Ladysmith woman develops new course for the working musician

Arbutus Music is bringing the first Professional Musician Self-Management Program to Vancouver Island, starting this week.

What does a working musician look like in the music industry today?

We all know the old model can no longer sustain itself, but no one has really nailed down what the “new” model looks like. Until now.

Arbutus Music in Nanaimo is bringing the first Professional Musician Self-Management Program to Vancouver Island, starting this week.

“There are two ways to enter the music industry,” says school administrator and Self-Management instructor Cathleen McMahon of Ladysmith. “One is to get a schtick and pray that the stars align for you to get that one-per-cent chance at glory. The other is to become a working musician.”

It is a well-known fact that there are more than 100,000 people in Canada trying to make a living in the music industry. The reality is that only one per cent — or 1,000 people — is actually successful.

With the money generated by music quickly subsiding, the goal turns to becoming sustainable as a working musician.

Take the examples of Craig Cardiff from Ontario and Vancouver Island’s own Ryan McMahon of Ladysmith and Wil Mimnaugh of Qualicum Beach. All three of these working musicians have discovered how to narrow down and focus all of their attention on the audience that is truly supporting them and their music.

“Craig Cardiff has a unique way of looking at generating his sustainable income,” explains Cathleen. “He changes the way we look at being successful as a musician, and his model can work for thousands.”

Support for music today comes from a number of different sources. People, businesses and communities who pride themselves on being “patrons of the arts” are where these three artists find the support they need to feed their families and support their art form.

Ryan McMahon’s last album wouldn’t have been possible without the investment support of ENH Cabinets in Abbotsford and the owner of Arbutus Music. Both companies have taken an interest in the Vancouver Island Artist of the Year’s music and hope to see it keep being recorded and performed.

The Professional Musician Self-Management Program at Arbutus Music covers everything from the basics of copyright, registering songs with SOCAN, finding funding through government agencies and grant or loan programs like FACTOR (The Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent on Recording) to booking, touring and building relationships with proper use of business communication skills.

“There are small things that can make a huge difference in how your music is received,” explains Cathleen. “Something as simple as forgetting to put a catalogue number or a spine on your CD can mean that it doesn’t ever see the catalogue department of radio stations across the country. If it doesn’t have a spine and a number, they can’t find it on the shelf. You may send your music out to stations and then wonder why it never gets played. It could be something that simple.”

Cathleen worked in the music industry in Vancouver for more than 15 years as a personal business manager for bands and solo artists ranging from Nickelback to Jeremy Fisher. In 2007, she founded a boutique marketing and management firm, Mission Management Group, and signed Ryan McMahon as her flagship artist.

After moving to Ladysmith in December 2008, Cathleen continued to work in Vancouver at the Nimbus School of Recording Arts, teaching the Music Business Program. In 2011, Arbutus Music owner Richard Leighton invited Cathleen to administrate the Arbutus Music School and teach a Music Business Course.

Cathleen developed a 16-week Professional Musician Self-Management Program to give the tools of success directly to artists to enable more instrumentalists and performers to be successful “working musicians.”

The course starts this Thursday (Sept. 13) from 6-9 p.m. and includes a three-hour Career Spotlight session with Craig Cardiff on Nov. 18. For more information, click here.

— Submitted