How to make it happen at the ECMA's

One of the most important moves for a young band at the ECMA's is to make yourself visible. You can't sit back and wait for an invitation. Even if you don't have a manager or someone working for you, you can make it happen pretty easily. It doesn't have to be an official showcase. Those are earner via competition and judging by the ECMA selection committees, and don't necessarily guarantee an audience either. I've seen some of the top bands in the country play to a handful of people, because they were on last on a Thursday when there was a snowstorm outside. But bands can make it happen by doing some smart legwork.

Posters. Nothing works better than posters. Get a great-looking poster, put it everywhere, even if people don't go to your gigs, they'll remember your name.

Get a show. Local bars are always looking. Do this months in advance. Or, check with your provincial music industry association. MNB does its own showcases each year, and needs a couple of dozen bands to fill all the slots. This guarantees you a pretty good crowd, if not fabulous, and free promotion.

Got an album? Bring it. Hand it out. Or a download card. Something, and don't be cheap about it. Believe me, industry people are going to buy them at your merch table. If somebody in the music world likes you enough to talk to you, had them your new CD. They'll like you more.

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I just got back from the Radio ECMA stage, where the afternoon was devoted to Francophone artists First up was a new singer-songwriter from Dieppe, Caroline Savoie. This is a young woman, 18 years old, but I had to be told that, she is already polished and pro, and writing excellent new songs, judging by what I heard. She's doing it right, she saw a stage that was looking for performers, that offers the constant crowd walking through the main hotel lobby, plus listeners at home. Then there are those industry folks, or maybe a (ahem) reviewer just passing by. And she came armed with her brand-new CD, that's being launched next Tuesday in Moncton. I'm already impressed, and that's how you make the ECMA's happen for you.

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Another relative newcomer to the seen is Fredericton's versatile rock band, Tonella. With a new E.P. in hand, called Compromise, the four-piece are hitting the stage tonight (Friday) at Pogue Fado, where Music New Brunswick has set up. Lots of buzz has been building with the group, and the disc show why. Fronted by singer/songwriter/keyboard player Tonella Roy, this is a group that moves back and forth from big ballad style to harder guitar rock, with Roy's strong voice a big part of the show. She's the kind of singer who gets right up front in a song, with lots of drama. And there's plenty of volume from the band, layers of guitars that give way to delicate piano parts, lots of drums, a real rock band. It's a solid five-track disc, and this is the kind of group that could pick up some significant interest from bookers and agencies who haven't seen them yet. And that's how you play the ECMA game to your advantage.

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About Bob Mersereau

Rockin' BobBob Mersereau has been covering music, and the East Coast Music Scene since 1985 for CBC. He's a veteran scene-maker at the ECMA's, knows where the best shows and right parties are happening, and more importantly, has survived to tell the tales. His weekly East Coast music column is heard on Shift on Radio 1 in New Brunswick each Wednesday at 4'45. He's also the author of two national best-selling books, The Top 100 Canadian Albums (2007) and The Top 100 Canadian Singles (2010).

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