In the groove
Fort Smith record company matures

Michele LeTourneau
Northern News Services

Fort Smith (Feb 28/00) - Picture this: Bill Wade of Fort Smith's Shadowland Records sitting in a listening booth in the south of France with Damon Foreman of Left Side Pocket Publishing (USA), who specializes in dance and hip- hop acts.

"Damon set up the meeting with me ahead of time, he'd been to the MP3 site and listened to a few of our artists," says Wade.

MP3 is a popular music Internet site that allows people to upload and download music. On MP3 you can find the latest hits of the day, as well as unknown musicians.

"He was interested in meeting about Unonymus," adds Wade.

Wade represents Unonymus Inc., the Yellowknife hip-hop duo of Taj Johnson and Aaron Hernandez. The two 19-year-olds are up for a YTV Youth Achievement Award.

"I popped the disc in and went through some of my favourite tracks on it. Eventually the guy told me to stop. What I thought was that this wasn't working for him, 'cause he had such a bizarre look on his face."

Wade quickly realized his assumption was wrong when Foreman exclaimed, "This is phat!"

Nobody knows exactly where the word "phat" comes from, but in the world of popular music and record executives it means "excellent" and "cool."

"He said it was the best thing he'd heard at MIDEM this year," says Wade.

MIDEM is the world's largest international music market, located at the Palais des Festivals in Cannes, France. The event draws about 10,000 music industry people annually.

Participants include indie labels, major labels, publishers, licensers, distributors, producers, agents, managers, festival promoters and concert organizers.

"So we've got to do some serious meeting with those boys (Unonymus Inc). They (industry people) want to see what we'll do with Unonymus Inc. Even if they have a huge level of excitement, they want to see that the band is going to be working, that there's going to be some promotional support behind these guys."

For Wade, the trip to France involved much more than one hip-hop group from Yellowknife.

In fact, he may be considered a veteran of sorts. He attended last year but didn't really know what to expect.

"This year we knew what we were getting into. We were really well-prepared. I would say that between Veronica McNeill, who's working with me, and myself, we were preparing for the last two-and-a-half months."

Preparing, explains Wade, means researching databases, which labels are interested in what, short-listing, sending out bulk e-mails, sending out samples, creating posters, promotional material, and press kits for artists.

"Where they have material ready to go online through MP3, we did that," adds Wade. "So labels could listen to them before we met."

The purpose of all this preparation was to "look like we have our act together."

"I think, if we compare last year, we've made huge headway building relationships, and also trust within the music industry that we're here to stay. That we're professional. So, I had people talking to me that weren't talking to me last year."

Wade offers as an example Canadian distributors.

"Last year, no luck."

This year a representative of Oasis Entertainment, a large Canadian independent working with a major label, expressed interest in working with Shadowland and helping distribute their music throughout Canada.

Wade's major interest at the moment is to help Northern artists become better known and working in Canada.

"I also found this year that I knew how to talk the talk," laughs Wade.

Besides back-to-back meetings with interested parties, Wade says that casual meetings can also bear fruit.

"I shared a taxi with a guy who's an L.A. lawyer. I told him about Unonymus Inc. and he was really excited. He told me to drop over a CD for him. He represents hip hop acts."

Wade flogged his other bands and musicians ceaselessly. Other acts include: Pat Braden, Larry Gray, Kim Kuzak, Paul Carroll, Electric Chair Skeletons, Red Light District and Cathleen Lesperance, all NWT artists.

Only time will tell what connections and rewards will be reaped from the five-day musical extravaganza that took place at the end of January. But if present interest is any indication, we might soon see some Northern music on a few charts.

Look for a review of Fort Smith band Red Light District's new CD in a future edition of News/North.