My views on ECMA

Over the last 24 hours, between posts on a local message board, some emails that have resulted from that, and Scott Long’s interviews on CBC Mainstreet Sydney and Halifax, friends and colleagues in the music industry have exchanged a lot of words about the ECMA.

While I am a Board member of Music NS these views are mine alone.  I feel comfortable sharing these views because I think this is a dialog that needs to be happening, not just between Executive Director’s and President’s of the organizations, but with all of the memberships and stakeholders in this industry.

I make no bones about what I think.  I like the ECMA, but I believe it needs reform.  I don’t think the event is operating in a way that is consistent with what the market needs now, and why it was established in the first place.

Nova Scotia spends a fair bit of coin on the ECMA, when it is outside the province and more when it is inside the province.  A lot of public and private money is being spent to grow the music industry in Nova Scotia and the region, and we all have a responsibility to make sure the event delivers.

When the ECMA was founded the goal was simple: bring Toronto and other A&R reps down to see our bands, and hopefully get them record and publishing deals.  Things have changed in the industry, and in the region.

I do feel that increasingly that concerns about regional “equity” rather than export readiness of the acts performing hurts the value of the ECMA and our regional credibility on the national and international market.  Everyone deserves a fair chance to play, but geography is not important.  The population size and industry size in Nova Scotia means that Nova Scotia might often have more performers, but that is all.

The ECMA is a brand that is somewhat known world wide, with a huge value primarily in the folk traditional/celtic/MOR world, especially relationships with Folk Alliance and OCFF type events.  ECMA has some leadership in other areas, but MIAs are closing in fast or exceeding ECMA in certain languages, genres, territories and events.

Anyway, there are two things that need to be reviewed.

One is market-based decision making.

This cannot be compromised.  If all the Celtic one year comes from New Brunswick and Newfoundland, that is fine, if they are the best that year.  If all the rock comes from Halifax, that is how it goes.  If all the Acadian is from Bathurst, so it goes.

We can explore mechanisms, maybe media juries, maybe international buyer juries, if that is what it takes for the Feds and other provinces to accept it,  ensuring key stages have to be based on market demand, not geography, though obviously there can be MIA stages and developmental stage opportunities.  We have an obligation to give the very best to the buyers.

Then there is governance.

If the ECMA is to continue to have a coordinating role between the MIAs and support regional initiatives, we need to see their governance model changed.  We need to make it like the WCMA, where when you join the MIA it gets you a vote in the regional organization

The model is a board with two members appointed by each four MIAs and two at large appointed by the ECMA board to fill in their skill sets.  The ECMA should be a creature owned and operated for and by the MIAs, to foster regional cooperation, dialog, and liaise with the feds.  This would go a long way to kill off the “us vs them” mentality as the ECMA would then effectively be the MIA, and visa versa.

We have been talking about this for years.  A federated model removes the us and the them mentality, and it cannot happen soon enough.