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The LeBlanc Report: Canadian Music News, North Of The Border

  • Can Moses Still Get It Up?
  • CBC Recruits Bob Rock For New Hockey Theme.
  • Music Critics: You Are Redundant. Get Over it.
  • Elvis Comes Home To Scotland.

    On July 30, Moses Znaimer’s ZoomerMedia Ltd. began trading on the Toronto Venture Exchange under the symbol ZUM.

    Znaimer’s new media empire centers on two geezer Toronto radio stations, New Classical 96.3 and AM 740; Zoomer magazine that launches in Oct., 2008; and specialty e-newsletters. At some point, the former CITY/MuchMusic founder will hit the Internet with Zoomer TV. A Zoomer? Anyone age 45 or more–with Zip, according to Znaimer.

    Simon Lee, a London-based conductor and musical director who has worked on numerous Andrew Lloyd-Webber musicals, has been fired as musical supervisor of the upcoming Toronto production of “The Sound of Music.”

    A BBC source described him as a "right-hand man" to Lloyd-Webber.

    The termination came days after Lee, 46, was charged with forcible confinement and assault with a 24-year-old man at a Toronto hotel. He was released on bail to appear in court again on Aug. 27, 2008.

    Lee has been a conductor or music supervisor for many Lloyd-Webber productions, including “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Jesus Christ Superstar.” He has also worked with José Carreras, Björk, the Tokyo Philharmonic, and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

    Canadian singer Anne Murray plays the unlikely role of mentor with Canadian Idol finalists on Aug. 18, 2008 on CTV. She will perform the following night when the remaining four contestants are revealed.

    Nashville-based Big Machine Records has made a P&D agreement for Canadian singer Adam Gregory with Midas Records and No Strings Attached Entertainment. He joins a roster that includes Taylor Swift, Trisha Yearwood, Jack Ingram, Danielle Peck, and Fisher Stevenson.

    Toronto-based music publisher Ole has acquired a 50% publishing stake in the Jody Williams Music Catalogue of some 3,300 titles. Sony/ATV Music Publishing continues representing its publisher’s share and the writer’s share of copyrights.

    Additionally, ole has signed Universal Music artist Shiloh to a worldwide co-publishing deal through its tanjola co-venture. The 15-year-old Canadian can be heard in such films as “What Happens In Vegas,” and “Dr. Doolittle 4.” Her first single, “Operator (A Girl Like Me)” ships to Canadian radio shortly.

    Albertan diva Jann Arden has been co-producing a record for the group SHeDAISY! Arden herself heads into the studio in the fall to begin work on her next album.

    Casablanca Media Publishing has signed Arkansas singer/songwriter Brandon Chandler who made his debut with "After All This Time" (Yellow Room Recording) in 2006. Brandon Chandler and the Revival are currently recording their sophomore album "This Beautiful Love" due in early fall of 2008.

    Catharine Bird has launched, a service offering freelance grant writing for arts organizations. Toronto-based Bird will provide research and advice on funding opportunities as well as write grant applications and final reports. She can be contacted at: 416-886-7665.

    Canadian director Bruce McDonald’s latest film “Pontypool” will have its world premiere at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival in September. He shot the film using the new Red One 4k HD camera, the first full length Canadian feature film of this format. The film is about a has been radio host who takes the only job he can find–broadcasting from the basement of a church in the rural town of Pontypool. Then a virus takes over the town and causes violent and erratic behavior by its inhabitants. The film was adapted from the novel “Pontypool Changes Everything” written by Tony Burgess.

    Yep, that’s former Canadian rocker Hugh Dillon fronting the prime-time Canadian police drama show “Flashpoint” on CTV

    His band, the Headstones called it quits in 2003, leaving behind a 15-year legacy of menacing, edgy music.

    Dillon’s day job during many of those years, was as an orderly at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. Canadian musical fame, however, earned him starring roles in Bruce McDonald’s two movies: “Dance Me Outside,” and the punk mockumentary “Hard Core Logo.” As well, McDonald tapped Dillon to play a churlish father on three “Degrassi: The Next Generation” episodes. Five years of film and TV credits and an album, credited to the Hugh Dillon Redemption Choir in 2005, eventually led to the starring role in “Flashpoint.

    We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Distribution Dept.: The Toronto-based band The Craft Economy has one-upped its previous marketing strategy (in which they stapled free copies of its “All On C” EP to telephone poles last year) and have been stapling poles in Toronto and Guelph, Ontario with a CD containing demo versions of two songs (“Menergy” and “The Crash, the Wagons and the Dying Horses”) as well as a typed statement blasting the proposed federal copyright bill, C-61.

    The statement reads, "Copyright should protect the rights of artists and producers of creative content, but it should not suppress creative and artistic expression. The Craft Economy has licensed our music, including this CD, using the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 license. This license gives you the freedom to share our music with your friends and enemies, and remix and use it in new and creative ways, provided you attribute the work back to us, and you don't make money off our work. It's fair for you and us. This is the way art should work."

    Obviously, giving their music away, The Craft Economy members–who originally hail from Guelph, Montreal, Vancouver and Prince Edward island–have day jobs.

    The death of commercial radio in Canada may be somewhat of a stretch, according to data recently released by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

    Last year, commercial private radio station revenues increased 6.2 per cent to $1.5 billion. Local advertising revenues grew by 4.8 per cent to $1.1 billion, while national sales were up 8.3 per cent to $380.6 million.

    The federal regulator said that broadcasters saw profits rise 5.5 per cent to $300.2 million last year.

    The CRTC also noted that 23 new radio stations opened in 2007, bringing the national total to 619 stations.

    If only Canadian artists and varied rights holders could do that well.


    There are reasons why corporate sites shouldn’t carry outside advertising. One is that a marketer can’t completely control its message; it is sharing the stage with outsiders who can hijack the space.

    To prove this simple premise, booking agent Bruce Houghton, pres. Of Skyline Music in Portland, New Hampshire placed the following ad via Google AdWords on the front page of the Columbia Records website on July 29, 2008. It reads:

    Major Labels Are Obsolete
    R.I.P. or learn and thrive.
    Music. Tech. The New Music Business

    Within a day, for $3.37 in click through fees, 6,417 people visiting Columbia Records flagship site read the message that the company was obsolete. Obviously, Columbia’s web masters were asleep at the switch.

    To view a snapshot of the account page, go to:


    A recent survey from Swedish e-commerce consultancy firm Avail Intelligence indicates that music fans are turning away from traditional media reviews and going online for their music recommendations.

    The survey found that:

    8 out of 10 music fans had turned away from professional reviews and were looking to music recommendations online.

    Some 40 per cent now turn to social networking sites such as Facebook and iLike for recommendations.

    41 per cent are guided by friends, family and other shoppers.

    Heck, I realized eons ago that most of today’s music critics aren’t Lester Bangs. But neither am I.


    Much has been made in the Toronto media about Aspen Ridge Home paying CTV Ltd. $21.5-million for the CHUM radio building on Yonge St. in Toronto. The two-storey building, built as a book bindery in 1954, has been a rock and roll landmark in the city for over five decades.

    There was considerable concern over the fate of the neon CHUM 1050 sign before it was announced that it will be re-located to CHUM’s new headquarters.

    What’s overlooked is that this sign is actually a replica. In 1986, the original sign crashed across Yonge Street into the showroom of a car dealership, landing on a pricey Corvette. A disgruntled non-CHUM listener had cut the cables on the sign because it interfered with reception on his TV. CHUM owner Allan Waters then ordered an replica of the original to be made.


    An Elvis Presley fan from Grangemouth, Scotland has converted his house into Graceland for a local gala day.

    It took 46-year-old, Walter Gibb and his family 11 weeks to make the three-dimensional timber replica of Elvis' Memphis home.

    "None of us had been there before so off the internet we got pictures of Graceland and we recreated it out of timber in a three-dimensional effect,” says Gibb.

    Educated scotch drinkers will know that Grangemouth is also home of the Whyte and Mackay blending and bottling plant.


    Effective September 2, 2008, John Cassaday will assume, in addition to his current role as president and CEO, operating responsibility for Corus Radio on an interim basis. This follows the July 16, 2008 announcement that John Hayes will step down as president at the end of the Company's fiscal year, Aug. 31, 2008. Hayes joined Corus in 2001. As of Aug. 5, 2008, Scott Dyer will assume the role of Chief Technology Officer for the company.

    Sébastien Nasra has been appointed GM/dir. of A&R. at Vega Musique in Montreal. Nasra takes over the full service label and production company from its founder Michel Gendron who passed earlier this year. Nasra, also owner and president of Avalanche Productions, will continue managing Jorane, Taima and Elisapie Isaac, Béatrice Bonifassi, and the bands, Plaster, and Beast.

    Kat Salvador has been appointed executive dir. of the Canadian of the Country Music Association (CCMA). Previously, Salvador was an assistant to Heather Ostertag at the Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent on Recordings (FACTOR). Meanwhile, the CCMA is reportedly relocating to the FACTOR building in Don Mills, Ontario.


    The night before he passed away of leukemia the remarkably versatile violinist Oliver Schroer whipped off his last tune, entitled “Poise.” The following morning on July 3, 2008, at around 11:30 AM, he was carrying on with a nurse in his usual fashion until he announced, “Well, I guess no excursions today” and left. He was 52

    The leader of offbeat world-music group the Stewed Tomatoes, Toronto-born Schroer appeared as accompanist or producer on more than 75 albums. He also released 10 solo albums on his own via Big Dog Music, Somerset, Avalon Music labels.

    Schroer worked with acts ranging from American singer/songwriters Jimmy Webb and Barry Mann to the Canadian female country act Quartette. He also accompanied such Canadian artists as Loreena McKennitt, Liona Boyd, Marc Jordan, and Stephen Fearing,

    Schroer was raised on a farm near the small community of Flesherton, Ontario. After high school, Schroer moved to Toronto to study history and then philosophy and in 1982 joined a country/swing unit playing locally. Between stints with such bands as Muddy York, Rare Air, and Eye Music, he also busked for four years in Toronto subway stations.

    In 2003, to inspire young musicians, Schroer launched The Twisted String, an unique teaching and performance concept consisting of a series of fiddle squads with 8-12 young players.

    Dennis Murphy died June 15, 2008 of lung cancer in Toronto. He was 64.

    Prior to an extensive career in television and film, Murphy produced albums in the 1970s for the Irish Rovers, Shirley Eikhard, Christopher Kearney, Ron Nigrini, Bob McBride, and Aarons & Ackley for his company Sundog Productions.

    Murphy grew up in Dundas, Ont. In 1967, he graduated from McMaster University in Hamilton with a Bachelor of Arts in Irish literature. After graduation, he moved to New York, where he worked briefly for Elektra Records.

    As a documentary film maker, Murphy's work appeared in Canada on TVOntario, CBC-TB, Global Television, History Television and The Discovery Network. In the U.S., it was seen on Court TV, National Geographic and PBS.

    In 1990, he was appointed executive producer of National Film Board’s Studio C in Montreal. A year later, he became director of NFB's flagship Ontario Centre, executive producing more than 100 documentary films. Including “Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould.”

    Until earlier this year, Murphy taught broadcasting and film studies at Centennial College in Toronto. In March, he signed a contract with HarperCollins Canada for his debut novel “Darkness at the Break of Noon.”

    It will be published in Feb. 2009.

    Canadian country singer Susan Graham lost her two year battle to multiple myeloma on July 24, 2008. She was 47. Born in Calgary, she moved to Fort McMurray, Alberta and worked as a hairdresser before pursuing a music career. Managed by Debbie Wood, Graham recorded in Nashville with producer Bob Bullock and earned a Juno Award nomination for top Country Female Vocalist in 1993.

    Long-time Canadian radio owner Pete McNabb passed away on July 8, 2008 in Lindsay, Ontario. He owned Lindsay’s CKLY for 25 years. During the ‘60s, the colourful McNabb produced and broadcast “The Tommy Hunter Country Holiday” radio show that was broadcast over CKLY and across Canada on the CBC Radio. His ownership of CKLY lasted until 1986, when he sold to his son Andy. CKLY, known as Bob FM, is now owned by the CHUM Radio division of CTVglobemedia.


    And we thought it just EMI and Warners that were hemorrhaging red ink.

    Well, Sony BMG Music Entertainment lost $49 million on sales of $820 million in its fiscal first quarter that ended June 30, 2008. That represents a downturn from the $21 million in net income posted in the same period the prior year, and a 6.3% drop in sales.

    Meanwhile, Sony Corp., which owns 50% of Sony BMG, posted $330 million in net income on revenues of $18.7 billion. Sony BMG's weak performance resulted in a $24 million loss against Sony Corp. shareholder equity of $33.9 billion.

    Sony Corp is now in talks to buy the 50 per cent stake it does not own in Sony BMG Music Entertainment from Bertelsmann Music Group, one of the six divisions of Bertelsmann AG. Bertelsmann reportedly had been seeking $1.2 billion to $1.5 billion to pull out of the joint venture. Sony’s bid to date is reportedly for $931 million

    Sony Music Entertainment and BMG Music Entertainment merged in 2004, mirroring the merger of Universal and Polygram five years earlier. Since the mergers, however, Universal Music Group has continued to have the leading market share in the music business, with Sony BMG trailing at No. 2.

    Sony’s buy-out bid reflects efforts to strengthen the Japanese group's content production capacity as it seeks synergies between its software and hardware businesses, including linking music and mobile phones.

    Meanwhile, any such deal would allow Bertelsmann AG to focus its resources on its publishing and broadcasting operations.


    The public broadcaster has asked for non-paid volunteers for an “expert jury who would listen to and rate approximately 100 submitted anthems online.”

    The winning anthem will be produced by Canadian producer Bob Rock.

    (Yep, I passed on jury duty; I figure the CBC can afford to pay experts.)

    CBC launched the contest after CTV purchased the rights to “The Hockey Night in Canada” theme from under CBC’s noses. It had accompanied CBC-TV’S “Hockey Night in Canada” telecasts every Saturday night during the hockey season for 39 years.

    For Canadians, the soaring “dunt-da-DUNT-da-dunt” is pure Canadiana–as deeply woven into the national fabric as Tim Horton’s donuts and hockey itself.

    Replacing it—as any professional theme or jingle composer will tell you—will not be easy. It is not a matter of finding or coming up with merely a good song.

    Significantly, Doris Claman’s theme grabs you like few TV theme songs; it has so much action and suspense built into the music.

    But that’s the role of theme music.

    Think of other memorable themes like Mort Stevens’ “Hawaii Five-0," "The Addams Family" (Vic Mizzy), "The Rockford Files" (Mike Post and Pete Carpenter), or "Mission Impossible" (Lalo Schifrin).

    It takes skill composing such music and Claman had it….in spades.

    Born in Vancouver, B.C., Claman received a graduate scholarship to the Juilliard School of Music in New York. Claman, and her writing partner and husband, lyricist Richard Morris, composed over 3000 commercial jingles in a 30 year period, and won more than 40 awards internationally for their work.

    Bob Rock, however, is a damn savvy choice to oversee the production of a new hockey theme. In addition to his high profile rock production work with Metallica, Motely Crue and Bon Jovi, he worked as an engineer and producer at Vancouver’s Little Mountain Sound in the ‘70s when the studio did an enormous amount of jingle recording. Little Mountain Sound was also home to Griffiths Gibson & Ramsay Productions, one of Canada’s leading commercial jingle firms.

    According to the Tragically Hip’s website, Rock has also started work with the group on a new studio album. He produced the band’s “World Container” album in 2006


    “Coming to You Wherever You Are: MuchMusic, MTV, and Youth Identities,” by Kip Pegley, an associate professor of music at Queens University School of Music in Kingston, Ontario, examines how MuchMusic and MTV construct their two distinct identities; discusses why Canadians feel so protective of their music video station; and explains why Canada, unlike many countries, has withstood the MTV invasion.

    MuchMusic viewers, she says, feel like they’re taken in as a collective, rather than individuals.

    She notes that “MTV shows are pre-recorded in static and ‘timeless’ studios, but MuchMusic viewers are made aware that as viewers we are one among many watching…..Viewers can tell whether it is day or night and in the background they see other Canadians walking along Queen St. outside the studio or peering in through the studio windows.”

    It should also be noted that slick MTV also doesn’t have the mother lode of endearing goof-up moments that is part of MuchMusic’s legacy, dating back to Erica Ehm’s on-air training.

    Today, there’s the continuing mishaps of MuchMusic VJs Matte Babel and Devon Soltendieck, as well as the delightful Leah Miller. Her introduction of Justin Nozuka–calling him Georgie—was most memorable.

    Then there’s been zany on-air proclamations by MuchMusic VJs. Like Derek Whibley’s marriage to Avril Lavigne being described as “a side project” during a Sum 41 interview.

    And there’s been comic Jessah Diaz singing to Avril Lavigne, “I think you need a bitch slap” before describing her and Whibley as “The Sid and Nancy of Bubblegum Punk.”

    Pegley is currently co-editing a volume of essays entitled “Music, Global Conflict, and the Politics of Identity.”

    Meanwhile, MTV2 hits Canadian TV airwaves Aug. 1st, 2008


    Nana Mouskouri has bid adieu to a half-century in music with a farewell concert in her native Greece at the foot of the Acropolis in Athens.

    Fans filled the ancient Odeon of Herodes Atticus on July 23, 2008 to hear the 73-year-old songstress. Hours earlier, the city of Athens bestowed its gold medal on Mouskouri, who has been on a worldwide farewell tour since she announced her plans to retire three years ago.

    One of the grand dames of international music, the bespectacled performer sold more than 300 million recordings during her career.

    As well, I met my wife, music publicist and radio tracker Anya Wilson when she worked with Mouskouri in the mid ‘80s.

    For decades, Mouskouri was managed by Montreal impresario Sam Gesser who passed away earlier this year.

    During a nostalgic tribute, held a few months ago in the Cinquième Salle of Montreal’s Place des Arts where Gesser had an office for many years, Mouskouri, in a video, recalled her 45-year association with Gesser, whom she credited with being largely responsible for what she achieved.

    She recalled that in the ’60s she had been advised not to perform a Quebec song because it was too political. “Sam told me, ‘Listen only to your heart and instincts,’ and I did. So began a great relationship with Canada and, of course, Sam…

    “He showed me the treasures of Canada,” she said, introducing her to both Anglophone and francophone singers.

    Mouskouri has a huge following in Quebec and had mentioned a poignant moment in the province when first discussing her decision to retire.

    "I still remember, the saddest thing that I really felt in my life is when (opera legend) Maria Callas died, and I remember I was in Montreal," she said. "I was going to do a talk show on the radio and just before I go in, they tell me outside, 'Nana, not to be surprised, something terrible happened and they may ask you about that,' and I was so sad when I heard it."

    What bothered her so much, Mouskouri said, was that Callas had continued singing publicly despite failing vocal abilities.

    "She didn't finish as she should have finished, for me," Mouskouri said.” Her life was very close to me and I wouldn't like to have a problem like this."

    Journalist/broadcaster/researcher Larry LeBlanc has been a leading figure in Canadian music

    for four decades.

    He has been a regular music commentator on CTV’s 'Canada A.M' for 35 years, and has been

    featured on numerous CBC-TV, CTV, YTV, Bravo! MuchMusic, MusiMax, and Newsworld programs in

    Canada; VH-1, and EEntertainment in the U.S.; and BBC in the U.K.

    Larry was a co-founder of the late Canadian music trade, The Record; and, most recently, the

    Canadian bureau chief of Billboard for 16 years.

    He has been quoted on music industry issues in hundreds of publications including Time, Forbes,

    and the New York Times.

    The LeBlanc Newsletter is exclusively carried and archived by Canadian Music Week in Canada at:

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