Music Yukon wears many hats

He’s a promoter and an agent and a business consultant and an office manager and an investment broker.

“Bag Man,” Mark Smith corrects that last one. “Really, I am just a Bag Man.”

Smith’s business card actually labels him as the executive director of MusicYukon, an organization that helps recording artists with the business end of their developing careers.

And, as the executive director, it is his job to write proposals for funding.

Grant Simpson, MusicYukon’s project/resource manager, is the one who works with recording artists to turn that music into money.

That is something that requires a business consultant: “Making a CD is only 30 percent of the business venture,” says Smith. “You have 2,000 CDs in your basement … how do you get 10 of them to the Virgin store in Toronto?”

Perhaps the answer is to go digital. “Things are rapidly turning digital and that is nothing but beneficial for the artist because it lowers the distribution costs and usually comes with a 90-10 split for the artist.

But, before anyone is willing to deal with an artist, Smith and Simpson need to be promoters.

At any one time from Tuesday to Saturday, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., members can be found sitting at a computer as they build a website for themselves.

At the other computer, someone else might be submitting a posting to SonicBids, a company from Boston that maintains a registry for radio stations, night clubs and festivals.

There could also be others in the office who are working the phones and using the photocopier to set up a tour.

Steve Slade set up 47 gigs from this office,” Smith says proudly.

It’s a good deal for the members since it only costs $20 a year for those over 19 and $5 for those younger.

Besides the funky office – hardwood floors and big windows in a heritage warehouse renovated from the inside – members benefit from Simpson’s years of experience in the music business.

He tries to maintain regular hours, but Smith says he often takes appointments at other times, too.

“We are so busy I’m trying to find money to hire another person,” says Smith. “We are a victim of our own success.”

MusicYukon opened its doors to the resource centre last September with a promise of three years of funding from Economic Development’s Strategic Industries program.

Although the Tourism and

Culture Department has a hand in its funding, Smith is happy to be considered more of an industry by the government because, really, it is.

“Sound recordings — cultural industries — are not about the art, it’s about the product.

“We are making widgets for the ear.”

The music business is tough

to break into for a Yukoner because of the distances to major markets, but Smith hopes the help MusicYukon can offer makes it an even playing field.

A performer in Vancouver or Toronto can be discovered in a club, but, at least Yukon performers have the lure of “The Yukon”.

At industry trade events, Smith says his booth gets more visits than any of the lone performers and it is that “collective clout” of the Yukon’s name.

Then the contact is followed up with a sample CD of Yukon music, produced by MusicYukon.

And, this year, the cover of the sampler has a photo that was contributed by the Department of Tourism and Culture.

It’s a tie-in that proves that “Bag Men”, like Smith, don’t just collect cash.

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