The fact that a notable It’s Your Shot winner has received their big shot is music to the ears of Derrick Ross.
FYIMusicNews can exclusively reveal that 2018 contest winners Moscow Apartment signed a US deal with Nashville-based Hazel Street Records last week.
The Toronto duo of Brighid Fry and Pascale Padilla, who won the It’s Your Shot $100,000 grand prize when they were still attending the city’s Rosedale Heights School of the Arts, are the third signing to Hazel Street, founded by KALEO and Z.Z. Ward manager Bruce Kalmick. A joint venture with Sony Music’s The Orchard, which acts as the label’s global distributor, Moscow Apartment's Hazel Street signing fulfills a mandate that Slaight Music has consistently targeted when it first established It's Your Shot eight years ago.
"The whole impetus is to try and start an artist’s career,” says Derrick Ross, president of Slaight Music.
“The hope is to get some American interest or global release interest where the artist is not only successful in Canada, but around the world. For those who are doing it themselves already, it’s to take them to another level, with the hopes that someone like a Moscow Apartment gets signed to a US deal where someone else takes over the creative side and we’d basically get an override on their career after that.”
With a looming deadline of July 31, Slaight Music is looking for the next It’s Your Shot winner to join the ranks of currently developing artists Notifi, Kayla Diamond, Sam Drysdale, and others.
This year's Grand Prize is just as impressive as other years: a recording of six original songs with an established Canadian producer; a multiplatform digital EP release distributed by Slaight Music; press, promotion, marketing and sales support of said EP and any released singles in partnership with Hidden Pony; a professional photo shoot, artist biography and two music videos; development of the artist brand that includes a website and social media platforms, live performance opportunities in 2021 and beyond, and $2500 cash.
While the overall prize value hasn’t shifted, Ross says the approach to helping artists get their footing is continually being readjusted.
“Trying to get traction is tough,” Ross admits. “There are 36 points of entry you have to be concerned with before you develop an artist. Before, it was MuchMusic, TV, radio, print: now you’ve got Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok – all kinds of things. What are you going to use to reach an audience that only has 30 seconds to discover where they like something or not?
“Today, we focus more on content and digital strategy. It’s tougher to get on radio and you really have to build up a story to do that. It’s marketing an artist in a different way, so we’ve been changing the focus of what you may get as a winner as we go through it.”
Here’s the beauty of It’s Your Shot: there is no deadline when it comes to development.
“There’s no pressure, and there's no set time,” says Ali Slaight, Manager, Artist Development and Music Repertoire, who personally sifts through the estimated 500 to 800 entries to whittle the contenders down to the Top 25.
"We’ve been involved with people for a couple of years before we released anything because we want to make sure it’s right. Once you go, that’s your only first impression.”
Slaight says the artist will be assessed at whatever stage their career development is at, and advice and guidance will be doled out accordingly.
“A lot of people who win are at different stages of their development," she explains. "For example, Notifi, who won a couple of years ago – we don’t have to tell him or give him feedback, he just knows himself so much. Everything he gives to us is just great. There are others who need more guidance.”
Slaight insists that the bigger value of It's Your Shot is the team that the victor will inherit..
‘They’re not just going to be getting money – they’ll be getting this whole stable of people,” she states. “Seeing the spark and the excitement take hold – and hearing their music progress naturally where it gets better and better.”
And then comes the moment which Slaight says is one of the most rewarding aspects of her gig: when artists finally discover their true sound.
“Once it clicks, you can see it in their eyes...'Oh man, I think I found it!' And then the ball starts rolling."
There’s another reason It’s Your Shot separates itself from the rest of the pack: it often serves as a scouting system for those who may not win the whole enchilada but show some potential.
“We’re always looking for artists – Jessica Mitchell, who recently co-wrote The Chase for Céline Dion and Workin’ On Whiskey for Trisha Yearwood - came out of It’s Your Shot, as did country artist Ryan Langdon,” Ross admits.
“Both didn’t win, but we found them through the application process, loved them and thought, ‘we’re going to help them anyway.’
“It’s a good way to find artists who are undeveloped or are developing who need some support – and that’s really the gist of the whole contest.”
With ties to Canada’s Music Incubator – which Ross describes as “a music business 101,” and the Allan Slaight Master Class, which, during non-pandemic times, includes live performance coaching, a primer on music publishing and meetings with executives at Spotify, Apple Music and the CBC to name a few – It’s Your Shot is designed to elevate the game for the winners.
“At the end of the day, you need two things: really find a team that’s going to help develop and then you need the financing to make sure you’re going to really develop the right stuff,” Ross explains. “This is the template: we’re going to make sure we work with you and make sure that the money we’re spending is going to be done properly.”
As the contest prepares to announce its next winner in October, the principals behind Moscow Apartment have certainly appreciated Slaight Music's efforts. They say the contest allowed them to focus on their artistry.
"Just having Slaight in our corner and knowing that they believed in us was very validating," said Brighid Fry. "But then they also just helped introduce us to so many amazing people. I think we do owe a lot to Slaight, being in our corner and helping us out."
Adds Pascale Padilla: “They sent us off to Nashville and paid for voice lessons.. They helped us fund our EP Better Daughter, which was just released on vinyl. If it wasn’t for them, we’d probably still be in the grant writing process, so it’s enabled us to move faster.”
Fry says what's been truly invaluable is that Moscow Apartment has been allowed to develop at its own pace.
"It’s allowed us to grow and develop without a certain sense of pressure," she notes. "It has all the workings of a record deal but it’s not really a record deal. They obviously want you to succeed and sell, but they’re really just there to help you develop as an artist, and I think that’s been the big thing, We’re so different than we were when we won It’s Your Shot."