Albums? What Albums?

St. John's-based DJ and producer, Bryan Oliver (Worker)

“It was bangin’,” says Jonathan Loder, Newfoundland’s hand in Electro East, a group of Atlantic Canada-based electronic musicians and promoters. They were responsible for the Electronic Stage at this year’s East Coast Music Awards in Charlottetown. “Our stage was probably the busiest, per capita, you know? We had a venue that held about 250 people, and the first night, we put 500 people through there.”

The Electronic Stage was the East Coast Music Association’s first real nod to electronic music. For the artists and promoters involved in the stage, it was a big deal: the crowds flocked, the performers impressed, and the scene was explosive for two solid nights. With that momentum, Electro East is pushing the ECMA to include an award for Outstanding Achievement in Electronic Music at next year’s awards in Moncton. The brass at the ECMA have confirmed that they’re behind it, provided that the electronic community can prove that the pool of talent is big enough. This is also a big deal: creating this award will require the ECMA to re-think what outstanding achievement means for an artist.

Typically, a band would be up for an East Coast Music Award if they recorded an album and that album was met with great press and good sales. Perhaps they toured, perhaps they didn’t, and perhaps they opened for a few big names. The real focus, though, is on the album.

Electronic music isn’t always so album-centric. “Electronic music,” says Loder, “is really Internet-based. The Red Hot Chili Peppers have CDs and iTunes as their medium, and DJs have Beatport.”

The push for DJs and producers is to make singles and remix other artists’ singles. Those tracks get uploaded and downloaded–usually on sites like soundcloud.com and Beatport–and passed around the Internet. Sometimes, if the track is really good, it’ll get picked up by a label, pressed to vinyl, and wind up on the turntables of DJs around the world.

“Dezza [Derek Silvester], a Halifax-based DJ and producer, has had a couple of his remixes get through,” says Loder. Dezza’s singles “Believe” and “Hefty” have been featured in legendary Dutch DJ Tiesto’s radio show, Club Life, and they’ve been played during sets by DJs like Germany’s Paul Van Dyk. Similarly, says Loder, “there’s a guy named Matt Trouble out of Halifax who has done a few great remixes that have got through–his remix of a song called “Home” (by Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeros) was played everywhere.”

By this model, someone could be a world-renowned electronic artist and never officially release a full-length album. That will be a concept shift for the ECMA.

“The people who will pick this award will be people from the scene,” says Loder. “Though it will be done with the ECMA stamp of approval, the ECMA will really have to take their knowledge from the people in the scene.”

So what does Electro East have in mind for a nominee?

“It’s an all-encompassing award,” Loder says, “relative to how much music they’re making, who’s liking their music, and if they’re getting it out into their local scene. It won’t take away from the guy who gets more club shows or the guy who produces all kinds of incredible music in his bedroom and gets a lot of downloads, but doesn’t get a lot of shows.”

Like, say, St. John’s-based Bryan Oliver, aka Worker, who performed at the Electronic stage. He’s recorded a few RPM albums, and is constantly producing new music and uploading it to his Soundcloud page. People are listening and liking what they hear.

“The Electronic stage definitely opened up more doors for me,” he says. “I’ve already had collaboration and remix work on the go. I’ve also made friends in other Atlantic provinces, and I feel that if I were to visit other provinces, I’d definitely be able to put on a show with other DJs and groups.”

As a corollary, he says, “that’s brought a lot of attention to the electronic music scene here in Newfoundland.”

Denis Parker, Executive Director of MusicNL, says that a similar focus shift hasn’t really entered discussions about their awards yet. “(Our awards) are geared towards the album, that is correct,” he says. “Could we possibly change in the future? Quite possibly we would, and offer a category with a single, download, or what have you. The Novaks, for example, released an EP (Big World) that was only available online.”

Ultimately, though, the change would have to come from demand within the community, says Parker.

As for concerns about the size of the electronic talent pool in the region, neither Oliver nor Loder have any concerns, judging by what went down on the Electronic Stage.

“I definitely became aware of a bigger culture than I knew from just being in Newfoundland,” says Oliver. “And I was definitely impressed by everything there. There was nothing that I felt bored by; everybody brought their top game.”

“If you only saw how many people were standing in line around the club, on the street, waiting to get in,” says Loder. “It’s a good indication of the number of people that are excited about the different types of electronic music that they can hear in this region.”