Indie music, CIMA
Indie music, CIMA

CIMA Turns 40: Indie Music Founders Celebrated

CIMA Chair Shauna de Cartier (Six Shooter Records), Founder Award recipient Bernie Finkelstein, moderator Denise Donlon, and association Vice-Chair Jake Gold (The Management Trust) pose at The Great Hall last night in Toronto. (Photo: DavidLayes.com)


Canada’s independent music industry celebrated its past and looked into the future at a sit-down gala at The Great Hall in Toronto last night.

It was an event that acknowledged 40 years of history, the founding fathers of what today is known as the Canadian Independent Music Association (CIMA), honoured today’s achievers and confined it all to a two-hour presentation that included dinner, drinks, performances, and the handing out of three special achievement awards.

The first independent music industry association of its kind anywhere had its launch in 1975 with Marquis Records’ Earl Rosen as its first executive director, a quiet, detail conscious individual who went on to become the founding executive director of both FACTOR and VideoFACT.

It was transplanted Brit Brian Chater who turned what was then known as the Canadian Independent Record Producers Association into a powerfully lobbying group for the independents when he took over the reins in 1987 and championed the cause of domestic-owned record companies, distributors, recording studios, producers and music publishers through until 2006.

Chater died of cancer in 2013, but his shadow loomed large over the proceedings in The Great Hall last night.

Recognizing those contributions, the first annual Brian Chater Leadership Award was presented to Pegi Cecconi, VP of SRO Anthem—the Toronto-based music entertainment firm formed by Ray Danniels in 1977 to guide the career of Rush. Known for her well rounded knowledge of industry practices and instinctual business savvy, Cecconi’s contributions as a CIMA board member and her participation in other industry associations have won her wide respect as a tough but fair negotiator.

Arts & Crafts president and co-founder Jeff Remedios received the inaugural Entrepreneur Award in recognition of his risk taking and trend setting approach in business. With a roster that includes Dan Mangan, Broken Social Scene and Feist, the company has won 20 Junos in the past decade and established footholds in the lucrative concert business in Mexico, and at home with the (3rd annual) Field Trip festival in Toronto.

A third ‘Unsung Hero Award’ honoured Jack Long, CEO of the 65-store musical instrument chain Long & McQuade that he started in 1957 with one store at the corner of Yonge and Yorkville. Recuperating from recent surgery, son Jeff accepted on his behalf.

Association president Stuart Johnston set up the looking-back component of the 40th annual celebration (see separate story), noting the substantial number of achievements CIMA has  won over the years in promoting the rights and concerns of the indie community, and acknowledging the deep support he has had from his board, his staff, in particular Donna Murphy who has remained a constant over the years as various association presidents have come and gone, and his Board Chair Shauna de Cartier.

CBC Music’s Grant Lawrence proved an effective MC and warmed his audience up early in the game with several quips about his employer, including a line about the pre=gala reception area being “hotter than a call from The Toronto Star,” referencing reporter Kevin Donovan’s recent investigation of Power & Politics host Evan Solomon’s extra-curricula art dealings that got him fired last week. 

Duff Roman as always gave an eloquent speech, talking about his earlier days as an indie record producer and his longstanding relationship and friendship with the late Brian Chater. 

Performances by Tomi Swick, Jason Collett, Ian Thornley and Hawksley Workman earned strong applause. Swick’s energetic acoustic set got things started, Collett’s “Song & Dance Man” cleverly toyed with musicians marketing themselves using social media, and Workman captured the moment with a riveting vocal perfomane of his song, “It Ain’t Broke, Yet.”

Rounding out the evening was an impressive line-up of founders who shared stories about the early days and were prompted by guest moderator Denise Donlon to  outline the challenges they see facing independents in the modern era.

Greg Hambleton from Tuesday Music Productions said that when he ran his label imprint Axe Records there were 10 national record distributors. He wondered about the traction indies today can generate using Internet-based equivalents. 

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Founders: Love Productions’ Frank Davies, Nimbus 9 Productions’ Allan MacMillan and Dr. Music Productions’ Terry Brown pose after receiving their awards last night (photo: DavidLeyes.com)


Love Productions’ Frank Davies recalled the difficulties in an earlier era getting record deals in the US and how the Internet has changed that with its global reach.

Producer Terry Brown (Dr. Music Productions) acknowledged that it wasn’t easy back then and that new challenges face music producers today.

True North Records’ founder Bernie Finkelstein said that in his day it was easy to figure out where the money came from in the business, adding that it wasn’t always that easy to collect. “Today the challenge is how do you get paid” in a market where pennies have replaced dollars, a theme that producer Tommy Graham (ex of The Big Town Boys) played to in noting that in an earlier day musicians starting out could expect to be paid for gigs they played. “We need to nurture our young musicians,” Graham said, adding that they are “the future of CIMA.”

These men, along with an absent Stan Klees, Nimbus 9 Productions’ Allan MacMillan, and the now deceased Jack Richardson, Ben McPeek, Art Snider and Paul Clinch were named as recipients of the 2015 Founders Award.

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