Five Questions With… Collective Music Nation's Tim Fray

The recently launched Collective Music Nation (CMN) is a national non-profit organization aiming to unify, amplify and advocate for the needs of the Canadian Urban (culturally/historically Black) music community. Through resource sharing, community and network building, artist and professional development, and platforms and events that recognize excellence, CMN seeks to strengthen and promote culturally Black musical genres, industries, and artists that have been historically underserved and underrepresented in the Canadian environment.

CMN’s president is Tim Fray whose career as an artist and producer dates back to the mid-1980s. In conjunction with CMN, he has developed the SIX Element Music Group, a consulting and mentoring program aimed at helping artists become world-class performers, and through his Fray Family Foundation he’s spearheaded the Backpack Love Program that provides kids in need with the full range of back-to-school supplies.

The Fray Foundation is also a partner in CMN’s Music Development Fund that will give worthy applicants financial assistance with demos, tour support, marketing and other expenses. All of this will be available to those choosing to become a CMN member, with the overarching goal being individual CMN chapters across Canada operating under the parent office in Toronto.

We spoke with Tim Fray about his bold vision for CMN, and how it could potentially reshape the Canadian music industry’s power structure. For more information go to collectivemusicnation.com.

What inspired you to launch Collective Music Nation, and how are things progressing so far?

In 1984, there were five close-knit siblings between the ages of 14 and 19. They were raised to think of others first. This was my family. Our love for music started at church and extended into our adult lives. Since the mid-1980s, the Fray family has been involved with the music community not just in Canada but around the world. My siblings and I not only became successful musicians, we’ve always tried to give back to our community as we were taught growing up.

My brother Jeremy and his wife gave up their home and belongings to spend a year on the streets of Toronto advocating for the homeless. My sister Margaret Fray-Smith chose to open up her home to countless impoverished, underprivileged youth who were thrown into a government system that did not look out for their best interests. She also adopted some of the kids to make sure they would all stay together as siblings and not be spread out in different homes around the province.

My brother Cameron started multiple youth choirs to get them off the streets. He was an advocate for fatherless kids and the need to have fathers be with their children.

Sadly, Jeremy passed away in 2008, Cameron in 2017, and Margaret in 2019. Obviously, this affected me deeply and my first response was to start The SIX Element Music Group, a program within our Fray Family Foundation. This was my way of helping artists around me in the city of Toronto. I was then approached by the Urban Music Association of Canada to join with the rebuilding of their organization. I thought that this was a great opportunity to expand what I was doing in Toronto to all of Canada. Unfortunately, UMAC’s objectives were not in line with mine and in March, just before the Covid-19 stay at home hit Canada, Collective Music Nation was created.

Ron Brandt was a huge component in bringing this together with myself and Nigel Bipatnath. We have three Executive Board Members, and 13 on our Ambassador Advisory Board. In conjunction with the Fray Family Foundation, we’ve worked hard developing our CMN and on July 1 we officially launched our membership drive campaign.

What are your main goals for CMN?

The goals essentially fall into three categories. The first is Community and Network Building, which will include a virtual resource centre and database, access to professional and social supports including a pension plan, and a musicians’ job bank.

The second goal is Recognition and Advocacy. We want to recognize artistic excellence in culturally Black music genres and advocate for the needs of the Urban music industry through media campaigns and government lobbying efforts. We’ll also be holding regular workshops and summits addressing all aspects of the Canadian Urban music community.

The third goal is to provide artist development through the SIX Elements training program and the CMN Music Development Fund.

The Music Development Fund is definitely a great incentive for people to become CMN members. What sorts of artists would you suggest apply?

We are looking mainly for artists from all over Canada who are from underserved Urban music genres, which encompasses gospel, reggae, R&B, hip-hop, jazz, soul, Dancehall, Soca, and more.

On a personal level, are you encouraged that the Canadian music industry is embracing more diversity?

As an artist myself since 1986, I understand the struggles that the urban community has with being widely recognized within the mainstream music industry. It’s a talking point that has been heard for most of my life. Am I encouraged? Yes, but I’ve always had hope that things will change. Still, words are just words, and tangible action within the Canadian music industry as a whole needs to be seen and done on a constant basis for true change to happen.

Obviously, doing all of this in the middle of the pandemic is challenging. What are some of the things you hope to achieve once things hopefully get back to normal?

Once we are hopefully back to normal, we are planning to travel across Canada to meet with other like-minded organizations to offer our resources and see where CMN can help with their objectives in their own communities. There is interest in establishing CMN chapters throughout Canada, so we will be meeting with all the possible applicants.

We are planning the first CMN Music Week for September 2021, and the CMN Live Awards show to cap off the end of that music week. Workshops and showcases will be set up and announced across Canada. These are a few things that CMN is working on for when we are able to get back out there face to face across the nation and show that Collective Music Nation stands for One Voice, Strength in Unity.

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