Earlier this week, Anna Wintour, chief content officer of media company Condé Nast, announced that Pitchfork will become a vertical at men’s magazine GQ and will undergo restructuring and layoffs. Many Pitchfork employees were laid off, including features editor Jillian Mapes, longtime employee and executive editor Amy Phillips and current editor-in-chief Puja Patel, according to Wintour’s memo to staff.
“Without Pitchfork, there will be fewer avenues for Canadian artists to reach a broad American audience,” says Polaris Prize-winning musician Cadence Weapon — real name Rollie Pemberton — who received coverage from the site early in his career and began writing reviews for it as a teenager.
“When Broken Social Scene and Arcade Fire got boosted by the Pitchfork Effect in 2003 and 2004, it gave independent Canadian musicians hope,” Pemberton tells Billboard Canada. “Back then, anything that wasn’t on a major label was largely ignored by our own country.”
“Getting a thoughtful and favourable Pitchfork review for The Shape of Your Name in 2019 cracked open the door for me into the U.S., which ultimately led to American labels and my agents coming on board,” says Canadian singer-songwriter Charlotte Cornfield. “I think that ultimately the changes at Pitchfork will create another barrier [to] entry for Canadian musicians when it comes to growing their careers outside of Canada.”
The concerns extend beyond Pitchfork. Many artists, writers and music industry members see the layoffs as part of broader trends in the music and media industries.
Andrew McLeod, who releases music as Sunnsetter and performs in Zoon and Ombiigizi, argues that the only obvious way to make new fans is to go viral.
“In the phase of the internet that we’re currently living through, it’s much harder to create new mechanisms of any significant size that exist outside of the structures of these massively capitalized platforms like Spotify, Meta, TikTok,” he explains. Major labels have the resources to mount massive social media campaigns, but for independent artists, it’s challenging to break through.
Read more about the impact of the loss of music media here. – Rosie Long Decter
Boots and Hearts Producer Launches Management Arm, RLive
Republic Live, producers of the annual multi-day Boots and Hearts country music festival north of Toronto, has launched a management division called RLive. Newly appointed Alberta native Casadie Pederson has been named as director of artist management and development.
RLive will be based in Nashville, where Pederson will work alongside Republic Live’s festival booker Brooke Dunford. The Republic Live Canadian office has also added Hannah Buske in Toronto. She will support Dunford in future festival bookings and support management and marketing initiatives.
RLive is a natural extension of the festival’s opening night emerging artist showcase. In an earlier interview, Dunford stated that promoting Canadian talent at Boots and Hearts Music Festival — which annually attracts 40,000 a night and offers on-site camping, carnival rides, food trucks and other amenities — has always been one of its chief mandates.
The first signing for RLive is Tyler Joe Miller, a Surrey, B.C. singer-songwriter who has scored seven top 10 Canadian country hits since launching himself in 2019 with two back-to-back No. 1 hits – “Pillow Talkin” and “I Would Be Over Me Too.” Miller joins fellow CanCountry stars Shawn Austin and Andrew Hyatt on a 20-city, west-to-east Country MixTape Tour of casinos, theatres and concert venues that opens in April.
Republic Live is a privately held Canadian company formed by the Dunford family that owns the 585-acre Burl’s Creek Event Grounds north of Toronto, where Boots and Hearts is staged annually.
Canadian venture capitalist Stan Dunford and Nashville-based live music promoter Nick Kulb were early backers of what has become one of the largest multi-day festivals in North America. – David Farrell
Chantal Kreviazuk Sells Song Catalogue to Anthem Entertainment
After decades as a Sony/ATV Music Publishing Canada songwriter, Winnipeg-born singer Chantal Kreviazuk announced that her song catalogue has been acquired by Anthem Entertainment.
It’s a major acquisition. In addition to CanCon hits of her own like “Before You,” “Boot,” “In This Life,” “Time,” “Weight Of The World” and “Get To You,” she’s also written songs by artists like Drake, Avril Lavigne, Shakira and Carrie Underwood. Her catalogue includes diverse hits like “Feel This Moment” by Pitbull and Christina Aguilera, and “Rich Girl” by Gwen Stefani.
Kreviazuk has won three Juno Awards and was awarded the Order of Canada in 2014, along with her husband, Raine Maida of Our Lady Peace, for their efforts to raise awareness and support for human and animal rights, mental health, education and the environment.
As for Anthem Entertainment, the Toronto-based company has made a major move into acquiring more publishing catalogues over recent months, including rising country singer Jordan Davis and some of Timberland’s catalogue, including cuts with Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z.
Last year, the independent company made some major executive moves, instating Jason Klein as the new permanent CEO. – David Farrell & Richard Trapunski