On February 15, 2014, a “one-stop shop where both music fans and record stores can purchase limited edition physical releases and ephemera from Canada’s most exciting new artists and labels” will launch less than a year after the folks at Weird Canada had announced a $50,000 grant from FACTOR, The Foundation to Assist Canadian Talent on Records.
Wyrd Distro, as the not-for-profit service has been christened by its creators, is an impressive, massive, and honourable undertaking, one that hopes to solve the problems faced by new Canadian musical talent that find they do not have the shrewd business sense needed to effectively market and sell their music to a wider audience.
Where Wyrd Distro distinguishes itself from other online services and sources of music like Bandcamp is that that Wyrd Distro will be dealing in real products—physical CDs, vinyl records and cassette tapes, and the “ephemera”—products that will most likely include digital download codes for music on top of the physical, hold-it-in-your-hand product.
So far so wicked for Canadian music fans and creators alike, right? It all sounds like an incredible win-win-win: helping musicians reach a wider audience, giving that audience a breadth of talent to explore and discover, and providing the missing link between musicians and retailers willing to take a chance on experimental product from across the country that’s been endorsed by what is arguably the nation’s preeminent curated music blog.
And therein lies my trepidation about this whole undertaking: what does “curated” imply for musicians looking for a spot on Wyrd Distro’s warehouse shelves?
According to Wyrd Distro, the model for their system will operate as a “loosely curated consignment store” that shares some of the same philosophies and ideas of the Weird Canada blog itself. What are those philosophies and ideas? From Weird Canada’s own criteria, artist and music are chosen for inclusion on the blog based on how many of their “priorities” said artist or art can answer yes to: Is the artist(s) from a marginalized group?; Is the art from an emerging, marginalized, or experimental genre, technique, or non-represented stream?; Is the art from a remote or under-represented area of Canada?; Is the art self-published, self-recorded, self-produced, or “self-anything”?; Is the art being created on a difficult, expensive, or cumbersome format?. Is this the first time this artist is being featured by Weird Canada?; Does the art strongly resonate with and excite a Weird Canada writer?
Anyone who has casually browsed through postings on Weird Canada has a sense of what kind of music “resonates” with their writers and what does not, which is well within their purview as an independent arbiter of “New Canadiana”. It is basically the same philosophy that this site runs on.
To be clear, Wyrd Distro does state that they intend to “feature releases that don’t necessarily resonate with a writer at Weird Canada”, which at the very least leaves a window of opportunity for any artist who wish to be considered, but still I wonder: how often and easily will “non-resonating artists” be welcomed into the Wyrd Distro fold?
Take someone whom I’ve featured on Quick Before It Melts a few times, Paul Federici, as an example. Federici is someone I would consider an “emerging talent” and who would benefit from the services Wyrd Distro plans on providing, but if I hold him up to those Weird Canada priorities, he’s got an uphill climb to get himself curated, as Caucasian males would not be considered a marginalized group, and nor would the Niagara region be considered (by some at least) to be an under-represented area of the country. On top of that, “adult contemporary” is as far from being an emerging or marginalized genre as you can possibly get. He has the fact that, based on a quick site keyword search, he’s never been featured on Weird Canada before going for him, probably because he’s one of those artists yet to resonate with one of their writers.
As excited as I am for the possibilities that Wyrd Distro will bring when it launches in a few weeks with a series of shows and events in each of the provinces and territories, I’m left worried that the whole process could create an entirely new marginalized group of artists and musicians left on the outer edge of this experiment: those not edgy, or daring enough for Weird Canada.
I get it. It’s their prerogative, same as it’s mine to blog about only Canadian artists, and only those that resonate with me. I applaud their desire to return music to the physical world by promoting a product that can be held, collected and displayed on a shelf as opposed to a hard drive. I’d be lying if I said I’m not a little bit jealous of their chutzpah and charisma, as I have considered similar ideas to connect Canadian music communities but have yet to put anything into action. I’m not even resentful of the fact that they’ve been given $50,000 in government grant money to get this going.
It’s just that I can’t shake the feeling that the project could potentially create a whole new have- and have-not situation that, if you’ll pardon the pun, could get a bit weird.
.JDTags: Weird Canada, Wyrd Distro