When the music stops: Edmonton venue sells merch to support local artists during pandemic

An Edmonton venue is selling merchandise of local musicians with all proceeds going to the artist to help make for shows cancelled during the pandemic.

'It really means a lot, especially to local artists, that we're not being forgotten'

Employees of The Common and 99ten deliver albums from Edmonton musicians along with liquor. (Submitted by Clint Frazier)

For two months Edmonton musicians have been unable to perform, but a music venue is trying to soften the financial blow by selling the artists' merchandise.

In early March, Marlaena Moore was planning the release of her new album Pay Attention, Be Amazed and was set to shoot a music video in Los Angeles. She was forced to cancel as COVID-19 took hold on the continent.

"Luckily I didn't fly out at that time. As soon as that decision, everything kind of started snowballing," Moore said.

Dates began falling like dominoes. An album release party set for March 27 at 99ten in downtown Edmonton was cancelled. It was supposed to be her last Edmonton show before the start of a tour across Canada and Europe.

"It's been a little bit heartbreaking as I was really, really looking forward to this year," Moore said. "There was a lot of really cool stuff we had planned.

"I was really planning on putting a hundred per cent of myself into my music career this year and that seems to have dissolved."

Marlaena Moore was set to tour across Canada and Europe to promote her new album Pay Attention, Be Amazed before the pandemic led to it being cancelled. (Submitted by Marlaena Moore)

One of the benefits of playing shows is the chance for artists to sell their own merchandise and getting the majority of the profits of those sales.

Clint Frazier, general manager and talent buyer of 99ten, is a musician himself. He plays drums and synthesizer in the pre-apocalyptic new-wave band Physical Copies and electronic dance-punk group Shout Out Out Out Out.

"I saw how hard the music community was hit by this pandemic, and it got me thinking how can I help?" Frazier said. "Or if there's anything that I can do to help start getting some income back into the pockets of the artists and also back to the venue." 

Last week he kicked off 99ten Bottles of Beer On The Wall, a campaign to sell beer, liquor and merchandise of local musicians, from tapes, CDs and vinyl records to tote bags and clothing. It also features artist-inspired cocktail kits and pairings.

'We moved a lot of local merch'

One hundred per cent of the merchandise sales go to the artist, along with 10 per cent of drink sales.

Deliveries are made in a distinct beige van on Fridays and Saturdays while scheduled curbside pickup is available at the venue on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings.

"The first weekend went great. We did around 100 orders. People were really happy," Frazier said. "We moved a lot of local merch. We're going to keep it going for as long as we can and hopefully just keep selling more."

Frazier hopes the effort can not only keep local artists afloat but also 99ten, so the club can eventually host shows again.

"My big concern is at the end of this are there going to be any venues left? Or are the artists going to be able to perform anymore, because everyone's losing out on so much money," Frazier said.

'A really beautiful thing to be doing'

Moore said she appreciates the effort, as it's a consolation to promote and sell her album while she plays live video streams online in the hope she'll be able to continue her tour plans at some point.

"I think it's a really beautiful thing to be doing. It really means a lot, especially to local artists, that we're not being forgotten, that we're still a big part of the community," she said.

While Stage 1 of Alberta's relaunch plan allows bars to open at 50 per cent capacity, concerts aren't expected to be allowed until Stage 3, which currently has no set date to begin. 

Even if shows are allowed at indoor music venues one day, Frazier said he's uncertain how they would work safely and be enjoyable for the artist and the audience.

"Part of the show is being able to dance, being able to be close to each other in a club and enjoy a concert." Frazier said. "I just can't see plastic cubicles, watching bands like this and having to wear full PPE [personal protective equipment]."


Travis McEwan

Video journalist

Travis McEwan is a video journalist who covers stories ranging from human interest and sports to municipal and provincial issues. Originally from Churchill, Man., Travis has spent the last decade working at CBC Edmonton reporting for web, radio and television. Email story ideas to travis.mcewan@cbc.ca.


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