SLAIGHT MUSIC’s annual CMW luncheon was an event to be invited to on Saturday at the event hotel, mixing great music with networking opportunities and a couple of newsworthy announcements that further emphasize Gary Slaight and the Slaight family’s strong and ongoing commitment to Canadian artists and the Canadian music industry.
The Slaight Music artist development component is both an incubator for and an investor in Canadian artists who have yet to launch on the main stage at home and abroad. With over 20 affiliated artists now on the Slaight Music roster, the boutique major co-ventures with leading brand music companies to release, market and promote artists in the stable.
Saturday’s event attracted leading broadcasters — such as Rob Farina, music agents including Richard Mills and key record label executives such as Universal topper Randy Lennox, RKG’s Ron Kitchener and Jeff Remedios from Arts & Crafts — for a luncheon that included showcases by Theo, Jessica Mitchell, Tomi Swick, and Jillea, who all played on the big stage with a band of all-star sidemen brought in for the event (with Jillea confidently performing alongside only an engaging drummer who simultaneously managed backing tracks). With brilliant audio and visual production elements, the showcase opportunity was a lift-off for a cluster of artists in front of a captive and influential audience.
Slaight Music is more than an artist incubator, however; Gary and his father Allan remain strongly committed to helping foster opportunities for emerging artists, and providing infrastructure for them within the Canadian music industry. Juno Awards’ President and CEO Allan Reid announced the all-new Allan Slaight Juno Master Class at the event. With more details to come, the partnership will provide scholarships to mentor artists not at the Juno nomination level to become a party of the annual Canadian music awards show, and create a bridge between those artists and the industry association. As Reid summed up, the new Slaight initiative will fund music education and development and help to increase the communication and loyalties between developing acts and the Juno Awards itself.
Also on the stage was Polaris Music Prize founder and chief executive Steve Jordan who personally thanked the Slaights and Gary in particular for being a supporter on all levels since the creation of the best Canadian album music prize. In the past the Slaight family has fully underwritten the $30,000 1st place winner prize, and the short-list prizes of $2,000. Effective this year, the overall winning purse increases $20,000, to $50,000, and the Short List purses by $1,000 to $3,000.
Polaris’s Jordan also announced The Slaight Family Polaris Heritage Prize, a new award that will annually honour five albums from the five decades before Polaris launched in 2006. Further details about the dates and selection process of this new prize will be revealed in the coming months.
“We’re ecstatic that Gary and Derrick (Ross, music division president) from Slaight Music have stepped up to help us celebrate our tenth year in a huge way,“ Jordan stated from the podium. "Although it’s impossible to put a dollar figure on great art, this increase bring us more in line with other major arts awards like the Scotiabank Giller Prize. And while this money is hugely generous, we are as excited to extend the Polaris conversation to the rich legacy of classic records from Canadian history. We get to officially pose a long time informal argument; what would be nominated for Polaris before it existed?”
“We’ve been proud supporters of the Polaris Prize for many years and wanted to celebrate their 10 years by awarding more funds to the winners and nominees,” said Gary Slaight. “In addition, we wanted to make a more lasting contribution. Launching the Slaight Family Polaris Heritage Prize is the perfect way for our family to show its appreciation for the greats of Canadian music through the respected Polaris filter.”
And if all that wasn’t more than enough, company founder and CEO Gary Slaight announced that the Unison fundraising benefit earlier in the week at the Phoenix had raised $15,000 at the gate, and that Bryan Adams had pledged a five-figure donation to the support program for musicians and music industry participants in need. The Slaight family have already contributed $250,000 to the fund to help seed its launch. Music Canada was also a contributor in the same amount.