It’s no secret that Newfoundland and Labrador is a musical place. You can hear it on the streets and in the pubs, community halls and kitchens near and far – guitars strumming, voices humming and the sounds of our stories brought to life. Every community in the province, no matter the size, seems to harbour an endless stream of talented musicians. Now, a new organization is striving to give local musicians an even stronger voice.
The Kitchen Party is a music industry think tank, founded by Erin Best (musician, partner in the firm Stewart McKelvey and a member of the advisory committee for Business & Arts NL’s “Business Volunteers for the Arts” program), that wants to shine a greater spotlight on the province’s thriving music scene by promoting the province as a music tourism destination, cultivating music industry professionals and creating a music museum.
Through her involvement with the local music scene over the years, including sitting on several music industry-related boards, Best learned that the industry in Newfoundland and Labrador faces certain hurdles that don’t exist elsewhere.
“I started The Kitchen Party to try and give back a bit to the industry and solve some of these problems that we had,” Best says.
While the province is advertised regularly as a tourist destination, Best would like to see more emphasis placed on our strong live music scene – something which she says we often take for granted.
“Most of the Canadian cities you would go to, besides maybe a few, would have almost no live music to speak of, and certainly no live original music or traditional music happening on a regular basis. You could go downtown here and see a live show any night of the week,” Best says.
“We’re way above in terms of the quality and quantity of music. So we need to be getting that out there for tourism, because a lot of people who visit places are drawn by the live music scene. And we’ve got that.”
Best says the number of musicians in the province far outweighs the number of music industry professionals, meaning that musicians must often don multiple hats.
“It is impossible for a musician to do all of this stuff by his or herself. I think you’re really setting yourself up for failure because…if you’re doing too much of your own management, publicity, radio tracking, all that kind of stuff, you don’t have time to perfect your craft and you don’t have time to be actually playing and writing and doing the things you’re supposed to be doing,” she says.
To combat this, Best and others are working on the development of a training program for music industry professionals, based on the model at Belmont in Nashville, whereby seasoned industry professionals would visit and share their experiences and expertise.
“And then we’re looking at getting a certificate from Memorial granted at the end of that,” Best adds.
In addition to a music museum, The Kitchen Party team are also working on developing a website with live music listings, including links to musician’s websites and venue descriptions.
Best says people have been supportive of The Kitchen Party and she’s open to hearing ideas from others as they move forward. They have also connected with like-minded groups like MusicNL.
“We keep them in the loop and vice versa. We’re trying to always have a good relationship with them too because everybody’s just trying to improve the quality of life for musicians here and bolster our music scene, in particular, the live music scene. So that’s what we’re doing.”