Volume 94, Issue 5


London gets Moist

Earnest a Wilde production
Restored act enhances classic

Hidden sexuality

NXNE cultivates talent
Publicist highlights advantages

Canadian magazine charts nation's brightest music stars

Responses mixed

NXNE cultivates talent
Publicist highlights advantages

"I JUST WOKE UP AND I DON'T FEEL LIKE PLAYING." Singer/songwriter Neko Case shares her talents at the SOCAN Songwriters Circle at last weekend's, North By Northeast Music Festival and Conference.

By Matt Pearson
Gazette Staff

Heavyweights in the independent music scene descended on Toronto last weekend for the annual North By Northeast Music Festival and Conference (NXNE).

According to NXNE publicist Cori Ferguson, the festival's roots lie in managing director Andy McLean's basement, where it all began six years ago. In the relatively short time since, NXNE has grown considerably.

"Every year it has gotten bigger and we've had more delegates from across Canada and from the United States," explained Ferguson. "We're starting to establish ourselves as an important music festival in North America."

Specifically, Ferguson cited increases in both the number of applications received by conference organizers and the number of venues throughout Toronto that have become involved. This year there were 27 different venues showcasing bands and Ferguson estimated by the weekend's close, more than 50,000 people would have attended the event.

She also noted the conference side of NXNE has grown. Over the course of two days, artists could participate in a myriad of sessions, including legal counselling, marketing and distribution roundtables, as well as debates, panel discussions and a songwriters circle.

"[NXNE] helps musicians learn about various aspects of their career," Ferguson said. "Other festivals are far more industry-oriented, while this one is more music-oriented, which explains what makes it stand out and why people are drawn to it."

To secure a showcase spot at the festival, each artist was required to provide a sample of their music, as well as a $20 processing fee. From that point, every submission was reviewed until organizers were left with approximately 400 bands they felt provided a balanced cross section of musical styles.

"They [the selection committee] are looking for talented musicians, interesting sounds and a wide variety of performers," Ferguson explained, adding the conference tries to keep pace with emerging trends in the music industry.

For example, the presence of hip-hop has expanded tremendously over the years. In the beginning, NXNE showcased a small number of hip-hop acts, but this year the conference offered three full nights of hip-hop at a number of different venues.

Besides talent, NXNE organizers also looked to showcase independent artists. "It [NXNE] celebrates the independent world," Ferguson said. "Most of the bands that come to NXNE are either unsigned, or signed to an independent label. There are very few major label artists chosen because that's not the mandate of the festival. The festival is not there to have the Tragically Hip."

Live broadcasts on the Internet were a new addition to the conference last year and became a major focus this year. This Web presence has allowed NXNE to reach a wider audience.

Ferguson noted organizers received applications from all across North America, as well as Portugal, Denmark, New Zealand and Australia.

"A Canadian flavour with an international appeal," described Ferguson, after mentioning at least half of the bands showcased were Canadian. Yet she maintained the Canadian feel ran much deeper than the surface.

"The festival is way more relaxed than American festivals – NXNE is about having fun and seeing great bands."

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