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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.










Crowned Producer Series




Producers will go head to head in elimination rounds leading up to the winner. There will be 1st , 2nd and 3rd place prizes. Each producer that enters the contest will automatically receive $300 worth of drum/loop kits for participating. Each beat must be 1 minute long on a flashdrive in a folder labeled with your producer name for the Dj to save your information. You should bring at least 15 beats just in case there’s any tie breakers.

Judges will include the legendary @the_olympicks Detroit’s own @sino313 And last but not least the 🦍@primobeatss

Producers will have an entry fee to participate in the event, but all supporters are free at the door! So who will be the 1st to be crowned??????

Contact @geniusonthebeat or @chriswellz on how to reserve a spot.

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Dillatroit Day 1 2021




The global celebration of music icon James ‘J Dilla’ Yancey continues this February with Dillatroit 2021, the 6th annual Detroit Hip Hop celebration of J Dilla’s life and legacy, presented virtually by The James Dewitt Yancey Foundation, Crazy Noise Productions, SPIN INC, and The Moorish Mudd Show. Hosted by Mudd of 5 ELA, the live stream event features exclusive music videos, live concert footage, dance performances, production workshops, and interviews with Detroit artists and community members.

Dillatroit 2021 debuts Friday, February 19 at 3:13pm, with continuing episodes on Saturday and Sunday also at 3:13pm. Tickets are $19.99.

Dillatroit 2021 is a fundraiser for the James Dewitt Yancey Foundation, the official charitable organization endorsed by Maureen “Ma Dukes” Yancey, the mother of J Dilla, and is coordinated DJ Butter of Crazy Noise Productions. The video production is a debut presentation of The Moorish Mudd Show, a show will explore Detroit culture and community development through the lens of Hip Hop with host Mudd, whose group 5 ELA (5 Elementz) included rap legend Proof and featured production by J Dilla.

Since 2017, SPIN INC has participated in the J Dilla Youth Day events coinciding with the annual Dillatroit concert festivities, providing valuable equipment and DJ workshops for aspiring musicians in the community. This year’s workshops are presented virtually, featuring dynamic mini-workshops from presenters with Ableton, Sweetwater Sound and Roland Corp. Detroit producer Merch Music will give a special Dilla tribute tutorial, plus an exclusive interview with one of J Dilla’s music mentors, P-Funk legend Amp Fiddler.

Exclusive footage for Dillatroit includes a rare interview with Maureen Yancey, a DJ set with DJ Dez Andres, performances by Jessica Care Moore, Phat Kat, Finale, D’etnam, Drew Green, and Dogmatic, interviews with T3 of Slum Village and FORCE Detroit, plus two original dance videos by Body Shop Xperts, choreographed by Damn Della.

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Vast Aire Performing On-Live From the Aireport A Celebration of Life: Rest in Paradise November 21st, 2020



Outta Nowhere/Family and Friends Entertainment & association with IGC Records Presents On-Live From the Aireport A Celebration of Life: Rest in Paradise to Vast Aire’s Parents with live performances by Vast Aire of Cannibal Ox with Special Guests Metro (S.A Smash). Also featuring Sons of Silverton and Patterns of Chaos. November 21st 2020 Showtime 9pm-12am est . Get your tickets here: 

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