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How to advance your music career with the CAN-AM Connection : Theo Ellis



Conference\festival season is upon us. Each one presents its own opportunities and each one brings its own set of challenges. Over the years I have heard many people scoff at attending conferences. Most of that comes from an opinion they formed in their head without ever actually attending a conference. This is unfortunate because attending the right conference can truly change your life.


Every year hundreds, perhaps even thousands of Metro Detroit Area musicians take a 1300 mile trek to ascend upon Austin, Texas in March. This mecca of sorts for the music, tech, and film industries is called South by Southwest or simply “South by” for those in the know. For those who aren’t in the know, SXSW is a conference and festival that is by many considered to be THE conference to be at. It’s one of the largest and longest conferences spanning a total of 3 weeks in March. YES THREE WEEKS! It’s filled with “movers and shakers”, executives, and of course artists. Essentially all of the people you want and NEED to meet in order to advance your music career.

So every March people from all over the world flock to Austin in March with hopes and dreams of moving their music careers forward. The ones who don’t go, wish they could go but for one reason or another they choose not to go. For some it is simply too far of a journey, others believe conferences are a waste of time, and for some it’s simply a matter of economic factors. This annual pilgrimage is considered a rite of passage by many, and to some it is official acknowledgment that you as an artist are taking steps to move your career forward.


Still others on this path to career advancement take an even further journey in April to the City of Angels to attend the ASCAP Expo. That’s almost 5000 Miles round trip! Still others will even attend BOTH, and why not? The more people you meet in this industry the better. Or is it? I for one attend anywhere from 3-5 conferences per year all across the globe. Which ones you attend are totally your prerogative, however there are a few key factors I recommend considering before attending any conference. They are Price, Location, and Return on Investment.


Of all the conferences to choose from, there are several I attend every year and look forward to each year. Each one for different reasons. But there two I look forward to more than any other one based upon the aforementioned factors of Price, Location, and R.O.I.


They are Canadian Music Week in May and Northern Power Summit in August. Both are only 3 hrs from Detroit in Drake’s beloved “Six”.


What makes these 2 at the top of my list? What about Sxsw? Midem? A3C? ASCAP Expo?

We will get to that, but to answer that question let’s look at why people attend conferences in the first place.


There are 3 main reasons people attend conferences.

  1. Networking
  2. Education aka attend panels
  3. Showcase (watch or perform)


Let’s look at each as it relates to each conference.


Canadian Music Week

Each year CMW is held at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Toronto. It’s a great location and the layout makes it easy to navigate from one area to the next. The networking at CMW is hands down one of my favorite; and probably easiest places to meet or simply bump into people.

Music is an international commodity. To maximize your return on investment you have to be thinking globally. CMW makes this very easy. They focus on a spotlight country each year. This means each year there are attendees from the spotlight country. Are you looking to play a festival in Italy. The person you want to meet is at CMW and waiting to meet you. After all they came to do business in the North American market! You can also sign up for B2B one on one meetings, mentor sessions, and much more! I highly recommend it. It truly is WHERE BUSINESS GETS DONE!


This year the spotlight country was South Africa. I met so many amazing people from South Africa who I now have a connection with and am working on business dealings with that would not have happened had I not gone to CMW this year.


So for networking CMW scores a 10! Now let’s look at the panels…


CMW always seems to do a great job finding speakers who are not only relevant but cool!

They have had Spike Lee, Andre Harrell, Ghazi, and Jermaine Dupri to name a few. These are people you WANT to learn from! Each of them successes in their own right.

This year the Producers Panel featuring Jermaine Dupri and Sylvia Massy was standing room only. Everyone from up and coming artists to some of the top music industry executives were in attendance. Last year there was an excellent panel on blockchain technology. Whether it’s the latest industry trends or technology, CMW has you covered.

So for panels CMW score’s a 10! Now let’s look at showcases…


There are always several showcases from the spotlight country which are amazing. I have heard music in languages I couldn’t understand yet the music moved me. It is truly a testament to the power of music. In addition, they do a great job showcasing Canadian talent and supporting their own. And of course there are the headliners. Years past have included Earl Sweatshirt, A Boogie wit a Hoodie, Marshmellow, Azelia Banks, and 2 Chains. So if you’re looking to catch a showcase or 2 it’s worth it, and it’s all included in the costs of your conference badge.


Which brings me to costs. As I mentioned before, 3 factors to consider when attending a conference ae Price, Location and R.O.I.

Last year the cost was $599 Canadian Dollars which works out to around $450 US Dollars for CMW conference\festival pass. Compare that to $1300 USD for SXSW, or $399 USD for A3C. However, you would still need to get to Atlanta or Austin, each of which will set you back around $250 on average if you fly a cheap airline out of Metro Airport.

By contrast, you can take a train round trip on Via rail from Windsor to Toronto for $110 CDN which translates to $82 USD. So CMW passes the Price test.


Next let’s talk about location. Austin is cool, Atlanta is cool, but nothing is like Toronto and its only 3 hrs away! There is so much diversity of culture and entertainment in this city. While you’re not attending the conference I suggest taking in some of this great city. Everyone is polite and friendly, and it’s easy to navigate. Speaking of friendly, the fine folks working at CMW go out of their way to take care of the attendees. If you attend a B2B meeting you will no doubt meet the incomparable Kathy Hahn. Kathy deserves an article of her own, but she and Jaqueline Davis do an excellent job organizing the meetings and keeping everyone on task.


That leaves R.O.I….

For about $1000 USD you can travel 3 hrs by car or train to one of the best conferences in the world to meet and conduct music business on a global scale.

Need I say more?


But what if you’re not a music “business” and just a singer\songwriter still trying to figure this music industry out?


You’re in luck because Duane Gibson has created a conference just for you. It’s called the Northern Power Summit (NPS).


What is NPS?


It’s a conference catered toward urban artists and professionals. It takes place in August each year. Their objective is to provide education and tools; as well as access to individuals, to help artists develop their careers internationally. Each year NPS gets bigger and better. This year the keynote speaker is Michael Wansley better known as “Wanz”. Even if you don’t know the name, you know the voice…and more importantly the song. Wanz sang the hook for the Ryan Lewis and Macklemore hit “Thift Shop”. Other notable speakers this year include Detroit native and multi platinum, Grammy Award winning songwriter and music producer Chris “Deep” Henderson, whose hits include Jamie Foxx & T-Pain’s “Blame It” along with a host of others from artists like 50cent with G-Unit, and Trey Songz to name a few.


This is THE conference  for singers\songwriters and artists to come together and learn. It’s a place to meet other young professionals who have something to share that you might learn from.

It’s where you can learn about everything from distribution to publishing, and everything in between.


And once again Price, Location, and R.O.I are why I recommend it.


The fee for this conference is $50 CDN. That’s $38 USD!!


As for location …..We’ve already covered location it’s in TORONTO!! As for R.O.I. it’s a two-day conference and $38 covers your pass for BOTH DAYS and the knowledge you gain will help transform your music career…How’s that for R.O.I.? It’s not too late to purchase a pass for NPS19. It’s taking place August 16-17.


Lastly…never forget you ARE a business and music is a global commodity.










DETROIT INVADES GUADELOUPE SUN Festival Sept 3rd thru the 5th




How can you be a artist and don’t enjoy rocking the stage? How can you get a “BUZZ” without leaving your city?

A huge thank you is in order for Hale Management’s Chuck “Luck” Riley. Chuck was a important part of this Festival taking place and making sure the city of Detroit was represented properly. The three day festival includes Rap, Hip Hop, R&B, Pop, Reggae, Techno, Dance as well as food and art. Guadeloupe a French overseas region, is an island group in the southern Caribbean Sea.

Artist catching the flight to perform include The World famous DJ Maestro, World P, King Renigad, Jass Mack, J Murk, Willie Devon, Kyle Simpson, and Dj Drummer B.

keep up to date with the fest by following ig: @guadeloupe_sunfestival

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RAP ROYAL RUMBLE! A sit down with Josef Coney Island





So we just Recently had the “RAP ROYAL RUMBLE” a Rhymin Round Robin? What is this exactly?

     It was a night featuring 4 rappers going song for song for 8 rounds (8 songs a piece)  while SNTNCK mixed the set!  We were set up in a ring and instead of each performer doing a straight set of material we all went back and forth Iike a round robin!
How did you come up with thisRobin!
I love the vibe from cyphers and wanted to bring that feel to a showcase.  This is a perfect way to keep the crowd engaged, give the DJ something more to do than just press play,, and keep the rappers on their toes and at their best by putting them right after eachother.
Is this going to become a regular event?
Every 3 months we will do a RAP ROYAL RUMBLE!  Trading cards included
What went into choosing the artist and producer that participated?
I wanted to bring different talented acts that are sonically diverse and have fan bases that don’t really cross eachother but would like everyone on the bill.  We pretty much decided to do the show about 2 weeks before the event. I wanted to book Isaac Castor at the spot and I ran into him and foulmouth at the 37th Shield Library in Eastern Market (shouts to Lord Dru and Dj Psycho), from there I wanted to get Crimson Alchemist on the ticket and had done a couple shows this year already with Dango Forlaine so reaching out to them was real easy… in fact Crimson Alchemist was also at the record store while we were there.  The whole thing was booked in under 30 mins…
The graphic aspect was dope, how did that all come about?
I sat with my designer Kyi from Kyiros Media and explained the vibe I was looking for sent a few reference pics and let them take It from there… we are currently working out the rules for the RAP ROYAL RUMBLE trading card game.
What can we expect in the future from the creatives that put all this together?
First Fridays at the Co.Lab will feature hip-hop shows- release partys, open mic game shows, and of course the RAP ROYAL RUMBLE.  Every third Thursday will be the Cypher. And we have tons of electronic and other music throughout the month as well.  The Co.lab is located at the  Russell industrial center in building 1 room 135.
I forgot to ask, was there a winner? Who won?
Detroit rap won this one. We all killed it. But to give you a real answer I think Crimson Alchemist  had the edge, I mean she came with a bushido blade, and was the last emcee to spit so by the rules of the royal rumble I’d have to give her the Dub...

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420 Cannabis Festival powered by JARS celebrates the legalization of recreational marijuana in Michigan. Join us for music and cannabis culture.Two days of music, cannabis and food! This is the first official (legal) Michigan marijuana smoke friendly event. This inaugural event will take place on Friday -Saturday August 13-14, 2021| 10AM-10PM DAILY at the Adado Riverfront Park in Downtown Lansing MI.
For ages 21+
Headliner: Sada baby (warner bros/asylum), Doobie, The Luniz, Saving Abel and more!(OVER 30 CONFIRMED ACTS)
GA 2 Day Pass- Friday & Saturday tickets available for GA. This is general entry and access to both days of the festival. All tickets have access to the Hot Box consumption lounge.
GA Friday- Friday tickets available for GA. This is general entry and access to only Friday featuring pop and rock artists. All tickets have access to the Hot Box consumption lounge.
GA Saturday- Saturday tickets available for GA This is general entry and access to only Saturday featuring rap and hip-hop artists. All tickets have access to the Hot Box consumption lounge.
VIP- Friday & Saturday tickets available for VIP. This is exclusive front viewing with a clear unobstructed viewing area. Tickets include a gift bag and more!
Follow us on IG @420cannabisfestival
21+ with valid ID
Adhering to all CDC and MRA guidelines established by the State of Michigan.
Note: Jars Cannabis is a Michigan based Cannabis company that has 8 Locations in Michigan and has a passion for serving those with recreational and medicinal marijuana options.

This event is produced and managed by CEP Presents;  a Lansing based production company and boutique consultancy.

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