Members of the Canadian music industry virtually saw each Oct. 2) for Music Managers Forum (MMF) Canada’s 14th normally annual Honour Roll to fete three sets of industry partners, Piers Henwood and Nick Blasko; Gary Slaight and Derrick Ross; and Jessie Reyez, Mauricio Ruiz and Byron Wilson “for their outstanding achievements and contributions to Canada’s music management industry.”
Usually an intimate sold-out sit-down dinner for about 150 industry veterans at Toronto’s high-end Bymark restaurant — last held in person in 2019 for Sandy Pandya, Ron Sakamoto, Chris Taylor, Ashley Poitevin and Sarah Osgoode — this Honour Roll was free to register and held on the interactive “table-hopping” meet-up platform Remo. Dress code was “Covid Black Tie i.e. wear whatever the heck you want - from sweatpants to sequins, pyjamas to tuxes.”
Networking before and after the opening remarks and video tributes took up most of the two-hour event, which ended at 6 p.m. Video tributes were shown for all the honourees, which can be viewed below.
At one of the chat tables, MMF Canada executive director Amie Therrien told FYI Music News that the organization had wanted to find a way to open up the event nationally, and they would likely continue to have this component in the future. She said there were about 70 registrants, including MMF members, friends and family of the honourees, and indie musicians.
To introduce the video tributes, Therrien said, “Our Honour Roll was created to shine a light on the contributions of our management community and the crucial role they play in creating a thriving Canadian music industry.”
Slaight, Ruiz, Wilson and Reyez didn’t attend the online festivities, but Ross, Henwood and Blasko did. Here is just a snippet of what the three said in their respective acceptance speeches, and a synopsis provided by MMF on The Banner Year Award.
HONOUR ROLL AWARD: Recognizes outstanding achievements and excellence in Canadian and international artist management.
PIERS HENWOOD & NICK BLASKO || AMELIA ARTISTS
Henwood and Blasko met in the 90s when they were both playing in bands. Henwood recalls being impressed by Blasko, who had a “beautiful long red ponytail” at the time and carried a guitar in one hand and “big intimidating briefcase in the other,” thinking to himself, “Man, this guy really means business.”
The pair went on to manage Tegan and Sara for close to 18 years in addition to past and present clients Bedouin Soundclash, Buck 65, Luca Fogale, The Librarian, The Funk Hunters, Astrocolor, Jets Overhead, Flash Lightnin', Gold & Youth, Luluc, and Fintan.
“I'd like to say that managers, their work is rarely acknowledged, let alone given awards,” said Blasko, adding that the moment is “special, nostalgic, a lot of emotions come up,” and “it's a big honour.”
Said Henwood, when it was his time to speak, “I must admit when we first got the news, I had a bit of a sort of Wayne's World we're not worthy moment, but got over that. And as Nick said, managers rarely get honoured, so it's truly a big moment for us. And thank you so much to all of our colleagues, past and present, clients past and present. We wouldn't be here with our first two clients, Tegan and Sara, and Buck 65 so a huge thanks to them.”
After thanking the rest of his office team, he concluded: “In thinking about this, I actually finally came up with a great idea for that briefcase to bring it all full-circle, which is, now that we're in a new era of the blockchain, why don't we take a picture of that briefcase and mint it as an NFT and you and I can retire happily ever after it's the new world?”
“I love that idea,” said Blasko, offering us a glimpse of how the two likely worked together these two decades.
THE BRIAN CHATER PIONEER AWARD: Bestowed upon individuals who have been instrumental in creating the framework for music management in the Canadian entertainment industry.
SLAIGHT MUSIC – GARY SLAIGHT & DERRICK ROSS
Slaight Music’s mandate is to support the Canadian music community through various initiatives and to develop Canadian talent via strategic partnerships with industry peers.
In his speech, Ross said he and Slaight both knew Chater quite well. “I consider him not only a pioneer, but a builder of the industry. So it's great to be on the list with other people who have received that award.” He also added that he had given Reyez her first award, SOCAN’s Slaight Music Emerging Artist Award, in 2016, before her “Figures” was released.
“Most of this wouldn't, of course, started to happen without my partner in crime. I call him Santa Claus, Gary Slaight, and, as most of you guys know, and everybody knows, Gary is a huge supporter of the Canadian arts and, more importantly, the Canadian music industry.
“And when we think about being pioneers or builders, what we're basically trying to do is help lift Canadian artists and the businesses and the organizations that support Canadian artists in this country to a higher level, whether that's investment — as you see from a lot of our artists, we're really into developing young artists before they get discovered, and hopefully some of them get discovered, like we've had with Washboard [Union] and Notifi and what have you, but it's really great to be involved with a person like Gary, who just keeps on wanting to help and investing in what's happening in this country, musically.
“And to the managers that are doing great jobs, taking artists around the world, companies that are also supporting those artists in different ways and organizations like Polaris and the Junos and Ontario Country Music Awards, CCMAs, promoting Canadian talent and success around the world and globally.”
THE BANNER YEAR AWARD (SPONSORED BY SOCAN FOUNDATION): Created to recognize the success of an artist and their manager(s) for an exceptional year.
JESSIE REYEZ, MAURICIO RUIZ, BYRON WILSON
Jessie Reyez is a Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter and rising global superstar with an ever-growing number of accolades. Mauricio Ruiz began working with Reyez while mentoring youth at The Remix Project in Toronto. The duo began to develop her first songs and, soon after, Ruiz joined forces with Byron Wilson and the group entered into a management deal. Ruiz and Byron have been guiding Reyez’s career to international proportions ever since, helping her to be become one of Canada’s most notable emerging artists.