Breakfast deals at ECMAs, where mornings are about business

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Breakfast deals at ECMAs, where mornings are about business

It's 10 a.m. at the East Coast Music Awards, and there are a lot of sleepy people herded into a hotel conference room that's way too bright.

At least there's a good hot breakfast, and lots of precious coffee to perk up the crowd.

That, and some of the best music from Atlantic Canada.

Onstage in Saint John are Dylan Menzie from P.E.I., and fiddler Kinley Dowling, who know they have little time to impress this important group.

This is Two for the Show, where the artists get to play just two songs for 100-plus delegates from eight different countries who are here for the export buyers program.

They are being wined, dined and serenaded because they hold the purse strings for a big part of this industry.

These are the festival directors, theatre bookers and tour promoters who are here to find acts to bring to their venues.

People such as Lisa Schwartz, the artistic director of the Philadelphia Folk Festival, who knows and loves East Coast music, and will definitely sign some artists at the conference.

"Oh, without question," she said. "For me, perfect example, I saw Dylan Menzie on P.E.I. three years ago and saw the spark in him and knew something was coming.

"I have a massive festival, I have eight stages, it lasts for four days, it's on 80 acres, there's a hundred acts. So to bring someone in, I didn't want him to come in and get lost. If I were to bring him in for next year, he wouldn't get lost."

Bev Burton has come from London, where she runs a company called Killer B Music, which programs, books and runs music festivals all over the world, from Lithuania to Spain to South Africa.

Variety attracts international buyers

She decided to come back to the ECMA's after first attending last year, because she knew it would be a great place to find a variety of artists.

"I book anything from five to 10 Canadian acts every year for different festivals, whether its stoner rock festivals or folk festivals," said Burton.

"At ECMAs, I get to see a whole smorgasbord of genres, not just folk or trad bands for Cambridge Folk Festival. I get to see great bands and find some real gems."

The export buyers program has become a major part of the ECMAs, and more important to many of the artists and their agents and managers than the shows or even the award nominations.

This is the daytime business in the hotel conference rooms, not what the public sees on the stages.

One important session is the one-on-one business meetings, which is like speed-dating for artist reps.

They sign up for 10-minute pitch sessions with the Canadian and international talent buyers, programmers, promoters, film and television music supervisors, and digital experts.

It's a chance to put a face to a name, and lay the groundwork for a deal.

Record number of delegates

Shelley Nordstrom is the international export manager for the conference, herding the precious delegates from meeting to showcase to receptions to restaurants over five days, with a hockey ref's whistle when she needs their attention.

She said it's the biggest number of export delegates they've ever had.

"We've already had festival bookings done this weekend, I'm hearing about tours being booked last night, there's people buzzing," said Nordstrom.

"Music placements, I know stuff's been pitched today through CBS television in L.A., so we may have some results this afternoon, huge results, festival bookings, venue bookings."

While the deals get done this weekend, most of them won't be announced for weeks and months ahead for fall or for the 2018 festival and touring seasons.

Some of the musicians are proud to go home with trophies. Others are pretty excited to know there's a trip overseas or a huge stage at a North American festival in their future.