BreakOut West (BOW)

Break on through

Major Funk and the Employment will bring their funky dance music that Yukoners know to BreakOut West this October

With the emergence of streaming services, social media and new technology redefining challenges in the musical industry, how does an emerging musician advance their career past the local scene and into touring stardom? That’s the question that BreakOut West (BOW) seeks to solve for emerging Western Canadian artists at the annual festival, according to festival executive director Nat Kleinschmit. This year is also an opportune time for the festival to return to the Yukon for the first time since 2011, because themes this year reflect Yukon values.

“The most important thing for me is to recognize that artists are moving forward in one of the most challenging times,” she said in an interview. “We built the whole event on two values, I think Yukon values. Being fearless and taking those opportunities, that Yukon can-do attitude. And being friendly.”

That sentiment provides the basis for BOW’s selection process for the 68 musical acts, including 12 Yukon artists, who will be showcased at this year’s event. Over 500 artists applied this year alone, and the festival seeks out artists who in a spot, career-wise, to reap the maximum benefits from BOW.

“We figure our role is helping (Western Canadian musicians) break out of their home province,” said Liam Prost, creative content coordinator. “We look for artists that are better than just a local band, but not the international touring phenomenon, yet.”

The mix is multi-genre. Acts across the musical spectrum will be featured, including roots, country, rap, hip-hop, rock and synth. As well, the event will feature separate children’s and jazz showcases. BOW also makes best efforts to equally represent each genre and province or territory, as well as female-led bands and Indigenous artists.

“We have to make sure we’re not just curating ‘the coolest,’” Prost said. “We are trying to curate the artists who are at a specific spot in their careers. We make sure you’re in the right place and best positioned to take advantage.”

“Taking advantage” is being scouted or identified by professionals in the music industry for a variety of different opportunities. Kleinschmit notes there are delegates coming who are coming specifically to see who they want to work with. Artists are coming to scout talent for their next albums and tours. It can sometimes be a challenge to balance that industry focus with the desire to put on a show for the public, but it works.

“How we curate the festival to maintain balance, it’s a scouting festival,” she said. “There is a discovery component, the ‘stumble upon’ effect.”

The festival is owned by the music industry associations (MIAs) in Western Canada. Music Yukon is our local agency, but that doesn’t mean Music Yukon drives the content at the festival. In fact, BOW often drives the direction of talent for Western Canada.

“The artists don’t flow through the MIAs to us, they flow through us to the MIAs,” Kleinschmit said.

“One of our mandates is to build and develop that local capacity. One of the reasons we move it, it would be easier to stay in one place, but when the when the conference comes, it’s a catalyst for the local music scene.”

To that end, 12 Yukon artists will appear at this year’s festival. There is also a mentorship with the Association franco-yukonnaise for emerging francophone bands, a number of Indigenous acts and some local Yukon musicians ready to tour. BOW also provides an opportunity for local tech and sound staff to use their talents and get scouted by larger production companies.

“We have a great selection, a strong selection of Yukon artists,” Prost said.

As part of funding arrangements, BOW will also host two bands on a community tour to five Yukon communities the week before the festival happens. Kleinschmit was “blown away” by the commitment to bringing the BOW experience to multiple communities in the territory. While the conference schedule is full, there will be a few international components according to Prost. There will be some discoveries and learning opportunities on Germany and Latin America. (Latin America is the fastest growing music market, Prost notes.) Delegates will learn how to engage with those jurisdictions.

The festival promises to be an opportunity for Yukoners to catch the up-and-coming talent from across Western Canada, while also providing a doorway for our local musicians to take the next step.

“The measure will be how many Yukon artists will come to BreakOut West next year and years to come,” said Kleinschmit.

For more information on the BOW schedule and tickets to the festival, visit

BreakOut West Community Tour

  • Old Crow – Community Centre, September 23
  • Dawson City – KIAC Ballroom, September 24
  • Faro – Recreation Centre Gym, September 26
  • Carcross – Carcross/Tagish First Nation Learning Centre, September 28
  • Haines Junction – St. Elias Convention Centre, September 30

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