In a CanCon-centric keynote to kick off Canadian Music Week on June 8, Universal Music Canada CEO Jeffrey Remedios, a champion of homegrown music long before he ever started his own label Arts & Crafts in 2003, used some of UMC’s recent successes to highlight a bigger picture: that Canadian artists can have victories globally while signed to a Canadian label — at least signed to UMC.
“I used to say, when I was at Arts & Crafts, 'What's the best thing you could be as a Canadian record company?’ and, flippantly, I used to answer, 'An American record company,'" said Remedios, who joined UMC as head six years ago.
While his 40-minute speech addressed the changes in the industry, the ways in which “we’re all fighting for time in an attention economy,” as well as the crucial focus on equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) — Remedios himself is the son of immigrants and a person of colour — he took time to talk in great detail about Universal Music Canada’s signings to help back up his core points.
Young Filipino-Canadian R&B-pop artist Preston Pablo saw his new song, Flowers Need Rain, quickly jump from 10,000 streams a day to 40,000, and was the No 1 most added song on Canadian radio across all formats in late May.
Nonso Amadi, a Canadian-based Afro-R&B soul singer, songwriter and producer from Lagos, Nigeria, has millions of streams for his latest single, Different, featuring Majid Jordan.
Female singer Rêve has generated over 41 million streams with several releases, including Still Dancing, “CRTL + ALT + DEL, and Headphones (with Banx & Ranx), and her new one, Tongue, drops June 24.
And Valley’s catalogue is closing in on 500 million global streams; their latest release is Like 1999 and charted in the United States, Philippines, Korea and Japan.
“The common thread here for Preston, for Nonso, for Rêve, and for Valley is that home team advantage,” said Remedios. “This country is home to some of the most talented artists in the world, but it needs to, can be, and is also home to some of the most talented label executives, managers, lawyers, agents, marketers, curators, programmers, and more.
“Now. it goes without saying, we love collaborating with partners from all over the world, but we are in the habit as an industry of looking south for success, to solve our problems or to feel like we've made it. What does it mean to be Canadian and answering ‘Not American’ is not good enough.’”
Remedios talked about the various teams, including label partners in other territories, and management for each artist, and mentioned other UMC signings or associated artists, but the crux was the same: we can do it from here, and leaving Canada to set up shop in the U.S. “risks eroding a little piece of our foundation.”