Canada - Luna Kafé - Full Moon 2 - 12/24/96
The Canadian Rock Scene
Since I started writing reviews for Luna Kafé, I have realized that to
understand Canadian music, you have to know a little more about it than an
album review can give you. So I am writing this introduction to Canadian
music for those of you who may have trouble understanding it.
Canada is the second largest country in the world, but one of the smallest
in population. Canadians are spread out about along American boarder east
to west, while the rest of the country remains with sparse population.
Because of the distance from one side of the country to the other,
Canadians tend to think of themselves largely in association with the area
of Canada in which they live.
Music follows suit in this way, many of the record labels in Canada are
specifically regional. With "east coast" or "western" or "central
Canadian" being associated with the type of bands they have signed,
particularly in indie music.
While geography divides us, there is also the often overwhelming influence
of the United States to the south of us, which probably accounts for the
fact that Canadians buy more Smashing Pumpkins albums per capita than any
other country in the world. But the Canadian media has, in recent years
done a marvelous job of keeping television and radio full of 'Canadian
Content' the Canadian Radio and Television Commission or CRTC is in place
for the sole purpose of setting strict rules to keep Canadian entertainment
and art thriving. The CRTC laws used to be considered a pain in the butt
for Canadian viewers. Television Stations would play hockey games to get
around the rules. In recent years however, more and more decent Canadian
programming has become available, and Canadians are beginning to actually
prefer many Canadian programs to the useless American sitcoms on TV.
This also has a huge impact on the Canadian Music industry. Much Music
(Canada's MTV) plays much more than Celine Dione, and Bryan Adams when
trying to fill the CRTC laws. Since the early 90's Much Music has been
playing more and more Canadian bands, and it would seem that they have
become leaders in breaking bands, national airplay from Much Music, can
make or break a Canadian artist in a matter of weeks. Radio stations have
also jumped on the Canadian bandwagon, stations like FOX in Vancouver and
CFNY in Toronto, hold annual festivals and run 'new music search' programs
for countless Canadian artists across the country.
Canadians buy more CD's per capita than any other nation in the world.
This allows for the tremendous support of Canadian artists inside Canada,
even if they don't break any other countries. For instance the
Tragically Hip, sold 3.000.000 albums in the first week of release, that
means 10% of the 30 million Canadians purchased the album in the first week
of its release, making it a testament to the enthusiasm Canadians have in
their music. Many Canadian artists have found profitable success right
here in Canada, a feat that used to be considered near impossible to
For some reason, it seems to be fairly difficult for Canadian bands to
become successful in the US. Bands that could not walk down the street in
Canada without being recognized, can't get an audience right accross the
boarder in the States. In the last year or two however, American labels
have been signing Canadian indie acts left and right. America is finally
catching on, slowly but surely. This transformation is best symbolized by
Hayden's recent appearance in SPIN magazine.
One of the most incredible elements of Canadian rock music is the indie
scene. Canada has many very successful independent record labels. These
labels, which usually start out in someone's basement, can grow to become
quite powerful. For instance the growth of Sonic Unyon Records Canada
from a small local business, to a huge and
influential label, in only a few years. Sonic Unyon Records has a very
incredible story behind its growth and prosperity. Two of the signed
bands, Hayden and treble charger, achieved with only minimal airplay and
budgets unheard of success in the indie industry. Hayden sold something
like 30 000 copies of his first independent album out of the Sonic unyon
basement, and treble charger sold close to 20 000. This got both artists
eventual deals with major American labels, and they are not the only ones.
Other major Canadian indie labels include Handsome Boy,
Squirtgun, Bubblegun, Sappy, and Cinnamon Toast records. While many Independent
Canadian Artists sign to major American deals, many others remain
independent in Canada. The "indie mentality" is very strong amongst indie
fans, and popular indie bands who sign are often ridiculed for rejecting
the do it yourself ideology their fans hold so precious. While Much Music
and radio stations remain relatively supportive of indie music, it is still
difficult for an indie band to expand it's audience beyond the indie scene.
In Canada either you are into indie or you have never heard of it. This
is why this year in particular, a lot of great indie bands have joined the
For more information on the Canadian Music Scene check out the following:
Copyright © 1996 Laura Bowman