Earlier this month, it was announced that MuchMusic would be cancelling two long-running programs: Going Coastal and The NewMusic. Halifax’s Going Coastal host Paul Brothers cites the economy as the reason for the cancellations, but for years now, the focus has moved farther and farther from fulfilling what one would expect from a niche show like Going Coastal. Says Brothers, “I would love to play videos by Joel Plaskett and Jon McKiel and those guys, but I just can’t.” Hold the phone a second... Joel Plaskett can’t be played on Going Coastal? If El Plaskett is not nationally known enough to be represented on a show that is focused (half of it anyway) on the east coast, every other band down the line is royally fucked.
Last year, Going Coastal did a piece on Free Comic Book Day at Strange Adventures comic book shop, interviewing staff and local musician Matt Reid (who was in the store that day). Reid was asked to make a request for a video, and as someone who’s been involved with the music scene for over 10 years, he had lots of ideas. The 2008 ECMA-nominated, animated Superfantastics video for “Tonight Tonite,” directed by Coast comic artist Mike Holmes, would have been appropriate, considering the topic of the piece. Instead, Reid was given a list of high-rotation videos to choose from and settled on Gnarls Barkley. Reid remembers what the show used to be, and the days when you could turn on the TV at any time and possibly catch a video by Plumtree, The Super Friendz or Soaking Up Jagged.
The channel is slowly moving towards the template of the US station MTV, packed with syndicated dramas and reality shows, and few music videos are actually being played (in June 2007, CTVGlobeMedia bought out MuchMusic founders CHUM Limited, as well as MTV Canada). After the cancellations, Gossip Girl was added to the Much roster.
What is the point of bands making music videos at all if the one show on TV (supposedly) geared towards representing independent music on the east and west coasts won’t air them? Videos are usually costly, time consuming and represent a serious commitment on the part of the musicians.
Local musician Laura Peek says, “It’s pretty much about the internet now---it’s good to link to if you’re applying to festivals...people can get a feel for your aesthetic.” Peek was approached by director Ante Kovac (Joel Plaskett, Thrush Hermit, The Tragically Hip), who wanted to make a video with her. The video is funny and adorable, featuring the band throwing a party for some lucky cats. “It’s really me, the cats and the colours; it’s a good representation of what I’m like,” says Peek. “It’s kind of like a little business card.” Months after the video was released, it was selected as a featured video on YouTube (“There must have been some cat person on there who pushed for it,” Peek says), spiking her views to over a quarter-million.
“I started getting all these emails from people in Brazil. It was really random, it must have been linked to through some Brazilian music blog or something, so I did an interview for some Brazilian blog. I also got lots of random fan mail, like ‘When are you coming to Brazil?’” says Peek. “One of the coolest things was this woman in South Korea sent me an email saying, ‘I love that song, I’m going to play it for this party I’m throwing,’ so she wrote out what she thought the lyrics were and I corrected her...that wouldn’t have really happened on MuchMusic.”
Peek doesn’t know how many times her video was shown on Much, and it doesn’t really matter. Now, the best way to consume local videos is to do random checks on YouTube, music blogs and MySpace. A band can hope for their video to be featured on YouTube, but there’s little guarantee. But there is a community-building aspect to the continued creation of music videos. Peek suggests that people making videos to help others, working with different artists and in different mediums, makes the community stronger and more self-sustaining.
“It gives work to different types of artists,” Peek says. “You can help someone else out. Something for someone else to put on their resume, too.” Seeing as there is no one else to rely on, strengthening these local networks appears to be the best way to go. a