SAINT JOHN– In a region best known for folk, Francophone and country music, local organizers are hosting the first conference to showcase and market Atlantic Canadian urban music.
Urban East, taking place Nov.9 to Nov. 11, will focus on different genres of Urban Music including hip-hop, R&B, reggae, jazz and more. The event is being organized by Musik Iz the Motive Entertainment and Momentum Canada, a sales accelerator based in Saint John.
The idea came for the conference and showcase came to Music Iz the Motive founder Dwayne Marcial a few years back after he noticed that urban music in Atlantic Canada was lacking representation at awards and events.
“Then after going to the conferences, attending Music New Brunswick Week and the ECMAs, they have their export buyers and people coming into the city and provinces. But as far as urban [music], it’s a whole type of genre and market that was being forgotten because of major exports they focus on here is folk music, Francophone and country,” says Marcial.
“It was our niche right there that we said, ‘ok, we’re going to start doing this conference, bringing in industry people so we can start getting these guys more information within the industry here and strengthening it so that we can be on an even playing field with the other genres of music that are being treated at the main exports from here.’ ”
Though much of the music Atlantic Canada exports is folk, Francophone and country, Marcial says urban music has a global reach and artists in the region need an opportunity to put themselves out there.
“Urban music really is the number one seller in the world. It’s the number one streamed on platforms now,” he says. “For us, we wanted to build that industry for us out here. Besides the Classifieds, that’s all anyone who’s really had the chance to break out from here. This is a way we wanted to bring the industry [here.]”
Urban East will feature an award show and live performances at different venues in uptown Saint John. Around 30 acts have already been booked to perform.
It will also bring in industry professionals from around the world as speakers and panellists, including A&R’s, entertainment lawyers, DJ’s, and funding agency reps to help artists get insight on how to navigate this industry. Def Jam, SiriusXM, HipHop Nation and Roc Nation are among those sending representation to the event.
That’s really what it is, bringing the main industry people here for the purpose of building our infrastructure for the industry,” says Marcial.
“It’s no industry slouches, it’s top-notch people who go to these circuits of conferences and speak quite a bit on what’s happening in the industry, industry trends, what to expect, what we can do to fix it.”
Corey Dugas, co-founder of Momentum Canada, says they wanted to start small for the event but says the hope is to hold Urban East annually and to continue to grow it.
“I feel like we’re being small and conservative with this one, as we hope it to be an annual event. Next year, maybe we’ll move from three days to four, with a bigger awards ceremony with some bigger panels and some bigger names coming in,” says Dugas.
We believe Saint John’s (an ideal) venue, and that showed this year with Quality Block Party, ECMAs, Area 506, why not have something in November when there’s nothing going on?”
For Marcial, who has attended other urban music conferences around the world, he hopes Urban East will help Atlantic Canada’s urban artists not to be limited by geography.
“I want to inspire other artists out here to realize that just because we’re from Saint John or from Fredericton or Moncton, wherever, we can have these opportunities to do this,” he says. “As long as we get this information and use it the right way to progress our careers and move in the right direction.”