, Best said.

"If they go to a room and it's packed full of people who are having a good time and enjoying the performer a lot, then obviously that's going to be a huge indicator of the success of the act in other markets," she said.

"We have real success in getting these promoters and bookers to these shows. That's what the ECMA is known for, and a lot of acts have received booking in other countries. We're focused on Scotland now, and we had a focus on Australia and we got a lot of acts down to Australia from having bookers out here.

"Festivals have come and booked acts based on showcases, and typically the acts they end up booking get what the ECMA is trying to do. They don't split their audience. They go and play a great show for these bookers. We'd like to see that for everybody."

The ECMA doesn't make a profit on ticket revenue from showcases, Best said.

Best said the ECMA is willing to be lenient on giving permission for non-sanctioned shows, as long as artists discuss it with them beforehand, particularly this year.

About 1,150 East Coast musicians applied to showcase at this year's ECMA, and 75 were chosen.

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 next month.




Organizations: East Coast Music Association

Geographic location: East Coast, Charlottetown, Australia Scotland

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