I once had the opportunity to sit down and chat with one of the biggest and highly influential people in the Canadian music industry. During this conversation he suggested that any band looking to get noticed ‘needed’ to move to either Vancouver or Toronto. He claimed that no one was even looking at what was going on in Markets like Edmonton or Calgary. “If you aren’t in Vancouver or Toronto, you don’t exist”
I had heard this before, but I have always disagreed with this belief. Being in Toronto and Vancouver does have some advantages, but just because you moved there doesn’t mean you’ll get noticed. For the most part, when you move to one of these markets it doesn’t matter what success you have achieved in your home market, you are starting out from scratch and you’re are starting over in a market that you may not be as familiar with. You probably won’t have the same kind of contacts at your disposal, compared to the network you built in your home market. As an ‘unknown’ in a new bigger market, you quickly become a little fish in a big pond.
The small handful of artists that I know, who have moved to either Vancouver and Toronto, and ended up ‘getting noticed’, technically didn’t ‘get noticed’ because they made the big move. They actually got noticed in their home market and the person who noticed them suggested they move to Vancouver or Toronto to ‘get noticed’. Once the artists moved, the person who noticed them and suggested they move had continued to be involved and helped them ‘get noticed’ in the new city. In most cases they were already a big fish in their own pond and that’s what got them noticed.
The world has gotten a lot smaller and artists can get noticed just as easily in their own basement as they could out on tour, starving in a rented van on the road. It doesn’t matter where you are. You build a strong enough presence in your home market, people will notice. More and more stories are surfacing about artists getting discovered online when their videos go viral or they have built a highly engaged online fan based. If a booking agent was looking to book an artist and a club turn down the show because they had already booked a local band in that was guaranteed to sell out the venue, there’s a strong chance the booking agent is going to ask “What’s the name of the local band?”
I’m originally from Saskatchewan and that is usually the last place people would expect to see a band get noticed from, but I’ve seen it happen twice now. First with Wide Mouth Mason who went from playing the local university pub to opening for The Rolling Stones and AC/DC and again recently with The Sheepdogs who where still based in Saskatoon when they got on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. Even my own success in the industry started in Saskatoon where I proved myself enough to make BMG Canada (now Sony Music) want to move me Edmonton and today my company Oddball Productions is helping artists get their music on radio stations all across Canada and even in the United States. When I think about it, even though I’m based in Edmonton I technically have more success with Oddball and the artists we work with outside of Edmonton than in Edmonton itself.
If you are considering moving to a new market, don’t just move to move. Make sure you consider the following:
- What kind of contacts will you have in this new market and are those contact going to help you once you move?
- Whose idea was it to move? Did someone suggest it or is it something you think you should be doing?
- What impact will it have on your current audience and fan base?
- What is the scene in the new market actually like? Just because a market is bigger it doesn’t mean they have a bigger and better scene. What more can that music scene offer you?
Just like any other business, growth and expansion is a good thing. You rarely see a business close it’s doors and move somewhere else to start over. They grow their business and if the business needs require them to move to a new market, then they evaluate their options and make a decision on moving based on what options are available. The same should apply for artists. Grow your fan base, your audience, your customer base at home first, then look at expanding, but before making any decision to move ensure you analyze and explore all your options. Weigh out your options and ensure your moving to an opportunity not a dream.