November 15, 2015
From musician to entertainment lawyer, and former chair of Factor National Advisory Board to Executive Director of the Music BC Industry Association, Bob D'Eith has more than dipped his toes in the music industry water. With a passion for music, and a deep knowledge of the industry, D'Eith played a big role in getting the Peak Performance Project running.
We talked to D'Eith about how the PPP got funded, moments he's had over the years with the PPP that made him proud to be working in this industry, how musicians can succeed in the age of the internet, and what we as a society can do to support our artists.
Bob D'Eith's Current Playlist
1. Adele - Hello
2. Metric - The Shade
3. City and Colour - Wasted Love
4. Arkells - Leather Jacket
5. The Zolas - Molotov Girls
6. Mother Mother - Monkey Tree
7. Dear Rouge - Tongues
8. The New Pornographers - Brill Bruiser
G: Was it difficult to get a program like the Peak Performance Project funded/started?
BD: The concept for the PEAK Performance Project came about very quickly in response to a request to Music BC from the general manager of JRFM (Gerry Siemens) to create a program that really benefitted the music community. Gerry had gone out the industry to find out what was needed. The idea of “yet another radio contest" with no substance was not something that the industry or the station wanted. As luck would have it, I had already developed an idea as part of some FACTOR National Advisory Board blue-sky proposals to integrate education, marketing, promotion and funding; something that had never been done before. While FACTOR did not see the merit in the idea, Gerry did. We were able to work together to create a program that made sure that funding was only given to those artists who earned their way into it. The PPP is in essence a program that rewards the combination of talent and hard work.
The fact that The PEAK Performance Project was funded was literally a small miracle - and maybe not so small. The funding was made available because the Pattison Broadcast Group wanted to launch a new radio station on a new signal in Vancouver. The $5.2M PPP funding was part of a $12M “over and above” Canadian Content Development CRTC funding promise made to help entice the CTRC to grant the station license. The competition was fierce between over a dozen broadcasters. Then, the actual frequency was awarded to The Shore, not The PEAK. The PEAK was actually able to rely on a station “flip” to launch the PEAK, which was their Plan B. They had agreed to honour the same CCD funding promises for that deal. Getting the PPP needed all of the planets to align, and they did.
G: Have you had a moment during all the years of the BC PPP that made you feel really proud to be working in this industry?
BD: My first day at Music BC was September 11, 2001. Really. The first project that I did was the “Love Conquers All” CD compilation for the victims of 911. We had Bryan Adams, Sarah McLachlan and many others participate. EMI distributed the record and we raised over $10,000 for the project. Mayor Guliani wrote us a really nice letter in gratitude.
Another amazing day was standing up in 2008 in the City of Vancouver council chamber in order to ask for the bid fee for the 2009 JUNO Awards. The City of Vancouver had never granted a bid sponsorship of that kind before, so we were breaking new ground. The matter before my presentation was particularly contentious and the counsellors were fuming at each other. I assumed that I was sunk. But when I got up, every counsellor turned and smiled at me. The presentation was a success and we were able to get the all important City matching money for the bid. We landed the JUNO Awards and produced one of the most memorable events in JUNO Awards history.
My last day at Music BC will be the last Commodore finale of the last Top 3 of the PEAK Performance Project. Every year for seven years, the PEAK and Music BC teams have been able to showcase BC’s top artists and give away hundreds of thousands of dollars in development funding. This sold-out showcase has been a must-attend industry and public event for many years now. When I stand on that stage for the last time as Executive Director of Music BC, I can say that I am proud to have been part of something that actually changed the lives of hundreds of BC artists. We created something bigger than the PEAK, bigger than Music BC. Something that will be remembered as one of the most successful artist development programs in Canadian radio history.
G: Would you say that with streaming services and downloads so available online, musicians looking to make a career in music need to shift their music from the standard “record an album, tour, record another album” mentality? Are there other routes musicians could be taking (for instance, creating music for ads)?
BD: Since NAPSTER, the music industry has been forever changed. During my time at Music BC, I witnessed the pinnacle of CD sales followed by a steady decline, resulting in record store closers and massive music industry layoffs. I have seen the rise of Youtube, Spotify and now Apple Music. Streaming is here to stay. The question is going to be whether the model can generate enough revenue to sustain the sound recording industry into the future. One thing has not changed: artists have always made 90% of their revenues from live performance. Artists have to focus on every revenue stream, but they have to keep in mind where they are going to be able to make a living. That means getting out on the road and building fan bases. That means creating or playing songs that are great…I mean great. That means being social media savvy. That means understanding all of the revenues that they can go after and going after all of them. And yes, that can include music for film, television, video games and commercials. For me, it is an “all of the above” approach to success.
G: What is one step we as a society can take to better support up-and-coming musicians?
BD: Get out and support live music, including pushing local governments to help live venues to stay open and thrive. Buy artist merchandise. Support crowd funding requests. Pay for music through downloads or streaming services.
Ask your MLA for more support for the Creative Industries. Did you know that BC has the lowest funding per capita for the music industry in Canada? Our companies and studios can’t compete with the $15M per year Ontario Music Fund. We have such amazing talent and we do not have the support for them that we need to nurture the scene. How about pushing for a PEAK Performance Project type program for ALL genres funded by the Province of BC. Now wouldn’t that be spectacular?
Sorry, was that more than one step. I can’t help myself.
G: Do you have a favourite spot to visit in Vancouver?
BD: Growing up on the North Shore, I am still partial to the view at the top of the Peak run on Grouse Mountain. There is nothing more freeing than the seeing our amazing city while pretending to be 19 again even though your knees know better.
G: Thank you so much for talking with us, giving great advice to musicians, and all your work with Music BC and the PPP. Enjoy the finale!