Toronto may be the business capital of Canada, but it’s often an old dog with few new tricks. We also uncomfortably proclaim ourselves the cultural capital, not because Southern Ontario has much of its own, but because we import the most from elsewhere.
Yet, something is drawing our local musicians westward. The “Big Four” record companies and most independent labels are based in our city, but Terry McBride of Nettwerk Management is turning the entire music business on its ear from his unassuming office in Vancouver.
In its September issue, WIRED profiles McBride, and his idea of “collapsed copyright,” wherein artists record under their own label and under their own copyright, therefore earning enough money to eat. Labels (including Nettwerk’s) will sign deals to market and distribute the album, the band will be managed by Nettwerk Management, and the artists no longer become essentially work-for-hire contract employees.
The risk is that the artists will flee after considerable investment from the label, but McBride’s success comes through careful cultivation. His artists trust him, and he gives them results. If his method works, bi-directional loyalty is essential to its success.
So far, McBride has drawn significant Southern Ontario talent to his management firm, from veteran Barenaked Ladies to Chantal Kreviazuk, Sum 41, Avril Lavigne, and Billy Talent. Nettwerk Management also represents Sarah McLachlan, Sterephonics, Dido, and Jars of Clay, but also famous producer/mixers like Bob Clearmountain (Springsteen, The Rolling Stones).
In the new media world of ringtones, Limewire, and alternative distribution, Terry McBride believes his method is much more sustainable, adaptable, and compassionate. Artists are terrified of relinquishing their art in a distressed industry, too often having it pulled from their hands only to watch it wither, or having their work buried from the start without any way to regain ownership. Nettwerk’s method is still too young prove that it works on a larger scale, but the fact that both musicians and corporate are happy together in 2006 speaks volumes.
Photo from WIRED Magazine.