Last Day at HPX

Today is my last day as Executive Director of the Halifax Pop Explosion.

Sometimes when you are really close to something you don’t see it the way the rest of the world does, and you cannot see how you are seen to be related to it.

I have been gratified by the interest from the media around my departure, but you would be surprised how many people have said something like “You’ve been there since the beginning, right?”

I was 21 years old when the first festival was staged. While I was not a creator or participant in HPX 1993, I was a DJ in the bar that the shows were in!

By 1994 I was running No Cases “against” the HPX, because my label’s bands were not getting into the festival. Not really against, because HPX was cool enough to put our flyer in their delegate bags and let us poster their venues.

I did a No Case at the Oasis and the ROW store on Spring Garden Road with 14 bands, from Halifax, Moncton, Toronto, Ottawa and Edmonton. We made money that year, unfortunately HPX did not.

In 1996 I became a co-owner of Halifax On Music. What is that you ask? Well HPX has closed its doors twice, once in 1995, and once in 1999! The reborn festival had a new name, because HPX was tainted with bad debts and broken hearts. People kept calling it Pop Explosion, though. Marc Brown, Colin MacKenzie from Murderecords and myself were marshalled by Angie Fenwick, manager of Thrush Hermit, to relaunch the event.

Angie got sick in 1998, I quit shortly there after, and the festival limped through a last minute event in 1999. In 2000 there was no festival, but most people have forgotten that! We try to say “18th annual” rather than “18th edition”, it seems somewhat more honest.

In 2000 Melissa Buote and I decided to bring back HPX. I convinced Peter Rowan to let us use the name. Later on I found out that Angie probably really owned the name, if not a bank or creditor. Regardless, we got away with it, and 10 years later, the Halifax Pop Explosion Association is bigger than I ever expected it to be a decade ago.

As I like to say to government and sponsors “we made it a not for profit as we seem to have proven twice that it will never make anyone serious money.” Heh.

The first year as an NFP the festival lost over $22,000 on a budget of about $50,000. Ooops. It took seven years to pay off. In 2009 our cash budget was up around $250,000, our inkind and partners bring that up to $450,000.

Another question friends have asked, quietly, non publicly – did I jump, or was I pushed?

Oh I jumped. I really did.

The festival keeps growing, and needs more and more time to run properly. The amount of spare time I have for a hobby or second job does not increase.

I am happy with my full time gig at NSCC, and it became clear a year ago that we needed to get a full time staff person. I proposed a one year planned transition to the HPXA board in November 2008. We are a bit behind schedule, but hey, here we are, finally!

It is a huge relief! I love HPX and intend to keep a hand in, but what the festival needs, the music scene needs, is a full time staffer working hard growing the event, getting resources from private sector and government to allow for stability and more resources to deliver our award winning program and grow our global reputation.

I will miss being the final word. Getting sponsors. Helping new bands. Being excited about new music. Watching 14,000 people have a great time. Doing the interviews in the media. I will miss the raw potential that HPX still represents.

For the first time in my adult life, I will not be responsible for an external business budget. From 1993-2010 I have always had a business account to be responsible for. Now I will find out what it is like to pay for my own cellphone.

So, I will miss the excitement, the challenge, the great bands and the better people I have had the honour to work with for the last fourteen years.

That said, I am sure that the two books I am writing, taking the MBA, my full time teaching gig at NSCC, my membership on the National Training Advisory Council for the Music Industry, my involvement with the Board of Music Nova Scotia, and my work to try and expand our industries part time and professional development in music both inside NSCC and through Music Nova Scotia will be more than enough to keep me busy!

It’s been a slice, HPX. I know you will miss me, but I’m still around. Call me if you need anything, but I know Jonny and the team will take care of you.

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